It was a glorious day when we finally found Jeremiah Blackwell’s resting place. You can read that story here . Our initial joy of discovering this cemetery was followed by a gnawing sense of responsibility. Our family cemetery, from pioneer times, had been reclaimed by the woods decades ago. We knew some family members had semi-restored it back in the 1960’s but it hadn’t been touched since.
It showed. Nary a tombstone was visible from the gate.
As we weaved around a mix of vegetation, vines, branches, and dirty and/or damaged tombstones, the air became thick with possibility. We had a distinct conviction that we needed to redeem this cemetery by restoring the burial land and pushing back against the forest floor. The words and initial idea sounds so simple but the reality of it was most certainly not. First, we had to figure out simple logistics.
This beautiful and abandoned cemetery, filled with our ancestors (and one unlucky traveling salesman), is located inside private property. there is no easy access point in or out which happens to be through a padlocked gate.
It is not close in proximity to any of our homes either. The most significant problem was that we, Flunkies, had no idea exactly how to restore a pioneer cemetery.
We found this place and now we were lost in the muck of what to do with it now.
Well, my personality is never one to get stuck in the mire of a situation when the crackling of ideas is too much to bear. With most hard things in life the only acceptable thing you can do is to simply begin. The start for us was having many conversations with other family members near and far. One cousin was against us doing anything at all.
After a long time having good and honest conversations with him we were able to find out that what actually worried him was that he wanted to make sure we were doing it with the right intentions.
This brings up a major bullet point that is so important when doing genealogy. Communicate openly and without negative attitudes. As frustrating as some of these conversations were, we both had the same common ground. We were equally connected to the family buried here and understanding this at the forefront of our journey helped us remember what was important.
We knew his concerns and our ideas all came from mutual love and shared history.
Communication is so important in genealogy. It can make or break so many relationships, situations and opportunities. I’ve been on the receiving end of a judgmental and mean authoritarian distant cousin while working on a big project and it was, well, the worst. Don’t be that person.
Next, we studied up on Missouri Family Cemetery Regulations and Rules. Here is just an example of what we had to study https://law.justia.com/codes/missouri/2017/title-xii/chapter-214/ and there are many more with revisions <whew>. After we had more knowledge and found family members to help in the project, we reached out to the land owners who ignored my first, second, and third certified letter. So I ended up having to mail a letter through a lawyer, which is not how I wanted to begin this parley but here we were.
Hi, I’m Jenne and I will keep coming back like a bad rash.
Finally, we were able to make contact. They were hesitant about us being on their property because this was a working farm with equipment and many buildings in a remote area on land they did not live on. They also work hard to keep out vandals and stop potential damage.
I totally understood their concern, but we had to come up with a plan since it is illegal to keep us away from our family cemetery.
I’m sure he was feeling irked with me but this was going to happen and I wanted it to be with his help and involvement. Our patience, ability to listen and being a little bothersome worked! We came up with a plan that was not perfect for either of us but we were going to have cemetery access and this important work of restoration was going to happen.
Our first official work day was to meet with the owner, some members of his family and farm hands. It was the only time I would see most of them in person and I completely understood. He wanted to meet us face to face and see if we were the real deal. It was actually not as bad as I thought it was going to be.
How do you restore a cemetery? That’s for another post.
Have you run into any rude family members in research? Or have you restored a cemetery? Please start a conversation below. I WANT to connect.