Thursday, June 28, 2018

Genealogy On the Road #1 - Walking Through the Cemetery in Western New York

West High Street Cemetery, Painted Post, NY
Copyright 2018: Melanie McComb, The Shamrock Genealogist


I have been travelling a lot this past year. One of the most frequent places that I go is to Western New York to assist my company on projects for a specific client in the area. It's where I started to get the inspiration for this new series "Genealogy On the Road". After a long day at work, I wanted to get a genealogy excursion in, to take in what's in the area and see if I can help someone in the process. I previously went to the local library. You can read about my experience here.  

Last week I went back to Western New York and my latest excursion was to check out a cemetery in the small town of Painted Post. I specifically went to the West High Street Cemetery. If you're looking for your family in this cemetery, the Painted Hills Genealogical Societyhas an index online. It was an interesting experience. I walked through rows and rows of headstones going back to the 1800's. It clearly was not in active use and was falling into disrepair. Stones were sinking into the ground and some headstones were so illegible to read. 

This is why it's critical to photograph each cemetery - it's preserving history. In my talk about using NextGen tools, I encourage everyone that has never visited a cemetery to at least visit once and fulfill some requests. I find that most people enjoy the experience and will do so again. I was never someone that liked cemeteries growing up - it was associated with someone passing away, which is of course very sad. I've only recently over the last few years started going to cemeteries for genealogy purposes. I wanted to give back and help share a photo of them so they can "visit" them, even if it's only a picture online. Gone but never forgotten. 

I took a small video in the cemetery that I uploaded to social media. I hope to continue to do these short videos to help document my genealogy travels. 

My tips for exploring cemeteries like these:

1. Bring water - it was 90 degrees and I was melting. I left the water in the car thankfully (but of course forgot to bring around with me), 

2. Survey the cemetery ahead of time online to see what's already been photographed. My Find a Grave app was a bit slow to catch up and was eating up some of my data. I would recommend downloading in advance the photo requests and saving in Google Drive. 

3. Back a travel bag for cemetery visits. I brought nothing with me so I didn't have much to work with. I like to bring things like extra water, a little shovel if I need to dig up around the headstone, garden shears to help trim weeds. Make sure you bag in your checked bags to avoid issues with TSA. 

4. Bring a change in clothes. Yes, I'm the one walking around the cemetery in my dress clothes melting. I know next time to bring some weather appropriate clothes. I do recommend long pants though because you never know if there are snakes in the area or bugs. 

5. Don't rely on your Internet connection to be working. My photos taken through the app all failed so I lost the coordinates and several photos. I did take a few photos on my phone camera (outside of the app) so all was not completely lost. I just don't have the coordinates.

6. Speaking of which, old cemeteries like this don't always have section numbers. Be prepared to mow rows to fulfill requests. I don't think I found a single one that was requested. I did find a few that didn't have a photo and will ad those. 

What cemeteries have you visited recently? Have you checked to see if they have been photographed and/or indexed online? Share your experiences on social media with #genealogyontheroad. 

Look out for my next blog post where I head into NEHGS for the day!