Sunday, February 12, 2017

Dusting Off Memories

Ask our kids how many times a family vacation included a trip to at least one cemetery. One such trip took place long before the digital age, probably in the mid-1980s.

My great-grandmother’s sister Rose married John Ordway, so I was searching for her burial place to verify her husband’s information. I checked first with the local Catholic church to find out where the plot was, but they had had a fire that destroyed their records since the time the Ordways were buried. I knew from my dad that the Ordways were buried in Calvary Cemetery in Brockton, Massachusetts.  If you’ve ever been to New England, you know that some of the Catholic cemeteries can go on for blocks! So we just “pressed forward” and decided to take a quick drive around the perimeter just to see what we could see. Amazingly, we found it in just a few minutes!

With yellow legal pad in hand, I walked over to the stone and began recording the information while the hubs and the kids got some wiggles out. As I was writing, something caught my attention a few rows up and over from where I was standing. The headstone I was looking at said “Smith.” I paid no attention, because I knew exactly where John, Kate and most of their ten children were buried, and it was not at Calvary and not in Brockton. Again, I felt something catch my attention and again, I ignored it. If I started recording every Smith headstone, I’d probably still be in that cemetery, thirty years later! A third time, the stone somehow called to me. I heard no voice, felt no hands on my head, yet I could not avoid looking at that Smith headstone. Finally, with some degree of resignation, I walked over to the stone and wrote down the information.

In the plot were Catherine, Mary, and Bridget Smith and Margaret Dunn. I had no idea who they were. But when I mentioned the names to my dad, he knew immediately who they were – Catherine was John Smith’s mother and the three other women were his sisters. Catherine died in 1905 and the last of the sisters died in 1949, hence the reason my dad had never given them a thought in all the years I had been researching – he would have been fifteen when she died. But my mention of those names “dusted off” his memory.

I had no idea his mother and sisters ever came to the U.S.! Good thing I followed the impression to go over and record that Smith headstone.

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