This story began in 1979 when I lived in Colorado and met the Mormons, whose faith calls them to find their ancestors. I was hooked into the mystery of it all.
Off and on, through the intervening years, I’ve carried the stories of my ancestors forward – finding clues, finding facts, writing stories, massive numbers of letters and emails, and visiting cemeteries. So many cemeteries in fact that my children, upon seeing a cemetery in the distance while on our travels, yelled, “Don’t let Mamma see it.”
Keep in mind, while you read on. My long-suffering husband, Keith Williams, is the man who says, “Who cares about all that? They are already dead.” Yet, he has over and over again proved his worth. Being handicapped, I tell him what cemetery I need to visit. Upon arriving, I write down the names and dates of the tombstones of persons I want to find in that cemetery, and he begins the search. I sit in the car reading a book. Inch by inch and row by row, he searches. Finally, I get the call, “Here she/he is!” He brings back the photos for me.
This year he performed the supreme sacrifices. In January he drove through black and icy roads to Ithaca, N.Y. Once there, he braved bitter cold winds and hip-high snow to take photos of some of my Yankee relatives. He stayed so long out of sight in that cemetery before I got the call, that I called him on my cell phone.
“Where are you?” I heard, “Whoops.” The line went dead. I ponder, “Did he fall in the icy stream that runs near where my great-grandfather and grandmother are buried?” I wait a while and call again. He replies that the big gloves he had on his hands caused him to drop his cell phone in the snow. I’m so proud of him.
At least I am proud of him for a while longer. But then, I need to use a restroom. No restroom is anywhere nearby. I wait a while longer. Now I am no longer proud of him. I am getting angry! At last he appears with the pictures of nearly every gravestone in the entire cemetery. We made it to a service station just in time.
It is in Georgia that I decide that he is for sure my life partner. Keith knocks on a strange door at dusk in a dark and lonely area of a Georgia countryside to get information for me about a little old lady who has a family Bible she does not want me, or anyone else, to see. He learns that she will be going to a country church the next day at 3 p.m. I conceive of an idea to waylay this innocent lady. Keith is not impressed. Yet he drives into the church yard just in time for me to greet this pretty white-haired lady, with a brilliant blue dress and eyes to match.
From her I learn of someone else who knows someone else who knows where my great-great grandfather is buried. The grave is in a forgotten cemetery afflicted with rattlesnakes. And yet, now I have a photograph of that tombstone that I’d love to share with the world. Thank you, my life partner, Keith Williams. Let’s continue with life’s mysteries.