Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Crazy Thing Did You Do?

Saturday night means just one thing – Saturday Night Genealogy Fun with Randy Seaver!

Here is the latest challenge:
What is the craziest thing I’ve done to get some genealogical information?

I’ve actually calmed down from those early years when I was determined to reach my genealogical goals. Not that I don’t still attain them today, I just do things in a little less crazy way.

One of my earliest genealogy memories is our trip to New England in 1981. I had been hard at work on my early New England ancestors, two of whom were James Sayward and his wife, Deborah Stover. Both had died in the 1730s in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

While perusing a very old issue of the New England Historic Genealogical Register – I think maybe from the 1850s – I came across this epitaph:

Even though another 130 years had passed since this epitaph had been transcribed, I was sure James Sayword’s gravestone would be there waiting for me to find it in the old Gloucester cemetery called the First Parish Burying Ground.

What is so crazy about visiting an old cemetery you might ask? Here’s the story:

Gloucester was definitely on our “places to visit” list on that trip. It was a hot, humid day when we arrived in Gloucester, but it was sunny.


Cemetery is behind these houses.
Source: Google Maps

Dave and I got directions to the old cemetery, but they were a bit odd. We drove to the street where the cemetery was and followed the directions – to DRIVE INTO SOMEONE’s DRIVEWAY, ACROSS THE GRASS IN THEIR BACKYARD (AVOIDING THE CLOTHES HANGING ON THE CLOTHES LINE), parking the car and heading up the hill in the back to the gravestones.

How many of you can claim to have driven through someone’s backyard to get to the cemetery???

Dave and I got out of the car, doused ourselves in bug spray and headed for the gravestones. The cemetery was quite overgrown and there are a LOT of gravestones in that cemetery. Remember, this was long before computers, the internet and Find-a-Grave.

Dave wasn’t at all thrilled about spending his first New England visit traipsing through the weeds looking for a gravestone that might be long gone. We looked for a half an hour or more and he said he was leaving!

My reply was that I didn’t come 3,000 miles to give up so easily and that I was SURE that James Sayword was going to guide his descendant to his resting place.

Dave realized I wasn’t leaving until we covered every square inch of ground, so we worked our way up the hill. I squealed with delight because under a tree near the top of the hill, James Sayword AND wife Deborah were waiting for me.

BOTH stones were upright and in quite good condition. Dave was thrilled that he could finally leave, but not until he took some photographs. Unfortunately, the photos didn’t survive in nearly as good condition as the stones and I tossed them in the trash years ago. They had faded so much, and were somewhat dark because there was no sun at all in the forested area where James and Deborah are at rest.

If you’d like to see the gravestones, visit James Sayword and Deborah Sayword at Find-a-Grave.

I’ve visited a number of cemeteries in my day, but that was the only one that required driving directly through a private backyard. By the way, the owner said it was fine. We did ask first! 🙂

 

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