Sunday, May 31, 2009

Meet: Russ Worthington, Author of "My Tombstone Collection"

The forty second in a series

featuring a member of

The Graveyard Rabbit Association


My Tombstone Collection

Having just read the recent "Meet A Rabbit" posting (the 37th), I was inspired to reply to the questions asked by Thomas. I am not a writer, I do take pictures, and also work on Family History. I have learned lots by sharing information on my research of my family, and from others sharing information with me. So sharing of information that I might have may help others.

Last summer, I thought I would do a little research for a friend of mine. All I had was a surname and a hint about a cemetery. Since it was "right down the road", camera in hand, I took off for a couple of hours. Arriving at the cemetery, I found a small plot with the correct name. 5 or 6 headstones were in the plot. Since my wife and I will take off to walk through a cemetery, I did that, just to see what other surnames were "in the area". Low and behold there was a low, fenced in area with a monument in the center surrounded by smaller headstones. The monument had the same name as the smaller plot. Oh, this will be interesting for research, but why are the two plots separated. Well 60 or 70 pictures later, I had a great start in my research for this family along with a couple of mysteries.I have blogged about this adventure in a blog I started on how to use a Genealogy Program. I used this example of pictures to help use that program.

So, I had entered the
Genealogy Blogger network. Shortly after that, I saw where the Genea-Bloggers started a Tombstone Tuesday "meme". So, I took this adventure to this cemetery, and started to post this pictures on Tuesdays so that others can see the tombstones and the information that they provided me.

The data on these pictures gave me names, dates and relationships that give me lots of information to build my database for this family. So, I had a real head start on doing research for this family. Using the genealogy program, checking census records, and all of the other records that can be found, I found out why there were two plots with the same name. There were two families in the area, that I have yet to connect for certain. But that's another story.
With some encouragement from founding members of this wonderful group, I joined up.

As I mentioned, my wife and I will stop at cemeteries in places where there "might be" a connection to our families. We have been doing this for about 8 years. Some pictures are "ours" others are not, but it may have the right surname. Since I don't delete these digital pictures, I have kept them on CD. Some are used, many are not, or not until now.

Now to the questions that were posted with GYR #37:

What Graveyard Rabbit site(s) do you run?

What I have, to date, tried to do is to post pictures of the headstones that I have taken over the past 8 years. At a glance, I have about 1,000 of them, may be more. The trick for me, was to figure out how to make my pictures interesting to others, IF a researcher stumbled onto my Blog.

What I try to do is to just post the picture and to have text on what the headstone says. I may be able to read it better, from the picture on the computer than can be read online. Only on occasion have I added any story about the individual. From my experience that got me started, I realized how much genealogical information might be on a headstone that might help others. To me, the telling of the story for that person is not mine to tell in my blog, it's for the researcher to tell.

What I have learned through blogging is the way to "connect the dots" to enable the researcher in finding stuff. I start with a cemetery, with as much basic information that I can find, including a picture. I want to be able to look at the cemetery and to be able to get to it. GPS information, if known, contact information, addresses, phone numbers, and links to any website for the cemetery.

Using the "Label" for the cemetery, any photos from that cemetery will be seen, blog entry by blog entry. I am trying to let the reader see who else might be buried there. Since the pictures are just of those I have taken, I realized that Find-A-Grave was another resource for cemetery information. Links to that cemetery in Find-A-Grave is included in the cemetery listing.

Coming to the blog, folks may be looking for a surname. I have listed the surnames, again with the use of a "Label". So, looking for a specific surname, again limited to my pictures, the researcher can see in what other cemeteries that surname might be found.

In my example of where I started, I found the same family in another cemetery about 5 miles down the road. This second cemetery is where I found my friend's father and mother. The blog entries for this surname can be seen using the Surname Label.

What first interested you in joining the GYR Association?

Some encouragement from the founders of this association. What a great resource. Another place to do genealogy research.

Do your family members think you are a “little off center” with respect to your cemetery obsession?

I am always a "little off center", but since my wife and I have the same obsession, it has given us an excuse to get outside (no matter the weather) and get some fresh air.

Which situation evokes an immediate response of “Oh! Oh! Stop the car!”- you spy a yard sale in the distance- you notice a cemetery from 1/4 mile away- you see a sexy man on the side of the road- from afar you spy Elvis with your eye

A "Cemetery ahead" will stop the car. I don't have to do that. Only wish that my GPS would warn me "cemetery on the right in one mile". I only visit Elvis at my daughter's annual family picnic. (but that's another story).

What advice do you have for anyone considering joining GYR and creating their own GYR-affiliated blog?

Just do it. You never know what you may find for yourself and for others. The GYR Association may also have information that you are looking for. For me, the GYR association has taken me on a little different direction. At first, I thought that the GYR might take away from other types of websites, but for me, it's adding to the tools that a genealogist might already be using. Since I already have these photographs, have them in a format to "go online", I have become a contributor to Find-A-Grave. I had joined that website a number of years ago, didn't find it of much use, at the time, but had it in my list of Tools, as a researcher, so I returned to it. So, I now double post my pictures.

This created another problem for me. Who have I posted and where? I figured out how to do this and blogged about what I do in this effort. I now am in the process of cataloging all of the Headstone pictures that I have on Disk, and am using that to post on my Tombstone Tuesday Blog and Find-A-Grave. The "problem" with Find-A-Grave is that users of that website will request a picture to be taken. That's a good problem, as it give me an excuse to find a cemetery that I may not have visited before.

What advice would you have for would-be cemetery dogs?

Be respectful to the sacred ground that we are walking on.
Leave nothing behind, Take pictures.

How about photography; any advice there?

(Digital camera suggestion)Use shadows, change angles, take more than one picture from different angles, take pictures of the cemetery sign(s) so you know what cemetery the pictures were taken in. I use pictures to do the writing that I might have done in the past. Over time, I have found that pictures are more reliable then my handwriting. There have been times that the picture was clearer then I could see "up close and personal".

Anything I missed?

Learn a little about the various issues around headstones. What to do and what not to do. Take a little water and a small SOFT brush to clean off a headstone that you might take a picture of. Nothing in the water. I recently found a headstone that was created with sandstone. It is now almost un-readable. In another blog recently, the "stuff" used to clean the headstone had caused the headstone to not be readable.

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