Cemeteries & caretakers

September, the beginning of autumn.  Harvest, pumpkins, a coolness in the air, brightly colored leaves.  A time of the earth preparing for the slumber of winter.  During the last two weeks,  I have continued to sort through the pictures and documents from our Pennsylvania trip.  Progress is slow and deliberate.   I am following several  leads and will report on findings in later posts.  I hesitate to post information here when I haven’t completed the research.  A rant about shaky and fallen leaves will wait for another day.

On our trip, we visited 14 cemeteries, some with as few as 20 graves and some with over a thousand.  My relatives are not buried in all of the cemeteries.   As we drove the twisting roads of the Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania,   the cemeteries beckoned to us.  My husband wanted to find graves from the Revolutionary War.  I was intrigued by the appearance of the cemeteries themselves.  Most were well cared for. Others had been tended less often but showed signs of some care.

An overgrown cemetery next to an old barn was one of our unexpected stops.  The underbrush was so thick in places that a machete or a chainsaw was needed to get to some gravestones.  Names on the gravestones indicate that this was probably a family plot.  Our initial reaction was sadness – had these people been forgotten by their descendants?  But then again, maybe not.  Relatives may have moved away.  Perhaps the designated local caretaker has not visited in the past year or two.  IMG_0377Given the environment and weather of the area, it would not take long for the cemetery to be re-claimed by nature.    We took pictures of some stones.  A fairly new stone led to discovery of the name of the cemetery —  Orange Methodist Church Cemetery, Franklin Township, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania,  [1]  which contains 92 graves.   The fact that information about the cemetery is posted online reassured us that the people buried there have not been forgotten.  I can feel  a BSO approaching – discover the story about one or two of the people buried here, even though they aren’t my relatives!

Unfortunately, stories of these forgotten cemeteries appear frequently.  On a happier note, I would also like to report that most were very well tended, such as Friends’ Burial Ground in the heart of Stroudsburg, Monroe county, Pennsylvania.  WIN_20170815_12_05_15_Pro My paternal great-great-great grandparents,  Thomas Postens  (1782 – 1854) and Esther Brown (1790 – 1840) are buried there.  Thomas is the oldest Posten ancestor whom I have been able to positively identify.   Visiting their graves was definitely a highlight of our trip!  Burial in this cemetery means that they were most likely Quakers.  Esther’s stone appears to have been broken and pieced back together.  Her birthdate was new information to me.   This was an emotional reunion as my only prior contact with Thomas and Esther had been online and through documents.  WIN_20170815_12_00_05_Pro

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A cemetery caretaker shared information that was new to us.  Cemetery plot books usually show the name of the person who bought the plot(s) and what section the plot(s) are in. The plot book may or may not have the names of everyone who is actually buried there!  For example, a man buys plots for himself, his wife, their children and spouses.  One or two children move to another town, county, or state.  One child dies young; another child does not marry.  Other relatives are buried in the plots not used by the couple’s children.   The plot(s) themselves are registered under the name of the person who paid for them.  A list of those who are actually buried in the cemetery is often a different list than the list of plot owners.

In summary,  remember to thank the caretakers of cemeteries!  As they mow and weed,  the caretakers  watch over our ancestors.  The caretakers who we encountered were friendly and helpful.  Each one was familiar with the names of those buried in the cemetery or knew where to look for the information.  In one cemetery, the caretaker saved us hours by directing us to the exact location of my Fulkerson relatives.   His only question , “Fulkersin [with an ‘I’] or Fulkerson [with an ‘O’]?”  When I said, “Both”, he laughed and left his mowing to walk us down a hill to an entire row of Fulkerson/ Fulkersin graves.

[1] Find A Grave, database with images (http://www.findagrave.com  : accessed 14 Aug 2017), memorial #168124776   , Perry K. Coolbaugh (1890 – 1975), Orange Methodist Church Cemetery, Franklin Twp, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania: gravestone photograph by Debbie; gravestone also photographed by Jerry L. Ellerbee on 14 Aug 2017.

 

A tale of 3 cemeteries

Subtitle:  Where are my grandparents buried?

Subtitle:  Don’t trust everything you read on the Web.

My husband and I have just returned from a 6-day trip to northeastern Pennsylvania, where my dad was born and raised.  We attended a family reunion, visited my 90+ year-old aunt and some cousins (including cousins found through DNA matches), searched records at county courthouses and historical societies and tramped 14 cemeteries in search of family members.  This story is about the cemetery/cemeteries where my grandparents, John Ray Posten & Jennie Amelia Richards, are buried.

Cemeteries?  Yes, because online reports have placed John and Jennie’s final earthly resting place in three– yes, 3 — different cemeteries.  I needed to see for myself.  The first discrepancy was found several years ago.  On a cemetery locator website, John and Jennie were listed as being buried in Pittston, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania.  I didn’t think too much about it, except that my grandfather’s name was listed as John W. Posten – his name was John Ray Posten.  I thought it might have been a typographical error or that the person didn’t know my grandfather’s middle name.  I didn’t have a copy of my grandfather’s death certificate, so I requested it from the state of Pennsylvania.  John Ray Posten’s death certificate doesn’t give the name of the cemetery but does list his burial location as Falls, Wyoming county.

Jennie’s death certificate and her obituary were already in my files.  According to those records, she was buried in Roberts Cemetery, Falls, Wyoming county, Pennsylvania.  I spoke to my aunt, who confirmed that John & Jennie are buried in Roberts Cemetery.  I contacted the person who had posted on the  Pittston cemetery online site, explaining the issue.  He was very gracious, agreeing that a different John Posten was buried in Pittston and corrected the entry. There were no pictures of John and Jennie’s tombstone.  I knew that there was a tombstone because my parents helped pay for one after Jennie died in 1964.   John died in 1948, before I was born.

Several months ago, I was again searching for relatives using an online grave search website.  This time, John and Jennie were listed as being buried in Settee Cemetery, Falls, Wyoming county, Pennsylvania.  Still no gravestone picture.  Well, at least, the town and county are consistent!  I reviewed records and notes again.  Had I recorded the information correctly?  Yes, information on the documents pointed to Roberts Cemetery, Falls, Wyoming county, Pennsylvania.  But, the mystery remained.  And, with no gravestone picture, how could I be certain? Another consideration is that the name of Roberts Cemetery had changed to Settee Cemetery.

An annual family reunion of Jennie’s mother’s family (LaCoe) was another reason for this trip.  I have wanted to go for several years but work and family schedules just didn’t seem to coincide with the reunion date.  2017 is finally the year that we will attend this reunion!  And, I can find and photograph my grandparents’ grave!

The day after the reunion, we set out to find Roberts Cemetery.  Iphone location finder led us to a small, unnamed cemetery near Falls, Wyoming county.  No grave for John & Jennie there.  Did we have the wrong cemetery? We stopped at a nearby business to ask. The man only knew of the cemetery that we had just visited.  About a half mile down the road, an older woman was working in her flower bed. We stopped and asked her. Yes, she knew Roberts Cemetery and gave us directions.

Following her directions, we found another cemetery, also unnamed, which we almost passed by.  There are two sections.  One section consists of about a dozen gravestones for persons from the Fitch family.   I remembered seeing information online that several Fitch graves had been moved from their original location to Roberts Cemetery.  Cemetery found!!  Roberts Cemetery is on the opposite of the Susquehanna River than the first cemetery. Roberts Cemetery is on Sand Plant Road not Old State Road.  Both roads are off State Highway 92. Now, to find John & Jennie’s grave!  (Photo from http://www.mapquest.com)

Cemetery maps

There are only about 200 graves in the Roberts Cemetery, so it did not take long to find John & Jennie’s grave.  Mystery solved!  I began crying as I related the story to my grandparents.  John died before I was born and we had visited Pennsylvania irregularly during my childhood so I didn’t know Jennie (aka Grandma Posten) very well.

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Susan Posten Ellerbee with grave marker for her grandparents, John R. Posten & Jennie Richards Posten. Roberts Cemetery, Falls, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. Photo taken August 14, 2017.

One more mystery still needs to be solved.  Why are they also listed in ‘Settee Cemetery’? Recheck online sources.  Apparently, Roberts Cemetery may also be known as Settee Cemetery and/or Swartout Cemetery.  To-do list:

  1. Post pictures of John & Jennie’s gravestone to Roberts Cemetery website with notes about the reported discrepancies and actual directions/ location of Roberts Cemetery- DONE.
  2. Contact person responsible for Settee Cemetery and ask about the cemetery names – DONE.  UPDATE:  She was also gracious and removed John and Jennie’s names from the Settee Cemetery list.

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Reflection:

This was a very emotional trip for many reasons.  Actually locating and seeing my grandparents’ grave was a tearful reunion.  I am proud that I was able to solve this particular mystery for myself and others.  We learned more about what to do and not do during a genealogy-based vacation.  Future blog posts will chronicle more of our experiences during this trip.

What helped:  technology, specifically Iphone location finder and a small computer with my family tree.  My husband’s patience and acting as official photographer. Advance planning, such as printing an alphabetical list of cemeteries to be visited with a list of people buried in each.

What didn’t help:  IPhone location finder taking us to the wrong cemetery, although the location was the one in the online system.  Online address for Roberts Cemetery was not correct.  Conflicting information posted online.

What I learned:  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and directions.  I tend to be independent and will usually try to figure things out on my own.  We met some awesome people, including cemetery managers, who were very helpful in locating graves.  Don’t believe everything you see on the Web– check it out for yourself!  Use water, a squirt bottle and a soft brush to clean dirt and moss from gravestones.