Thursday, 1 August 2013

An odd sort of joy

Last December, I blogged about the discovery of a great-great-aunt-by-marriage buried in the churchyard where my late in-laws' ashes are interred. (This is only extraordinary if you know that both my husband's family and mine came to Victoria many years after said great-great-aunt's demise.)

At that time, the Resident Fan Boy decided that we should schedule a churchyard visit on the date of his parents' wedding anniversary. Today was the day and we escorted a resigned younger daughter up Cedar Hill, stopping only to pluck some early ripening blackberries above the sloping sidewalk.

We know where the RFB's parents are; there's a particularly embarrassing story surrounding my late mother-in-law's interment, so the RFB and I searched rows of more ancient graves, splitting the task while younger daughter wandered dreamily up and down the dusty rows of headstones and watched a young family of deer retreat ahead of us, nibbling.

This was my very first graveyard search as a family researcher -- the vast majority of graveyards I need to search are in Great Britain -- and I didn't have high hopes of finding the tomb in question, noticing quite a few stones were illegible. However, in less than ten minutes, the name appeared at my feet and with it, the difficult-to-explain surge of joy that assails the family researcher. I feel a version of it every time I find a confirming record, but to the uninitiated, it may have seemed rather morbid to hear my gleeful whoop.

Seasoned genealogists will understand. It's more than finding a name. It's the odd sensation of reclaiming a family member. This aunt, not even a blood relative, died long before I was born. I know little of her aside from her dates of birth, marriage and death, and the names of her children. In a way, it's better. I have no judgements to offer on her life or her personality, only the feeling that she has been acknowledged, that someone remembers her place in my family.

Today, I was able to stand at an ancient burial place and say, "Welcome back, Auntie Ellen." It's an odd joy, but I'm taking any joy on offer.


JoeinVegas said...

I wonder about all of those old graves, if anybody is around that even remembers the name. Like those old photos in our family albums without names, Who Are These People?

Persephone said...

With advancements in research, Joe, nameless photographs and forgotten graves become valuable sources. I had the fortune to meet "forensic genealogist" Colleen Fitzpatrick. Among other things, she helped discover the identity of the "Unknown Child" amongst the Titanic victims buried in a cemetery in Halifax. If you have time, check out this article by Colleen.

Vol-E said...

Such a good post on so many levels. I admire:
-your continuing interest in family research.
-RFB for suggesting a churchyard visit
-you both making a family activity of it, even if your daughter was reluctant.
Plus, you got blackberries and deer-watching in the bargain.
Sounds like a good day to me.