Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fun in cemeteries...

...didn't think that was possible, did ya?

Yes, I enjoy the actual visiting of cemeteries for family tree research purposes. I find the tranquility of cemeteries very calming and at certain cemeteries, like Greenfield in Uniondale, where most of the names on the headstones are the same names I've seen time and again while poring over Long Island census records, I actually feel quite at home, like I'm finally getting to meet some very old and dear friends.

Anyway, enough of my weirdness. I spent all day yesterday in cemeteries. It was a beautiful, gorgeous, sunny day, a real rarity during this month of non-stop rain, so I decided to drive out to Patchogue, about 40 minutes east of where I live. I had recently connected with a not too distant cousin on my Ricklefs branch in an attempt to track down any info on John Ricklefs and his wife, Meta Tiedemann, after the 1930 census, which had them living on a farm out in Patchogue. I am descended from their daughter, Meta, and this woman I found is descended from their daughter, Olga. Olga's son, this woman's father, and his wife had vague memories that John and Meta might be buried in one of the tiny cemeteries dotting Patchogue. I never made it past Lakeview - a somewhat old, somewhat small cemetery off of Waverly Avenue filled with many old Long Island names, many drowned sailors, and an apparently somewhat famous couple, Seba Smith and his activist-poetess wife, Elizabeth Oakes Smith. After spending more than an hour checking every headstone in the hot sun, I came up empty-handed, and didn't have the energy to check the other two cemeteries or visit the village clerk to ask about death certificates that may have been filed (which would have been problematic anyway, seeing as I don't have a year of death for either John or Meta and a 15-20 year window in which they might have died).

Lakeview was interesting however. The cemetery is rundown, and the land around it is being developed (as all open land must be - heavy on the sarcasm), but apparently the Patchogue Historical Society has a cemetery restoration project that they're trying to raise money for, and some newer headstones and grave markers and monuments make it look like they've had some success with this project. And these smaller, older cemeteries depend on projects like this one - these are important historical and genealogical resources and many headstones are worn flat, broken, or completely gone, and that important information and the people that info helps us remember, is being lost and forgotten.

But the day wasn't over yet! After driving home and taking a bathroom break, I headed over to Greenfield Cemetery, spur of the moment. I hadn't been there in a good 10-15 years, even though I have tons of family members, including my great-grandparents, who are buried there. What an amazing place. I got there an hour before the gates closed, but I could've spent all day there and will have to go back. I had copied from my grandmother's files the location of the Dauch and Berg plot, so I was able to visit that for the first time, and while I was there, saying hello to all my relatives, I remembered coming to the cemetery with my mother to visit her grandparents, Monroe Raynor and Amelia Berg Raynor. I had no idea where that plot was, but it suddenly came to me that whenever I came with her, we always looked for the group of pine trees, and that's where it would be. Well, there are huge sections of Greenfield that are treeless. But there are huge sections that are covered in trees, too. I had some time, so I drove along slowly, looking at all these names I know so well - Smith, Pearsall, Mott, Raynor - (many of these plots were transferred from other cemeteries, like the one in Freeport where the junior high was later built...), when I saw a group of pines. I got out and walked the section, but the Raynors weren't there. I was very disappointed. That would've been huge, if I could've found them based on a 15-year old memory of just "pine trees." I got back into my car and drove probably no more than 20 feet, across the road to the very beginning of the next section. And there, right next to that group of pines but just a little further than I had expected, was the Raynor plot - my great-grandparents, Monroe and Amelia; their daughter Dorothy Saas; Monroe's sister Lidie and brother William; their parents Joseph J. and Annie D. Raynor; and Joseph's parents Hiram Horatio and Ann Raynor. My great-grandmother Amelia was the only one I've ever met, but seeing all of those names, I felt very much at home (and on top of that, many of their headstones had dates I didn't have in my files!).

I have many more relatives buried at Greenfield, so I'm going to try to go back again soon to see what else I can find.

For any one reading this who might be looking for this particular Raynor plot, it's in section 6, opposite the section with the group of pines. The Dauch-Berg plot (Thomas Dauch, Barbara Dauch, Theodore Berg, Delia Dauch Berg, Eva Dauch, amongst others) is in section 3, plots 160-161.

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