Home from our trip and we are exhausted!  Lots of family time in the sun and tons of driving!  It was a good trip and I accomplished most of my cemetery goals, but I’m not prepared to post about my genealogy research just yet.  However, I thought I’d reflect on what I wish I had brought for my time in the cemeteries.

My preparation was not as thorough as I had hoped to make it.  I was able to make copies of the cemetery transcriptions from the library, so I thought I was good there.  I had intended to go through those lists to highlight stones that were my family line, but I ran out of time and kept thinking that I could do that as we were driving, so I didn’t do that ahead of time.  I wish that I had.

For the trip, our car was packed to the gills including a couple of bags in the center of the back seat – where I rode a great deal of the time.  I never felt like I had the amount of room needed to have my laptop open as well as my binder with the lists, so I did not work on that during the drive.  Since my goal was to photograph every stone in the cemeteries, I didn’t feel that it was vital to have the highlights anyway.  Once again, I wish I had taken the time to do that.

My first cemetery was the Clear Springs Cemetery on Coffey Hill Church Road.  My mother had told me that the last time she was there, in 1965, it was not well kept and pretty overgrown.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find a very nice, well maintained cemetery.  I handed my 14 and 16 year old children each a camera (I had one as well) and gave them each a section of the cemetery to start photographing.  My wonderful husband graciously agreed to drive back to town to get some heavy duty foil and a brush as I could see that my great-grandparents’ stones were going to be hard to read.

When I gave my kids the cameras, I didn’t think that much instruction was needed short of “take a picture of every stone”.  Here’s what I wish I had told them:

  • Take a picture of the ENTIRE stone – not just the words.
  • Take the picture as straight on as possible.  My 6 foot 2 inch son towered above the stones, so the angle was not great.
  • Make sure your shadow does not fall on the stone.

I did slip back the next morning to retake some of the photos, but I would not have done that if I hadn’t needed to run to the store for a few things anyway.  The downside to that was that I went pretty early in the morning and the sun was directly behind some of the stones.

The 2nd cemetery was the Bernard Cemetery, just down the road a bit on Stephens Ridge Road.  The cemetery was slightly smaller and it seemed like just about every stone was brand new!  I’m puzzled by this…is it possible for stones that are 80 years old or more to look like they were just put up?  Would the majority of the stones really be replaced?  I would love to find the history of these cemeteries, but I wouldn’t know where to look.  Perhaps this was one of the cemeteries that was moved when Russell County was building the dam to create Lake Cumberland.  The kids were pretty bored with the whole cemetery thing by then (and it was starting to really warm up!) so they stayed in the car and my husband and I each photographed half of the cemetery.  Again, this cemetery was well maintained and easy to photograph.

The final cemetery was the Square Oak Cemetery.  This is where I really regretted not highlighting the transcriptions.  When we arrived at the cemetery, I could see that at least 100 stones were missing in the “old section” of the cemetery.  All that remained were lumps of cement bases that looked like rocks with an occasional stone here and there. 

Square Oak Old Section

It was really sad to see.  What could cause this?  Age?  Flooding?  Vandalism?  Could this be why there were so many new looking stones at Bernard Cemetery?  As I looked at the stones in the newer section, I didn’t see any stones from my family line.  So I went back to the transcriptions and I didn’t see anything from my family.  Why did I choose this cemetery?  I KNOW that I had recently entered some information on a family with several members buried there, but I could not find it in my print outs OR in my database.  The only thing I can figure out is that I must have recently found some death certificates on Ancestry and put it into my database there, but of course, there was no internet service in the cemetery!  If I had highlighted the list before arriving, I would have seen that there were no “surviving” stones for my line there and would have picked a different cemetery.  Some of the missing stones must have been the ones I would have been looking for.  So I decided to take pictures of each of the remaining stones in the old section of the cemetery, even though most of them were virtually unreadable.  I’m hoping that I might be able to play with the photos in Photoshop to see if I can make out a name or two.  Because of the heat, we did not take photos of the stones on the new section.

Overall, I was happy with the cemetery visits.  I wish I had brought along my small hand broom to brush away dead grass from the mowers as well as scissors or clippers to trim around the edges of the stones that were flat on the ground.  Those things, along with the foil and brush will be in my cemetery “tool kit” for the next visit!  Now I just have to get these stones uploaded to Findagrave.com and my mission will be accomplished!  THAT project will be done in bits and pieces as school starts in just 1 week!