Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Trip to the Cemetery

Find-A-Grave ( is a great site. I have located many of my ancestors’ graves there. If you are not familiar with Find-A-Grave, one of its features is the “Request a Photo” option. While unloading photographs of family graves, I noticed there were eighteen photo requests for Hillcrest Abbey Memorial Park, East, where my paternal grandparents are buried.

My grandson, Hayden, accompanied me this past Sunday to fulfill some of the requests. I was impressed with his sensitivity and respect for the graves. I watched as he cautiously stepped around the lots. He said he felt he was being disrespectful when he stood on the graves in order to photograph the markers. We talked about it and I tried to assure him his actions were very respectful. I then showed him stones vandalized by people who obviously had no respect for themselves or the graves they were desecrating. He could not believe people would do this.

Unfortunately, our trip satisfied only three of eighteen Find-a-Grave requests. The other requests did not give enough information to locate the graves without help from the cemetery office. We easily found the Heidt lot as described in the requests as it gave the location/lot number and I had a detailed map of Section J. We took photos of the all the markers on the lot as well as those specifically requested. Nine photos were sent to the requester.

The closed, cemetery office held the information we needed to fulfill the remaining fifteen requests. This venture was not planned. We found that no advance preparation was a mistake. An after-the-trip phone call to the office would provide the information we needed to fulfill the third Heidt request.  
We then visited the graves of my grandparents—Kathryne Elizabeth Austin and Raymond Mitchell Thomas, Sr. (Section J, Lot 152). I told Hayden the story of this marker (which I will share at another time).

Katie Austin and Raymond Thomas marker
Two uncles are also buried on Lot 152--John Hugo Thomas and William Burrington Thomas. Hayden asked about the damage to Uncle Hugo’s marker--the mowers have caused extensive damage to its corner and the US Navy insignia is missing. I pointed out that Uncle Bill’s birth date was incorrectly shown on his marker.  

Uncle Hugo's marker

Uncle Bill's marker showing incorrect birth date
Hayden wanted to know how I knew the date was wrong. This offered a genealogy research lesson! I told him that I had a copy of the birth recordings from my great-grandmother's Family Bible (actually written by Uncle Bill) and her personal Bible (written by her), a birth certificate copy, and my knowledge that his birthday was always celebrated on Oct 15th.

Written by Annie Hunsucker Austin in her personal Bible

Added to the Austin Family Bibly by Uncle Bill (his handwriting)

Copy of birth certificate
 For me, the trip was a total success. What started out as a favor for someone, ended as a gift to me. I spent a great afternoon with my grandson--visiting graves of four generations located in two cemeteries (Bonaventure and Hillcrest), sharing stories of the family, respecting others, and learning to plan! Hopefully, a genealogy seed was planted. Hayden learned that you do not take genealogy facts at face value and more than one source, if at all possible, should be obtained to validate a fact. It was a good day.


  1. Excellent! Please continue with the story of the Thomas grave marker. Also, I think that Hayden and you should pursue the replacement of the U.S. Navy insignia with the U.S. Navy! I bet they do that sort of thing, especially if you go to the local office in Savannah. You have all of the documentation necessary, and they can see from the photo that there WAS an insignia originally.

  2. The rest of the story of the Thomas grave marker was posted on 16 Aug 2011.