Sunday, July 12, 2009

Meet Jean Duncan: The Graveyard Rabbit of Aroostook County, Maine

The forty third in a series

featuring a member of

The Graveyard Rabbit Association


The Graveyard Rabbit of Aroostook County, Maine

Why do I love Graveyard Rabbit?

Well, I got the genealogy bug first.

I started collecting my own genealogy after attending a family reunion twenty-five years ago. I always had an interest in history, but it wasn’t until I became engrossed with filling in pedigree charts and family data sheets that I became hooked

Looking back, several people helped bring my interest in family history along. My father’s cousin Olive encouraged me to become the member in my generation to carry on preserving our family history. She fed me obituaries, letters, photos, and many stories before her death in the summer of 2008.

1984 family reunion

My husband’s great-aunt Susie was another encourager. She gave us her genealogy to copy. It was filled with handwritten detailed entries for every cousin, sibling, and ancestor. She illustrated her album with photos that had been sent to her over a lifetime. She included her own memories and also made references to many burial plots for the family.

My husband’s aunt Marietta led us on a once-in-a-lifetime “cemetery tour” in New Brunswick. My husband videotaped the adventure as our vanload of family members meandered the winding back roads of Salisbury. Great-aunt Alberta, the oldest female family member at the time, sat in the front seat and told great tales of growing up as we toured the area.

2004 Woodland, Maine Family Reunion

As a child, I always listened intently to the interchange of stories between my father, my grandfather, and Dad’s uncles, aunts, and cousins at holiday meals. Some of the stories were repeated often, but that did not matter. Usually the stories had a “punch-line” and ended with lots of laughter.

Another more recent influence was the discovery of my great-uncle Harry’s World War I letters. He was killed in 1918 and buried in France. I was given the sixty letters he wrote home.. It was a wonderful mystery revealed as I transcribed the letters. I gained a new appreciation for the sacrifice of those who died in war and its effect on the family back home.

Harry's memorial stone in Evergreen Cemetery, Caribou, ME

I developed an interest in the early settlers of New Sweden in part due to the number of people that would visit the local museum and ask at the gift shop where I volunteered for information about relatives in the cemetery next door. I started collecting the locally published data on the earliest settlers and created a website using Reunion software.

During the last two summers, I spent many peaceful hours silently photographing around the cemetery in New Sweden, Maine. It’s a very pretty place in the summer, nice in its own way during the six months of winter when everything is buried under several feet of snow.

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