ancestryink fisherman

Friday, March 29, 2013

Street Names and Early Settlers

Rev. Samuel Palmer - First Congo minister
Street names are good clues for identifying early town settlers.  Here in Falmouth, we have Gifford Street, Palmer Avenue, Davisville Road, Katherine Lee Bates Road, etc. etc.

In every cemetery I have visited thus far, these names have appeared in abundance.  The gravestone of Rev. Samuel Palmer caught my eye for the beautiful stone carving.

Of course I had to do some quick research on the Reverend. It turns out that the very first Congregational Church in the United States, was the nearby West Barnstable church.  In the early 1700's a number of the congregation broke off or was "released" from this church,  and started a new church in Falmouth.  The first meeting house was built on Mill Road in 1708, where the Old Burying Ground is located. 

Rev. Samuel Palmer was the first minister of the church. The 548 page book "The Book of Falmouth" was given to me by the thoughtful realtor who helped me buy my house here recently.  It is a must-have in learning about the town, and had a nice chapter on the early congregations and Rev. Palmer.

The Book of Falmouth;

Rev. Palmer kept good church records which were separate from the town,  and it is clear that he was the first ordained minister, a distinction that separates him from his predecessors who were "town ministers."  His ministry by election in 1731 foreshadows the separation of Church and State for the Congregational church in Falmouth.  If you look closely at his stone, you will see his epitaph not only notes his age at time of death, but also the years of his ministry.

 Besides the carving on his headstone, wording of his epitaph also caught my attention.  Click on the image to read.

I've always liked the gentle "fell asleep" as a description of

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Windswept hills of the Mass. National Cemetery

In my last post, and first one from Falmouth, I mentioned that one of the first things I did when moving was to update my info with so that I would receive photo requests around my new home town area.

Wow.  Instantly, a pretty much unending slew of photo requests has been rolling in on an almost  hourly basis.  The other day, my iPhone was bleeping incessantly as I received 46 photo requests!  They were all for graves of folks buried at the Massachusetts National Cemetery.  Just a short 15-20 minute drive from my home - and I had never been there before.

After a few hours of spackling walls,  trying to plumb the depths of my finicky plumbing and unpacking more boxes at home, I headed up Route 28 to visit the Cemetery. It was a blustery, chilly day.  I arrived to a rather severe,  eerie landscape. With the trees and shrubs bare from winter, and the still-brown grass, the rolling hills and valleys feel like a science fiction landscape.

A view from Veteran's Way

The information center is quite arresting, as you enter the cemetery.  You can search for your deceased's grave at computer terminals both inside and outside the Center.  They also hand out paper maps of the cemetery.  I was not searching for anyone in particular.  The photo requests for this cemetery seem to be fulfilled by a few people, very quickly.  I assume they either work at the Cemetery, or live nearby and have taken on these memorials for FindaGrave as their own personal mission.

I did take the paper map and drive around the winding roads through this rather barren landscape.

Massachusetts National Cemetery Info Center
I am probably the last person to know, but I had no idea the gravestones were flat, in-ground stones.  I guess I expected to see either all white crosses, or the usual graveyard patchwork quilt of many different kinds of stones.  Did not expect at all, this blank canvas with an occasional pot of artificial flowers breaking the lonely landscape.

You will also drive by the committal monuments.  They too have a stark quality to them, rectangular concrete blocks perched on hillsides.  However, reading some of the stones finally gave me a sense of the human element to it all.  Was quite cheering: the real names, humor, and loving messages.
Alabiso: Meatball and Eggplant Secrets

In this short exploration, I could not yet determine how the graves were located.  The deceased side by side, served in WWII, Vietnam, Korea, etc.  No one committal monument location was designated for any one war.  I'm sure their website explains all this, or someone at the Info Center would be happy to oblige.

Hillside of invisible stones

And, I am sure the weather, the time of year and paucity of trees punctuating this cemetery all added to its rather disquieting, impersonal atmosphere.  I did not take to it.  In fact, with the many pickup trucks, tractors, and personnel humming around, I did feel like I'd stepped onto a military base without permission.  As I dashed around a hillside on foot in the cold, one nice guy stopped his big orange Kubota tractor and asked me if I needed help.

Well...yes.  Can you fix a leaking sink pipe??

I will revisit the Mass. National Cemetery in late Spring.  Maybe around Memorial Day.  I'm sure it will have a totally different ambiance.  And even though I purposely chose not to do preliminary online research on this cemetery, I also realize that the history of the cemetery and it's general rules, events and an explanation of the property is available at their website.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Meet the Neighbors

One sure way to get to know your new town - if you have recently moved - is to find the oldest cemetery in town and wander around.  Acquaint yourself with the most prominent names, observe the dates and verses on the stones, and by the end of a half hour meander, you have a fair sense of when the town was settled, what their religious denomination was, and how they were occupied.

 On the 14th of this month, I sold my house in Maine, and on March 15th bought a new home in Falmouth, MA - a place much closer to my family and friends on Martha's Vineyard - a beautiful seaside community.  Even after living on MV for almost 30 years, Falmouth was a place we would 'pass through' on our way to somewhere else and I had little sense of all its many facets.  This is the first opportunity I've had to delve into the history of Falmouth which of course, meshes with the history of the Islands in many ways.

Beautiful bird-filled beach one minute walk from home.

 What to do first??  With movers coming the following Monday, I had a weekend of camping out in my new home, and undemanding free time to explore. Well, not really, since I just bought the Renovation Project of all time which will certainly be a labor of love and present unending "needs."  However, the now-wise little voice in my head that says: "Step Away from the House, Jane," is one that I will no longer ignore! I decided to get out and explore Falmouth.

 First on the list:  A library card. (Well, first on the list was actually a long walk along the shore and the Shining Sea Pathway...this could be Heaven.) 

Falmouth Public Library has amazing resources and is right on Main Street - a centerpiece of downtown Falmouth village, and right near the historic Falmouth Green.  Discovered there: a bounty of genealogical resources.  They hold vital records for every town in MA.  At first blush one sees a pretty vast collection of Nova Scotia and Scotland ancestry books, for instance.  Hmmmm.  Perhaps one could assume that Falmouth was settled by a large Scottish population?  Besides books, the local library is a great way to people-watch, and immerse yourself in all things local.  I was pleased to see a flier at the desk of a lecture being given on "How to Raise Backyard Chickens."  A little bit of Maine in Falmouth.  Not that raising chix is on my list right now.  But it's heart-warming to see.

  There is much MUCH much more at the library, and I will spend hours there. The photo below looks like Boston Public Library and it is hard to imagine the quaint, seaside Main Street it overlooks.  It actually rivals the library at NEHGS, and the librarian tells me that "the Genealogists" (I like the sense of them being an important town 'flock') appear at the library on Tuesdays and Thursdays of every week to help people with their ancestral research. They also are technologically sophisticated.  The website tells you how to "Text a Librarian..." 
Falmouth Public Library

BACK to the cemetery, though.  Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood near the shore, down a short dirt (well...mud) lane is the Falmouth Burying Ground.   I received a notice for a photo request from for an Isaac Robinson in the burial ground.  His death dates alerted me that this was probably one of the oldest town graveyards.  What a great excuse to hunt it down.

I found the Robinsons.  There are many.

Jabez and Joseph date this cemetery at least back to 1739.  Jabez's stone reads:  

"In memory of Jabez Robinson, died Jan'ry ye 7th 1739 In ye 29th year of his age."  (Birthdate for Jabez: abt. 1711)

And Joseph: (epitaph info puts his birth date at a very early 1678! Further research would need to be done to see if his birth place was also Falmouth)

"In Memory of Joseph Robinson Esq'r, died Septm'r, ye 16th 1736, In ye
58th year of his age."

Joseph Robinson Died 1739, age 58

Isaac's stone eluded me but after a return trip to the library last night where I found a very well-documented cemetery list including all gravestone inscriptions, I know that Isaac is there.  There were three pages of Robinson epitaphs.

Most importantly, I discovered in this one quick trip to the Burying Ground on a blustery spring day, that Falmouth's history reaches very far back in time. I will visit the other older burying grounds I know to be in West Falmouth and East Falmouth. 

The poetry of gravestone inscriptions also leaves you with a sense of life as it was.  In a seaside town, the presence and language of the sea permeated life, and death.  Two brothers side by side in the graveyard had "Fell from ship" on their headstones. I will leave you with this epitaph from the gravestone of Hannah (Robinson) Davis who died at age 17 in 1841:

"Her Savior was her guide her all,
He bade her dark foreboding cease;
And through the storm and dangers thrall,
He led her to the port of peace."