I'm posting today to share my excitement about a victory (of sorts) that I've had. I thought that this was going to be more of a follow-up post, however, upon searching my blog, I've discovered that I never did write about the search for my maternal grandmother's grave marker.
My mother's mother, Mary Thomas, died in 1986. She was buried in Calvary Cemetery, an historical burial ground in Norfolk, Virginia. Because I spent the first 14 years of my genealogical journey completely focused on researching my paternal ancestors, it wasn't until just a few years ago, when I turned my attention to my mother's folks, that I decided to head over to Norfolk to visit my grandmother's grave. Once I did, I was disappointed to discover that the spot where she rested was covered only by green grass, and wasn't marked in any way.
I was 24 years old when my grandmother died, and of course, I attended her funeral. However, not being a cemetery or genealogy buff at the time, I can't say that I paid any attention to how the grave was marked. But, what I did know (or at least what I thought) was that my mother and her two siblings would certainly have put some kind of a marker on their mother's grave. I inquired at the cemetery office, but long story, short, they had no records related to the markers or headstones. Their records only pertained to the actual burials.
At the advice of the person in the cemetery office, I contacted Hale Funeral Home, to see if they had any records pertaining to my grandmother's burial. (I called right from the grounds of the cemetery, hoping to just drive right over!) Unfortunately (and quite sadly), the person I spoke with told me a story of transferred management after family deaths, and records which had actually been THROWN AWAY. If I recall correctly, all of the pre-1997 records of this funeral home, which has been serving African-Americans in the Tidewater area for 100 years, were destroyed during changes in management. Needless to say, I was disappointed, and appalled. Not only were the records of my own ancestors gone - I actually have several who were serviced by this funeral home - but so were those of hundreds of others.
After this troubling revelation, it seemed that there would be no way for me to prove that there'd once been a marker at my grandmother's gravesite. My mother told me that my uncle had handled the burial transactions, and when I asked him about it, he said he no longer had any of the paperwork, but reiterated that he "thought" there was "some kind of stone, or something" at the grave. With nothing else to go on, I just kind of put this to the side, but vowed to one day get to the bottom of it. (No pun intended.) :)
Anyway, life and genealogy went on, and then one day, quite by accident, I ran across this picture, while going through some things at my mother's house:
|My nephew, Robert, and my daughter, Natasha, beside the freshly-covered grave of their great-grandmother, |
With this picture in hand, I took the 35-minute drive over to Norfolk last Monday, ready for battle. I called ahead to let them know I was coming, and "Bret", the current manager of the cemetery, after hearing my plight, said he'd pull his records and be ready for me. Once there, he and another employee in the office were very kind and accommodating towards me, so no fight was necessary. :) Bret verified the location of my family plot (yes, it's a family plot, but I'll write about that in another post), and printed out a new map for me using their fancy-smancy new program. Then, off we went, armed with my proof-providing picture to do a "test-dig".
I couldn't believe how excited I was about this, but I was almost beside myself. When we got to the plot, I used the picture to help Bret locate the exact spot in which to drive his shovel, and after just a couple of hits in that spot, we heard it - the unmistakeable clang of metal against stone.
|Bret marks the spot for the dig.|
|And so we began...|
|Do you see what I see?|
Bret continued his work, commenting to me, "You were exactly right about it.", as he dug, more gently now, around the step. In reverence to my ancestors, I remained silent, as he uncovered the unmistakeable match to my photograph.