Sunday, December 13, 2009

Genealogy Vacations

With the cold and the snow having arrived in my world, to the delight of many who no doubt wish for a white Christmas, I am already beginning to think about planning for next year's adventures. My wife, Ellen, and I enjoy ancestral quests - searching for family graves so that we can pay our respects to our ancestors and also to ensure that their final resting spot is maintained. We weren't able to venture out in 2009 to allow Ellen time to recover from surgery so 2010 will need to be well planned to compensate.

While conducting research on-line into ancestral roots in Scotland and Ireland, and soon enough on Ellen's side, in Germany, its easy to forget about the local places available to visit and because the family has moved away from many of the small towns and villages of our ancestors, there is a risk that these graves will never be known to today's family.

In 2008, our quest was to find the grave the of Ellen's great grandfather, Edward Latimer who had left his birthplace of County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland with his family to settle in Canada. The Latimer family settle in the village of Seaforth, Huron County, Ontario where Edward took up the shoe making trade. In 1871, Edward married a young widow named Theresa Delmage. Edward and Theresa had five children together who joined the four children from Theresa's previous marriage whom Edward raised as his own. Edward died in 1932 and although he had moved away from Seaforth, his death registration indicated that he was to be buried there.

Finding Seaforth was not a problem, especially with a GPS unit to guide us along the way, also programmed, of course, to point out the locations of our favourite coffee shop. Our first stop was to the town clerk's office where helpful staff provided directions to the two local cemeteries. Based on the ages of the of cemeteries, we selected the Maitlandbank Cemetery and followed the directions provided - "Drive along the main road until you see the farm equipment dealership, turn left and it'll be along that road." It was that easy. The tough part was locating the family plot as there was no cemetery office to direct us further so we walked the rows of the different sections of the cemetery and fortunately before long, we found it - the somewhat weather-beaten, moss covered monument marking the grave of Edward Latimer - and as it turned out several other family members. In addition, by inspecting the headstones of the surrounding graves, we found the graves of several other related families.

We travel prepared for these cemetery excursions with brushes for cleaning the headstones, a small garden trowel to tend to any weeds, a digital camera to carefully record the location and headstone information and in this specific case, Ellen purchased some perennial flowers to plant. The flower purchase was completed locally in Seaforth where we found a 'self-serve retailer' - choose what you want and deposit the cash into a box to complete your sale. No cash, no worry as a small sign pointed you to a self-serve credit card machine, complete with instructions - something I'll never find in the big city!

The results of our Seaforth visit (pictured above) make all document searches, real and tangible. While there is a connection that you feel finding something about an ancestor or that an ancestor signed, it really doesn't seem to compare to the connection of being in an ancestral village, walking the same streets that they walked so many years before, let alone being able to pay your respect to them at their grave. Its not too soon for me to be thinking about the 2010 connections to be made!

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