Saturday, October 22, 2011

By Definition, a Taphophile

I have become a taphophile.

taphophile: a person interested in cemeteries, funerals, and gravestones

Visiting Rowley Cemetery and discovering that this new genealogy activity was growing into an obsession made me consider how I felt about cemeteries.

Honestly, I had no good or bad consideration of them. I had never been to a funeral until I was in my 30's. In college, there was the requisite scary story of the 'Black Angel' in the local city cemetery. But generally, I was oblivious to cemeteries. Once the genealogy bug bit me, I began to appreciate cemeteries for their research value and for the connection they offered to my past.

I was born and raised in Illinois. For job reasons, my own family relocated to Michigan in 2000. Fortunately for me (!) this is also where my maternal family all resided before my grandparent's eventual move to Illinois. I researched and made trips to many cemeteries as often as I could. I photographed every grave of as distant a family member I could find. In the pre-digital days, this left me with a stack of cemetery photos that was at least six inches tall and stuck in two gallon-sized Ziploc bags. I hear the gasps. Yes, they have been scanned. And uploaded to Find-A-Grave.

With a busy family, I use the excuse of cemetery research for peace and quiet.

Aux Sable Cemetery entrance, Grundy County, Illinois 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Visiting the Spencer's

As we move back in time, especially in our genealogy, there is less of a chance to meet living people. While I was extremely fortunate to have 3 great-grandparents living until my teens, this rarely happens. One of the likeliest places to have an actual physical encounter with an ancestor is in a cemetery. Their tombstone may be the only 'touchable' thing we have left.

I eventually found that the Spencer family...MY Spencer family...were mostly buried in Rowley Cemetery, in Locke Township, Ingham County, Michigan. It is a rural farming area east of Lansing. And it is lovely.

I was living in Michigan when one of my great-aunts passed away. The services were held outside Lansing and my family was coming from Illinois to pay respects. I spent some time with one of my mother's cousins and learned the best directions to Rowley Cemetery. It was less than 30 minutes from where we were gathered. My parents left for home in Illinois and I left for my ancestral cemetery home in Locke.

Rowley Cemetery is, what I have come to learn, a typical farm community cemetery. It is located on a piece of land quartered out of a nearby farm, on the present-day corner of M-52 and Belle Oak roads. A paved single lane road divides it in half. The oldest burials, which date from the 1840's, are in front, nearest the county highway, and newer burials are in back. Almost all headstones face west, noting the sunset. This photograph I took from across the highway is also located at the top of the blog.

It didn't take long until I found them. My family.

Don't worry, I'll be back to visit :)