Friday, December 2, 2011

Meet Amber Brock Case, author of "Cryptpeeper"

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



What Graveyard Rabbit site do you run?

 I run the blog Cryptpeeper. The blog features the stories behind the gravestones.  Most of the blog is dedicated stories found in Seattle cemeteries. I have also featured gravestones I have found while traveling.  Each blog entry features a picture of a headstone and a short biographical sketch.  

What first interested you in joining the GYR Association?

A close friend and fellow genealogist told me about the GYR Association after I showed her my blog.  I was very excited to find a community of individuals that shared the same interests as me.  It is nice to know there are others who wake up on a sunny Saturday and immediately think it is a great day to wander a cemetery.

Did you always have a fascination with cemeteries? Or did this develop out of your genealogy work?

A trip to the cemetery sparked my interest in genealogy. My mother and I had traveled to San Francisco to visit family. She took me to the cemetery where her mother and grandparents are buried. Her mother’s headstone had no birth date and neither my mother and her aunt and uncle could remember when she was born. Having worked in libraries for a number of years, I knew there had to be a way to learn when my grandmother was born.  I signed up for the 14 day free trial of Ancestry and have been hooked ever since.

My passion to discover the stories behind the gravestones started on a trip to a cemetery in Tacoma, Washington to find the grave of my father’s grandmother. I went into the cemetery office to learn the location of her grave. The woman in the office told me that there had been a fire in the 1970s and that records of burial locations were lost. She pulled out a map and highlighted the back portion of the cemetery and said that my great grandmother was buried in this section but that was all she could tell me. It was early enough in the day that I decided to at least try to locate her grave.  I made way back to the section and was surprised at the poor condition this part of the cemetery was in.  The other parts of the cemetery featured freshly mowed grass and trimmed trees and bushes. The area where my great grandmother was buried had overgrown grass and broken tree branches on top of the old headstones.  I walked through the area and was lucky to wander right to my great grandmother’s headstone.  As I took pictures of her headstone, I looked around at the other stones. An idea popped in my head to take photos of other headstones  located in the section of the cemetery. I had played on FindAGrave several times and I thought if I could put pictures up of these headstones,  it might help fellow genealogists find their ancestors. I came home with a little over 200 photos in my camera. As I worked on uploading the photos to FindAGrave, the genealogist in me began to be curious .  Who were the individuals behind the names etched on the stones?  I started  using Ancestry to research the individuals. I would scratch down notes as I learned more about them and would conclude my research by writing a short piece about what I had learned. I saved these short biographical sketches on my computer but never thought of sharing them.  I would tell my friends and family members about the exciting finds including the monument to those lost in a ship wreck, the young couple killed in a massive land slide, a young boy taken to soon, and the collection of Seattle pioneers who shaped the city. When discussing one of my finds with a friend, they asked if I had plan to publish the stories or write a blog.  It was the light bulb moment for me.  I went home that night and published my first blog entry.

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

My family and friends have been very supportive of my quirkiness.  Many of them have suggested a cemetery that have seen in their neighborhood or in their travels that have led to some great finds.  My husband has been the best of all. He often comes with me on my cemetery adventures. He waits patiently in the car and reads a book while I walk around the cemetery hunting for more stories. 

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

Have fun! Every cemetery is unique and has its own stories to tell no matter the size.  Go out and learn about the history of your town, county, and our nation.

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

Go during all seasons. Some of my best memories are walking through the cemetery in the middle of winter when the snow was gently falling. 

Always read all sides of a gravestone. Sometimes additional family members are featured on the back or sides of gravestones. 

If you find an interesting stone and you want to know more about the individual, be sure to take photos of the headstones around it.  Even if the surname is different, this may lead to relatives.

Learn the history of the cemetery and the individuals. It has been amazing to me how much history I have learned by researching the ordinary individuals buried in local cemeteries.  It will make you feel more connected to the town you live in. You will be surprised how your research will help you understand many of the street names, park names, and building names in your town.

How about photography; any advice there?

Buy 2 or 3 back up sets of batteries.  I almost always burn through 2 sets of charged batteries when I go to the cemetery. There is nothing more frustrating than finding a great headstone and not having any battery left to snap a photo.  

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