Friday, January 28, 2011

Meet Robin Simonton, Author of "Graveyard Rabbit of the Triangle, N.C."

The seventy fifth in a series
featuring a member of the
Graveyard Rabbit Association


Not everyone is lucky enough to have the graves of her hometown’s founding fathers located in a burying ground right off of Main Street. But I was. Downers Grove, Illinois - it was this town that sparked my interest in cemeteries as a child. It was normal to wander through the graves as my mom shopped at the nearby shoe store or made a run to the bank. I was in a magical place. On bright sunny days, cool fall afternoons and even in wintery Decembers, I read and re-read the monument dedicated to Pierce Downer, lingered past the Blodgett plot, used my imagination as the wind whistled through the through the rows of stones and history came to life.

There was no turning back by the time I got to college at the University of Hawaii. I was hooked on cemeteries. I read an article in the local Kailua newspaper about Nanette Napoleon , a kindred spirit and the Hawaii cemetery researcher who had documented all of the island’s graveyards. She was in the process of writing a book. I quickly wrote her a letter and offered to do the research. As I delved into Hawaiian history and how it linked to the cemetery, the permanent residents of Oahu Cemetery told their stories. Every one of them. Whether they were a Hawaiian Christian Missionary, the founder of baseball, or the neighbor down the street, their lives meant something. No history class could provide me with better information.

That’s really what it was- when you boil it down. Cemeteries are repositories of stories, dreams and hopes. Over the years I’ve studied empty cemeteries, abandoned cemeteries, even Amish cemeteries (and their casket makers) and I’ve learned stories. Countless stories that I will never forget. So now, as a docent at Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC I tell their stories. Not necessarily their history—but about what their markers tell us about their lives and their legacy. What better way to capture that legacy, through the blog of the Graveyard Rabbit of the Triangle.

What Graveyard Rabbit site(s) do you run?

I run the Graveyard Rabbit of the Triangle blog. I’m a newbie, testing the waters over the past year, trying to grow my sea legs in this blogging world!

What first interested you in joining the GYR Association?

I was actually home sick from my day job, surfing the web for cemetery pictures and I stumbled across Beth Santore’s Grave Addiction blog. I was immediately engrossed, and quickly saw the Graveyard Rabbit logo and just kept reading. It opened up a world of possibility, a way to track my cemetery adventures and link to others with the same interest!

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

It probably took some getting used to. Not everyone’s kid prefers cemeteries to parks (although those of us that are enlightened know that Victorian cemeteries really are parks :)). But they have joined in the fun and my parents help out with Findagrave requests and my husband joins in on the tours. (I’m not sure how or if he explains it to others!) My co-workers probably think I’m a bit nuts… but it’s all in good fun.

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 ¼ mile away- you see a sexy man on the side of the road- from afar you spy Elvis with your eye.

Hands down the cemetery. I have been known to circle back around if I see a single grave on the side of a country road. I plan vacations with stops at cemeteries and I collect cemetery tips from friends who have spotted them while driving. Is this a compulsion? Nahh. Just an interest.

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

You only live once. Do it! As we walk through cemeteries we really are surrounded by stories and dreams but we shouldn’t forget that we are also surrounded by dreams lost. I take that very seriously-and learn from those citizens to reach outside my comfort zone and challenge myself. My GYR blog helps me “meet” new people and share my love of history with others. Why not try it, too?

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

Good question. Always take a buddy when in a cemetery. That’s my first and foremost rule. Not only for safety, but when you see something amazing, it’s sometimes really cool to share the moment. Connect to other blogs, learn from your fellow rabbits. I think Footnote Maven must have the patience of a saint, she answered a million questions from me when I got started, but I appreciated her insight and help tremendously, and it really hit home that we were “all in this together.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Article Available In The GYRabbit Online Journal

Not a regular History Hare article, the footnoteMaven tries something new and different. Rabbits are always up for something new and different. Aren't they?

We'll see. Take a look!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Article on the GYR Online Journal

This week in our Graveyard Guru column Stephanie discusses cemetery preservation and restoration.

Hop on over to the GYR Online Journal and read the article.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Meet Julie Goucher, Author of "Grave Encounters"

The seventy fourth in a series
featuring a member of the
Graveyard Rabbit Association


As a child I had routinely visited my Great Aunts, the sisters of my Grandfather. I would sit and play all the while listening to the conversations as they talked and reminisced about times past. It was those early conversations that sparked my love of genealogy and history.

I was in my early twenties and still visited my Aunts on a regular basis. By this time they were elderly and presumably looked forward to visits from younger members of the family. I started asking questions of my Aunts and jotting down the answers and suddenly realized that I wanted to plug the gaps in their knowledge and learn more about the family that I was part of.

My maternal family is from Surrey England. Indeed it is the County where I was born. As I started to research it was evident that for about 300 years my maternal family had moved no more than a 40 mile radius across the Counties of Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. It was only after both my Grandparents had deceased that I established that they themselves were 6th cousins. I wonder what they would have made of that?

The day I spotted my Great Grandmother on the England Census for 1881 was truly amazing. This was the Great Grandmother that I had visited and sat with aged about 3 years old. Quite remarkable and I knew then, I simply had to know and read all I could about the ancestors and family members that I had helped me to be come the person that I am today.

I like cemeteries and memorials, they are the link from the present to the past and deserve to be treasured in whatever form that takes. I am always saddened when I see a grave, neglected because time has passed and now there is no one to care for the grave and as time passes it will become unreadable and perhaps unloved.

This is the case for one set of my Maternal Great Grandparents.They are buried in a Cemetery in Guildford Surrey. My Great Grandfather buried in 1931 and my Great Grandmother in 1937. About ten years ago I was emailed by a fellow genealogist, we share several surnames the same, but can not find any connection. Anyway, had I seen the notice about The Mount Cemetery? I replied that I had not and in due course a photo of the sign was emailed across to me. On my next visit to Surrey a few weeks later I went to the Cemetery, located the plot and photographed the grave. The plot had been purchased by my Great Grandmother on a lease for 75 years. That had been what the notice was about. I pondered and upon my return home I contacted the cemetery office and laid claim to the grave and asked that the grave now be placed in my ownership. In doing so, the plot can not be disturbed without my consent and I am responsible for any repairs necessary.

On the same visit, I attend the grave of my other set of Maternal Great Grandparents. The grave was purchased in 1943 when my Great Grandfather was interned and then in 1971 by Great Grandmother passed away. At the time, one of my Great Aunts visited the grave weekly and created a little garden on the plot. There was no headstone. Since then my Great Aunt has passed away and although there are family members who care, and remember my Great Grandparents they are removed from thinking about the grave. I wandered around the cemetery looking for the plot, tricky with no headstone, just by vague remembering. Eventually I phoned my Mum who likewise could not really recall the plot anymore than I could, but asked had the little block of wood with a number on, made by my cousin been removed. I remembered the little block with the number on it. But could I see it, yes, but the grave didn't look the same. I enlisted the help of the Cemeteries department who confirmed with me the grave number and directed me to the plot. The plot was not where the block of wood was. It was the row in front. I had a horrid sinking feeling had we been visiting the wrong grave all these years? When I got home I had a chat with my Mum and we established that while my Great Grandmother and Aunt had been alive we had been visiting the correct plot. However, once my Aunt had been too infirm to visit it was the task of the next generation to visit and tender the grave. Mum recalls being directed to the plot by another of her cousins a lovely man, who had the family tendency to be slightly vague and I suspect that this was the root of the problem. So with some amusement and sadness the wrong grave has been tended for more the 30 years. Ironic that the very grave in front should not have a headstone either. The question for me is what is worse to be loved and remembered with no headstone so that errors like that one happen or to have a headstone that no one visits?

Over the last 20 years I have taken lots of photos of churches, memorials and graves, simply because it was a lovely church, or a family grave or maybe just because the surname was one of my family surnames and perhaps might fit into the genealogical puzzle. By taking the photos it is recorded in time, as it deserves to be. I spotted a link to Graveyard Rabbits on someone's blog and was intrigued. Over the festive period I had chance to have a further read of the website and thought it was a fantastic way of utilizing the digital photos that I had currently on Flickr. So I decided to enlist the help of my husband. I showed him the website and asked him to help me think of a nice suitable name. He did and Grave Encounters was created. The plan is now to go through the piles of developed photos and upload them to the blog site, a rather large task for 2011.

What better way than to spend a lovely sunny day, not too much sun or it will affect the photos! and wander around your local cemetery. Take photographs and upload them to an online blog and become a Graveyard Rabbit. I recommend it! I have not had any formal photographic training, I have a camera that is nice - the point and shoot variety, but I have been known to use my iphone for taking photos if I have seen something that I want to record. Work at your own pace and record for future genealogists what maybe lost over time. Why not stop by Grave Encounters and see how we are progressing.

A Wedding In A Cemetery. Can You Help?

Today, the Association received the following request for assistance. Now if anyone can help, I'm sure it's a Graveyard Rabbit.

From: Aundrea

"I came across your website today and I must say I never knew there was an association for people who are keenly interested in the academic promotion of cemetery knowledge and history. I think its quite fascinating. . .I am working on a new documentary series called "I'm Getting Married" for the Lifetime Television Network.

We are looking for couples with unique or non-traditional plans to wed and we are really focusing on those who are planning to have their weddings in cemeteries. Any help or assistance is greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much!"


OK, GYRabbits, it's up to you. -fM

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Article on the GYR Online Journal

This week in our Digging For Answers column Randy answers a question about gravestone rubbings.

Hop on over to the GYR Online Journal and read his answer.

Also - please share your question for Randy so we can keep him hopping!

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Article on the GYR Online Journal

In our Rabbit's Review column LisaMary reviews "Cemeteries". Hop on over and read the article on the GYR Online Journal.

Carnival Reminder


The topic for the January 2011 edition of the Graveyard Rabbits Carnival is: How long have they been there.

This topic was submitted by the Association. Post a photograph of the oldest tombstone in your family collection, your local cemetery, or one you just happened to bump into in your Rabbit travels. That would be the oldest burial date! All the Rabbits will be interested in your fascinating finds. See you at the carnival.

Submit your post to the carnival using the submission form. Submissions for this edition are due by January 25. Be sure to include a short description of your post in the “remarks” section of the submission form.

Recently we've experienced problems with the Blog Carnival submission form. While you may have received a receipt, no submissions made it to the carnival administrator.

Just to be on the safe side, copy the blog carnival submission information and drop it in an email to me - Better safe, than missing the carnival. Thank you!