Cemeteries: Digging Up Ancestral Dirt

On a two lane highway, between my hometown and the next, there is a small family cemetery set on a hill, overlooking the road. During the course of my life, I have probably passed this cemetery thousands of times, noticing it but not really seeing it. The graves are old, to be sure, that can be seen from the road. I always thought that it was interesting but that was where my curiosity of it ended.

But then I began my genealogy research and discovered that my family history ran back over 150 years within 150 miles of my front door. So, when the Minnesota snow melted away, I started to visit my relatives.

First, I have to say, that the findagrave.com website was invaluable, especially when it came to the little farm country cemeteries off of gravel roads. Second, I became aware that I always needed to be mindful of trespassing. At least for my ancestors, a few of the family cemeteries are on private farmland.

All of this aside, it was incredible to see the graves of my third great-grandparents, Friedrich and Sophia, who had each immigrated from Germany to Illinois, got married, and then settled in Minnesota. Later, I was able to show Grandma Borson this grave, the one of her paternal great-grandparents, whom she knew little to nothing about. At another cemetery, lost along a country road in the corner of a field, I found the graves of another set of third great-grandparents, he being a Civil War veteran, and the final resting place of their eleven month old son – a child that I did not know had existed. However, the graveyard visit that was the most special to me was to the cemetery adjacent to the church founded by my ancestors. Myself, my mom, and my aunt walked through the rows of gravestones with Grandma B. as she reminisced about the many relatives she had known.

John Bruch, the older brother of my second great-grandmother Augusta, was unknown to me until I stumbled upon his grave.

It is because of these experiences, introducing loved ones to long lost relatives, finding unknown family members, and making personal connections, that I look at cemeteries in a new light. These cemeteries are not just final resting places but instead keepers of secrets and connections just waiting to be discovered.

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