When I talk about cemetery hopping, I am often asked this question:
Why do you do this?
This week’s post should answer that question for both you and me.
A few months ago, I visited Old Fellowship Cemetery here in Tucker. Oddly enough, it is located at the end of a residential street behind a wooden fence with the name on a simple sign. Four of the graves are of Revolutionary War veterans who ended up making Georgia their home. The stacked stone graves are fascinating. I’ve never seen anything quite like them before.
Located nearby is Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, established some time after Old Fellowship Cemetery was. Nobody I’ve asked locally knows why there are two cemeteries, it happened so long ago.
Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church was established in 1829. The original church building burned sometime after 1910. Most of the cemetery records were destroyed in the blaze but the remnants are said to be maintained at the Mercer University Library in Macon, Ga. I haven’t gotten there yet to see if that’s true, but I hope to eventually.
I’ve read that at most Primitive Baptist churches, the sexes sat on opposite sides of the church. I don’t know if this was the practice at this church. They did have separate entrances for men and women, according to a photo (see above). Despite how it sounds, this was not supposed to be a form of discrimination but a way of showing that marriage between men and women was not the major factor to God. While in the church, men and women were supposed to forget earthly ties and concentrate on their worship. Not each other.
While there’s nothing left of the church today, the cemetery is still there. It’s situated between two churches, the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker on the right and the Iglesia Evangelical Apostle Proseta on the left. From what I can tell, the cemetery is fairly well taken care of and is mowed often.
Having passed it many times, I decided to take a look around one day while my son was attending Vacation Bible School nearby. I realized that many of the graves had not been documented, much less photographed. I spent the next few mornings (before it got too hot) taking pictures and poking around. During my work, I managed to get bitten by ants for the first time. Thankfully, I had on sneakers and socks so it wasn’t too horrible. I think I eventually created over 100 new memorial pages with photos.
Several weeks later, I noticed there was a photo request on Find a Grave for the grave of Carrie Turner at this cemetery. The name did not sound familiar but I had definitely created a memorial page for her. As I looked back in my files, I realized I had forgotten to post the picture, so I quickly did. That, I thought, would be the end of it.
It wasn’t. Not by a long shot.
Shortly after I posted the photo of Carrie’s grave and e-mailed an apology to Janet (the requester), she posted this on my Find a Grave message page:
Thank you so much, my hands are actually shaking writing this, I just know this is my grandmother Carrie. I have spoken to my siblings and we are now planning to make another fact finding trip to Georgia with this new information.
Currently living in New Jersey, Janet was a Find a Grave volunteer in the past. Periodically, she would check the website to see if someone might have found her grandmother’s grave. Unwittingly, that someone was me!
As I continued to correspond with Janet, she told me more about her family. She has given me permission to share their story here.
Francis and Carrie Turner lived in rural Tucker in 1910. Records indicate that Francis was born in Lumpkin County, Ga., although his parents were from South Carolina. Carrie grew up in Coweta County, Ga. There was a 25 year age difference between the two, but their union did produce four children. They had a set of male twins, a daughter and another son. Janet’s father was their youngest child.
Unfortunately, Carrie died of pneumonia in 1917 at the age of 40. Francis, then 65, was left with a daunting decision to make. He was poor and his own health was not very good. How was he going to take care of four young children, all of them under the age of 10? It’s a heart-breaking situation few of us would envy.
Ultimately, Francis took his children to the Baptist Children’s Home, then located in Hapeville. He entrusted his children to the care of the orphanage, where they grew up and started lives of their own. Out of the four Turner siblings, only Janet’s father and mother had children.
Janet and her siblings visited Georgia four years ago, hoping to find out more. They visited the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home, now in Palmetto, and found papers that proved the orphanage story was indeed true. She wrote:
[We] are presently in the process of finding out what we have to do legally to unite the twin brothers in one grave, they are in different cemeteries, since neither of them had children and are buried alone. Every piece of the puzzle is so important and it is my life dream to find my grandmother’s family and my grandfather’s family to perhaps, with the grace of God, find a photo of them, and to reach out to what I believe could be a large family.
Janet and her family are now looking for a professional genealogist in Georgia to do the legwork in finding out more about her grandparents. I hope to be of use to them in some small way, if only to track down some documents locally. Hopefully, they will learn more about Carrie and the other Turners. I’m looking forward to meeting Janet and her siblings in person when they come to Georgia.
Sometimes I do question why I enjoy spending my time poking around in old graveyards. Taking photos while sidestepping ant hills and sweating under a hot Georgia sun (during the rare times it wasn’t raining this summer). I admit that when I was photographing this cemetery, it did cross my mind. Why on earth do I do this?
The answer is that I do it for people like Janet who are seeking answers to their family’s past. I am elated that by simply taking a picture, I helped her find her grandmother. I want to keep doing this. I love doing this!
I think that reason’s good enough for me.