Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ancestors Headstone Search

Well another day and its time to meet this lady born 1815 died 1908 she was my grandmother's grandmother her name was Nancy Bell daughter of Rowland Bell this is really leading up to something stay with me. Rowland Bell was a tenant farmer in the Burtonsville,N.Y. area in the 1830's the land owner raised the rent fees and the tenant farmers burned there homes and barns an went west --the area is all overgrown with both hard wood and evergreen forest. today it yields some fine bucks in season and is plentiful with small game.
Now we will get to the point. Today if you want to look at some cemetery records we will pull up cemetery on the search engines and find hundreds of names and old cemeteries - it hasn't always been this way. During the 1930's the DAR ladies had a national program to copy all the then existing head stones a massive job and one we are all thankful for, as many of these stones are long gone today. It was one of these cemetery list that gave me a clue as to were the Bell cemetery was "Burtonsville, road to left" that road in 1950 was a dirt road with grass in the center-today it might well be a game trail.
During the 40"s and 50's my genealogy tools were always in the trunk of car Shovel, trowel, whisk broom, ram rod from civil war musket, roll of white paper and few soft lead pencils. in those days could not afford a camera. With a old topographical map I started to look for the Burtonsville road, took a couple of days to find it-I knew the place I wanted was on left side but of course did not know which way the DAR girl was driving so it was not much help. Finally found a ancient stone wall and slight depression that looked like cellar not far away was some piles of stone and the remains of a slight ramp figure that was the barn. of to the right of the cellar depression was a higher elevation and on it a couple of evergreen trees that looked out of place in the hardwoods. I poked around with the ram rod , they are perfect for this job stiff enough to go into ground and not bend, small enough to give little resistance. Having done this before I knew I had to go from 6 inches to at least 18 inches to find a head stone- Hard to believe these stones when tipped over will end up buried this far. In about half hour I made contact with a stone then moved about from left to right to determine how big it was- Then I dug it out it was one of the Bell family face down which was good it preserved the inscription- turned it over and cleaned it off- with a soft lead pencil and paper you can make a good etching be sure the stone is dry and just kiss the paper with the flat side of the pencil point. Had to come back next day to finish- I brought back some strips of cloth so I could mark out a area and poked it in a grid about a foot square only found a couple more stones the tree roots make it very difficult.
When all done I put them back face down and covered them up, I felt that if I had left them exposed they would be subject to the target practicing hunter and the elements of nature.
I also scratched around in the ground near the old cellar hole and came up with some pottery shrouds in a Flo blue pattern later when my grandmother died she left me some china from her grandmother you guessed it Flo blue same pattern as the pieces I had found at the homestead.
So let this be a lesson if you find a relatives burial record try to visit the spot you might well find others that were not recorded-I do not think the DAR girls dug up any buried stones-and be assured the stones they copied might well be gone. In the 1950's I examined stones in the Johnstown N.Y, cemetery and when I went back in 2005 none of the 6 stones were on the lot.
The map showed the owner but they could not explain were the stones went and this cemetery is in the city and has perpetual care so you can immagine what happens in the abbandon family plots
If you have any questions or need help with cemetery issues please write=or give me a shout

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