Monthly Archives: May 2015

Finding the needle in the haystack

I’m a genealogist. Now don’t back away and you can lose that look of terror in your eyes. I’m not about to tell you about my great great uncle so-and-so.

I think part of what I like about genealogy is the detective aspect of the job. I like combing through documents and putting the puzzle pieces together. But it can be frustrating, mind numbing work sometimes. So if you ever want to do this, here’s one of the things you sometimes have to do:

You have to take trips to cemeteries looking for ancestors.

In theory, what you’re supposed to do is contact whoever manages the cemetery ask if there are records: “Hi! I’m looking for _____________ and I think he was born in 1900 give or take 5 years and I am pretty sure he died in 1932.” And you’ll get an answer like, “Go to section D, row 2, lot 8.”


This is what usually happens to me:

  1. There is no one to call. The group that took care of the cemetery has vanished into the ether. Or
  2. There are no records. Or
  3. They have records, but your ancestor isn’t among them, except that you have obituaries mentioning the cemetery so you know they’re there. Or
  4. Section D is bigger than North Dakota. The rows are rows only in name and were apparently set out by a wanna-be Crazy Quilter.

But I’m desperate so I head out to the cemetery confident I can find _________ and then I get there and my heart sinks.

Cue something that looks like this:

I square my shoulders and I start off, going down row after row, eyes scanning over tombstones, names swimming past my eyes. Wait, I’ll ask myself, is that one of the names I’m researching? No, not it’s not. And I keep going and a gazillion hours later, I’m giving up and heading back and if I am very very lucky, I trip over the desired ancestor’s name. A lot of the time I’m not lucky.

Usually I go home tired, dehydrated, and annoyed. And if the genealogy gods really want a laugh, when I look over my records, I’ll realize that the grave I decided wasn’t a relative, is a relative. (When I go back, I will invariably be unable to locate that grave ever again. I swear it’s like losing a sock).

This week, it happened the way it’s supposed to happen and IT WAS GLORIOUS!

I found the appropriate contact who had my ancestors in her records and she was able to give me specific directions to each tomb. And then to my utter shock, I FOUND THEM ALL.

To top it off, I started looking around after I had all my names and I FOUND EVEN MORE.

Maybe this happens for other genealogists, but it’s never happened to me before.

It will probably never happen again so I figured I had to brag.