On Finding What You Need

Posted: June 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

Yesterday I enjoyed a genealogical excursion with a friend. We traveled to family stomping grounds where history was stored. And part of that was residing in a particular cemetery.

One of the challenges of rural cemeteries is the lack of clear records. In the major operations in the city you generally find charts and grids showing burials. It is relatively easy to do a search of who is buried where. Not in the country. In those graveyards – community or family plots – it is more a matter of tradition. The knowledge is passed down from person to person, often in oral tradition.

So it was as we searched for one of the family members of my friend. Records were not to be found. The only answer was walking the grounds, moving from stone to stone, many of which had been polished smooth by the sandpaper of time, erasing the names and dates once carved into them.

After an hour of wandering and looking we were preparing to depart, mission unaccomplished. But just then a pick up truck pulled up and a man in a feed cap got out. “You look like you’re looking for somebody.” We were. His name was Jimmy and he mowed the cemetery.

“Yes,” my friend said, “we’re looking for Kirkpatrick. We understand they are buried here but can’t find them.”

“Oh, yeah, I know right where they are.” He walked us right to the stone and pointed. “Here you are.”

Sure enough, it was. The cameras came out and we celebrated. But how did Jimmy remember?

“You know, one time a delivery truck came through town with Kirkpatrick on the side, and I wondered where they were from. And so every time I mowed around this stone I wondered if they were somehow kin, those buried here and the company on the truck.”

And that’s how the man who stopped because people looked like they were looking led us exactly to the spot, because he remembered a delivery truck that reminded him of a grave the mower buzzed by.

That’s how it works, of course. There are the billion connections buzzing around us like lawn mowers in summer. And the present and the past are one, right along with the strangers passing by and, yes, passing away.

  1. Jane says:

    I spent my childhood running around (not over) cemetery plots and helping rub the stone names and dates on tracing paper…my mother wrote stories and books on our family genealogy. Folks mostly ignore those people-moths flitting in and out of their view…but occasionally, that one person on the periphery is exactly the one you need to connect with. They are the keys!

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