When I was young, together with my Mum, Aunties and Nan, visited our dead relies in the local cemetery at least half a dozen times a year for various occasions such as birthdays, mother’s and father’s day, Easter and Xmas. We’d even visit on other occasions just to do a tidy-up, maybe a weed or two needed to be pulled from between the cement cracks, leaves cleared and the constant clearing and replacing of the previously left flower arrangements.
We even cleaned the empty slots in the columbarium wall reserved for my Nan, before she moved in, and the slots reserved for my Aunties. I always found this a little unnerving – housekeeping the final resting place before moving in, but my Aunties don’t seem to be too bothered by it, they’re just happy to have a nice clean slot prettied up with some flowers next to my Nan and Pop’s freshly shined plagues.
On these visits we’d do the rounds of all the relies and every time I’d ask lots of questions about who was who and how they died. Funnily enough these were happy
Since moving to Sydney my visits to the family cemetery have been limited, but on one visit a couple of years ago I took my eldest son, much to his initial lack of excitement. However, I enjoyed the role change from the once child being led to the adult leading the child telling the same stories, or what I could remember.
Also, to prove my families love for visiting the cemetery I must tell you the story of one of my trips to the country where prior to going to my Aunties, I dropped into the cemetery to visit the dead family – as you do. Unbeknownst to me my Aunties also decided to drop over before I arrived at their place. So there we were, in the Cemetery, each other not knowing the other’s intention to visit that day. To make this meeting all the more enjoyable we bumped into a two other groups of whom we new very well. They too were visiting their dead family – don’t ya just love a small country town. It’s a shame we didn’t take a packed lunch and turn it into a real shindig.
Another visit to a cemetery happened only recently albeit an impromptu, unplanned visit. This time with my three kids, son-in-law and grandkids. The cemetery is at Parramatta, across from my son’s place is one of the first cemeteries of the early settlers. Since we parked in front I couldn’t resist the urge to do a walk around as it had been a while. Although my son-in-law was bored out of his brain, thankfully my kids got into the event, we even found the grave of Gregory Blaxland, one of the three explorers first to cross the Blue Mountains. A trip to the cemetery with a history lesson thrown in – better than a lesson in the classroom wouldn’t you say?
My latest renewed interest started with a visit from my Aunties (the ones who have reserved slots in the columbarium wall) at Easter time this year. This Easter also included Anzac day. During Anzac week www.ancestry.com.au offered free access so we took up the offer. One thing led to another and before the day was out (after about 7 hours online) I had traced my paternal Grandmother’s family back to the 1500s while running into the odd convict or two – which by-the-way was a proud moment for me. There’s nothing that says you’re an Aussie more than having a convict in your family tree. And yes I know it’s not my biological family tree but I’m sure there are a few bastards on the tree and I’m proud to be one myself.
What’s this got to do with cemeteries you ask? Well, when you’re doing a family tree on the Internet it’s very easy to link the wrong people, whether it’s one ancestor to another family’s ancestor, or as I did, the wrong husband and wife. It wasn’t until I searched the cemetery database, which includes a picture of the headstone, that I was able to link up the right husband and wife team – I’m sure they will be eternally grateful.
And this my friend is what has renewed my latest interest in cemeteries. So much that I’m going to plan a weekend in Sofala (a place where the convict ancestors came to after they were released from incarceration) and taking into account they had a many children, the local cemetery should be swarming. And I think I’ll be like a little girl in a cookie store.
So I’ll finish this blog and do a search on cemetery holidays. I’m sure they exist. And I’ll also leave you with this task – go to the cemetery your family is resting in or if that’s not possible go to the nearest cemetery and walk around, I’m sure you’ll have a blast – and don’t forget to take the kids.