Finding my family from the past…one cemetery at a time.

by Linda Okazaki

Last Spring I had the pleasure of meeting Janice, a professional genealogist from New York. She and I hiked up the hill to an abandoned cemetery. We maneuvered our way around brambles and  thickets, eventually coming to the crest of a hill where we looked over the Hudson River. Janice had previously found the graves of my ancestors and was delighted to show me. It was touching to see the tombstone of John and Mary Orchard, my 4th great grandparents. The following day I was compelled to return. This time I brought Ted. I showed him the grave of Francis Celia, a granddaughter of John and Mary who died as an infant. As we examined the stone more closely, we realized there were more words engraved, just below the dirt. Since I flew to New York from California, I didn’t have my usual “cemetery bag”, a canvas duffel with brushes for gentle cleaning and a spade or two for scraping the dirt. Instead, I used twigs and my hands to scrape away the 160+ years of debris. Imagine my surprise when I read the lovely epitaph:

“Farewell thee lovely daughter,

For thee I’ll weep no more,  

But trust that we’ll meet again,

On Canaan’s happy shore”

Abandoned Cemetery