29 April 2011

Frances M. Newcomb (1847-1879)

She was the daughter of Henry B. Newcomb (1803-1878) and Philocha Clark (1810-1872). B.M. Newcomb said that Frances married John Russell on 28 May 1864. However, in the 1870 census she is listed with the surname Newcomb, living with her parents. Her name is on a Newcomb tombstone in Charlotte Cemetery with her parents, one sister and one sister-in-law.

18 April 2011

John Jay Newcomb 1841-1901

Are you a descendant of John Jay Newcomb? He was one of "Mosby's Rangers" (Co. E, 43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry) during the Civil War. The Mosby Heritage Area Association is currently doing research on these men and would like to hear from their living relatives. Please let me know who you are and I will provide you with contact information for Robin Yaeger, who is working on the project. Learn more at the website http://www.mosbyheritagearea.org.

16 April 2011

Carved in Stone

Cemeteries and cemetery records are great genealogical resources. But, like other resources, they are subject to error, often more so than we realize.

The information used by the cemetery is typically provided by an informant, often a close relative of the deceased person, but sometimes an acquaintance, doctor, undertaker, etc. No matter how well the informant knew the subject, there is a chance that the information provided will be incorrect. Many people think they know when and where their parents and grandparents were born, but they may be mistaken, especially when it comes to the state or city of birth. People are often upset and stressed when making funeral arrangements, and they simply make mistakes without realizing it. For example, when my grandmother's oldest son died, she accidentally gave her current husband's name as his father, rather than the name of his real father, her first husband. That incorrect name went on the death certificate and is now part of the "official" record, even though it is wrong.

When information is missing from the headstones, we may rely on the cemetery's written records. Unfortunately, these are sometimes missing, incomplete, or poorly maintained. Often the date of burial appears in place of the date of death. Spelling errors and other mistakes are common. When remains are removed to a new location, sometimes the records at the old cemetery are not updated, or the old marker remains in place. I have come across several people who seem to be buried in two completely different locations because the relocation was not properly documented.

The existence of a stone is not proof that a burial took place. People sometimes place memorial markers in the family plot for relatives who were actually buried somewhere else, or for those who were cremated and the ashes scattered. Conversely, the absence of a marker is not necessarily proof that someone was not buried there. Shifting ground, earthquakes, floods, vandalism, theft, relocation and new construction can all cause a stone to be misplaced, destroyed, or planted in the wrong spot.

Cemeteries, like censuses, are valuable research tools. But it's important to remember that they are not perfect.

13 April 2011

Find A Grave

The "Find A Grave" website is a great online resource. Volunteers post information about where people are buried in cemeteries around the USA and the world, sometimes with photos of the grave markers, sometimes with links to other family members or additional information such as obituaries. For the most part this is a reliable source. But remember that typos and other errors are inevitable. Also, there are some people who post information without proper verification. That is, they haven't actually seen the cemetery, or they have made their own incorrect assumptions about the relationships between individuals in a family plot, or they have completely misread names and dates. As with all sources, proceed with caution. Overall, though, this is a good place to find information in your search. I am currently using it to update the Newcomb database. See www.findagrave.com.