Thursday, March 31, 2016

Respecting Cemeteries

The weather is getting better and more and more spring-like. However, we are predicted to possibly get 3-6 inches of snow around Syracuse this weekend. I was hoping to get out and visit some cemeteries and catch up on photo requests. But now it looks as though that might need to be postponed.

If we can get out this weekend, however, let’s keep in mind in our enthusiasm to get to all the relatives stones, that there are others to be thought about as well.

Dennis Wooster in Jamestown, Indiana
It is a good thing if while we are taking our own photos we can fulfill some requests for others on Find A Grave. People have requested these photos for a number of reasons. Sometimes they are too far away to ever get to that cemetery or if they can, it will be a long time in the future. Others might be handicapped so that it is impossible for them to wander the cemetery looking for the stone that they want to see. Take a few extra minutes and see if you can find some of these and get the pictures.

While you are in the cemetery, be mindful where you walk as well. I was taught as a small child that you should not walk across a gravesite. It is like walking on top of the person. I’m not as mindful of this anymore as I should be, but I do try to walk along the edge and not across the center of the plot. It’s especially good not to in older cemeteries that might not have used vaults! Imagine stepping down and the dirt compressing down on the old burial creating a hole. Just another reason to be respectful and follow the old custom-- it could be for your own safety.

While there, I try to notice if graves around where I am need to be tidied up a bit. Has somebody’s flowers or a flag tipped over? If so, I like to put them back to rights. It not only makes it look nicer, but also shows respect for the deceased.

Jordan, NY Cemetery
Speaking of respect, I also try to avoid areas of a cemetery that have a funeral going on or where friends or relatives of the deceased are visiting the grave. Unless of course, if it was of a person I’m researching! Then I would use judgment of whether it would be a good time to approach the people or if they are too mournful to want anybody talking with them. I’ve actually never had this occur, but at times have been hopeful that somebody might be near the stones I’m researching.

There is one time that you should definitely avoid a cemetery. When one is on private land and you don’t know who owns it to ask for permission. I have seen some small family cemeteries that are now in the middle of a field that has crops in it. I know there is no way that farmer is going to give permission to go to that cemetery until after harvest! As disappointing as it may be, you need to make other arrangements to see the plots. If there is a pasture around it then an old joke may apply: “We don’t charge if you cross the field, but the bull does!”

Fields along Owasco Lake, NY
I heard a person complaining last week about people accessing a private family burial ground on their cousins’ land. Many people were damaging private property getting to it and they felt as though they were entitled to go there, as the people buried in this plot were somewhat public figures. I’m not mentioning the names for privacy reasons, but there were characters in a book or television show a number of years ago based on this family. If a well-known person is in a public cemetery, that is one thing, but in a case like this, please respect the family’s privacy and restrict your viewing to photos that may appear in books or online! One or two people walking across an area might not be a problem, but with many, even being very careful it soon becomes a big problem.

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