Friday, July 31, 2015

Photo Project: Necrography

One of the more valuable tools for modern amateur genealogists1 is the comprehensive (and undeniably creepy), website As morbid as it may be, it's a great source of ancestral information. Graves give birth and death dates, locations, other family members, etc. If nothing else, they're a tangible record of an ancestor. There's something incredibly weird about finding a sense of connection based on pictures of tombstones. It's like being a really old, really boring Goth I guess.

                Like this Goth.                     Ok, actually, more like these Goths.

The website relies on volunteers to take pictures, record information, and share it. It's like social media for dead people (Gravebook? Buriedit? Restr? Oh God I'm going to hell...). You can even make requests if there's a grave with no picture. And people do this, on a regular basis.2  Since my exhaustive research (2 minutes of Google) does not suggest there is a name for photographing graves, I am going to coin one. I am gentrifying this questionable pursuit as "Necrography". Which I really, really hope is not slang the kids are using for something unpalatable.Since I'd benefited a lot from what other people have uploaded, and I had a free hour this morning, I thought I'd stop by a local cemetery.

A few of the graves of my ancestors, from

We actually have a really interesting little cemetery a block away from us. The Beeler Family cemetery is a pocket park that comprises an old family plot that's now surrounded by giant corporate headquarters. Nine members of a settler's family still rest here. It felt very odd to take pictures of the graves, even with good intent.

Afterwards, I checked the Findagrave website to see if there were other requests in the area. As it turns out, there were several requests for graves in a cemetery another street away. In for a creepy penny, in for a creepy off I went to Memorial Oaks

This is the LEAST fancy part of Memorial Oaks that I drove through. It only had about three ginormous fountains and the angels weren't weeping quite so fervently. 

So, Memorial Oaks is fancy. I mean, Old Money Fancy, not Donald Trump Fancy. It has beautiful lawns and statuary and fountains and weeping angels and the whole bit. Even in death, the rich are segregated from the rest of us. It was like the Less-than-Fresh Prince of Bel Air3. Even within this affluent enclave, however, there was an even FANCIER section where the truly rich could be segregated from the moderately rich. 

It also had this statue which I think is supposed to be hands praying, but looks like an afterlife high-five. "Eternal Rest! ^&%^ yeah, bro!"

It became pretty obvious at this point that I wasn't going to find any specifically requested graves by just driving around. As it turns out, there are a LOT of graves here. So I went into the office to see if they had, for lack of a more polite way to put it, an index of the dead. Unfortunately, they have to look up every location request by hand, so I settled on one request as a trial. They were very nice and sent me off with directions to find the Howards, who I assume were a very nice couple whose descendants wanted a picture (out of respect, I won't post the grave pictures here.) 

Like an exceptionally disturbing treasure map.

After all was said and done, I had a couple pictures to upload to Findagrave that will hopefully make some folks happy. For the future, I think unless someone can provide a specific location in the graveyard, the creepy factor is just too high for a repeat foray into this. 

1 Much like when I discuss watching birds, I am careful to frame my recent interest in genealogy. When one says something like "I'm a birder" or "I'm into genealogy", it comes with some negative connotations...not all wholly undeserved. I'm always careful to point out that I'm a birder in the sense that I like watching and photographing wildlife, of which birds are a numerous subset. I'm into genealogy in the sense that I love family stories, and knowing our ancestor's history is a subset of that. Though, as counterpoint, I realize that these are two pursuits that are generally the domain of the more chronologically-advanced. Regardless, I'm not one to let social stigma deter my curiosity, so off we go
2 Apparently some people are fanatical about it...deriving status from racking up the largest number of graves recorded. There have been several conflicts over competing records, etc. People you are creating drama over photographing GRAVES. You are not adult-ing correctly.
3If I wasn't already going to hell for "Gravebook", this ought to seal the deal.

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