ancestryink fisherman

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."


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