On The Hunt

After receiving the response to my inquiry on the McKenzie forum as mentioned in my previous post, I became so excited that I stayed up well into the late hours searching the internet and Ancestry.com.  At the time, I didn’t have the paid subscription for Ancestry.com so not all of the sources were available for me to view. I could see transcriptions or excerpts, but nothing more to confirm the information being provided.  If there is one thing I learned early on is, you can’t rely on what the transcription shows because the information on the image could be completely different.  The wonderful life of volunteerism; it’s awesome but has its drawbacks for sure.  You don’t hear me complaining though, I am also a volunteer record transcriber.

Alright, back to what I was saying… I stayed up late searching for information on my maternal great-grandmother, Daisy Alford and her parents Malcolm and Sara.  I came across a free site, Rootsweb.com (still active today).  While searching their worldconnect project databases, I came across trees of the same family members I was looking for (only 3) and they listed one of their sources as a 3 volume book (4 with the index), “Kinfolks: A Genealogical and Biographical Record of…..” by William Curry Harlee.  I searched to see where I could find this book that was published in 1934; I was surprised to find it in my college library!  Who would’ve thunk it right!  Of course, now it is on Ancestry.com.

This book contained a section on the Alford family which included an “Alford Register”.  It listed family members all the way back to Jacob Alford who passed about 1814.  I  made a copy of the entire family register and made notes and marks to keep track of where and what I was looking at and who everyone was.  This is such a convoluted register and it was large.  Luckily there’s a section in the book that had guides on how to read and follow it.  Of course, now I know that these types of formats are pretty common.

During these same days of searching, I found a website just for that areas (county) genealogy stuff.  Wouldn’t you know, they had cemeteries that had been surveyed and transcribed onto the world wide web.  I was able to locate the cemetery where my 2nd great-grandparents were buried, Malcolm and Sarah.  I decided to take a drive to the cemetery as well as the one my mother and grandparents were buried.  I didn’t have a fancy cell phone with a camera during this time, not until much later, I believe it was a small Nokia phone (the cheap one).  All I had at the time was a small Sony video camera.  I went to the cemeteries to document the headstones and grave sites with this fancy stylish video camera of mine.

As I walked through the cemetery trying to locate my ancestors, I noticed there were quite a bit of other headstones with the same surname.  Off went the light bulb in my head; I was going to video all of the headstones that had any of the surnames I was trying to locate.  I knew it would be a task, but considering how far out this cemetery was and I was only in that area on the weekends, I just had to do it.  I came upon a headstone that was located right by Malcolm and Sarah Alford.  The name said “Mary McPhaul Alford dau of Malcolm E and Sarah M Alford.”  It was at this moment when I remembered my conversation with my uncle John.  He had mentioned he had an aunt Mary Mac and that’s all he knew her by.  Viola, and there it was, people called her Mary Mac, short for Mary McPhaul (pronounced Mac-fall)!  It doesn’t seem like a huge win, but it is in this world.  Mental note was made, search for her obituary…

Mary McPhaul Alford Headstone

The next cemetery was the one my mother and grandparents were laid to rest. Off topic for a moment, just where did the term “laid to rest” come from and why.  Hmm, now I need to find this out, if anyone else knows, please comment below.  Anyhow, back on track Karie, back on track.  This cemetery is huge!  I started from the front, I walked around and around capturing the names.  I then decided to search for McPherson names as well since my grandfather was buried there.  I never got to finish my rounds because all of a sudden, my dad called.  The call started off like any other call with him, “Hey there sweetheart, whatcha up to?”.  Obviously, he wasn’t expecting me to respond that I was walking around the cemetery not to mention the sun was going down.  He paused for a second and said, “mmm, okay.  Why you doing that?”.  I proceeded to tell him of my grand plan and how now I was looking for other McPhersons but there didn’t seem to be many.  He advised that my maternal grandfather wasn’t from there, he was from Wyoming and that he was born in Kansas.  Thank you so much dad, but really, you don’t know your grandparent’s names, but you know where my mothers’ father was from and born?  LOL  just can’t help but laugh at the thought.  He’s just too funny.

A couple days later, I sat down on the floor with my notebook and pen, put my video in the DVD player (told you it was fancy), and would pause the video to write down names and dates listed on the inscriptions.  I then cross-referenced these names against the Alford register I had to determine each family and with whom they belonged.  Not all headstones state relationships.  I recently saw a picture online of a family stone with the inscription being the family tree, literally a pedigree chart.  Just so fascinating.

It’s nice to sit back a think of how walking through those cemeteries, I felt so calm and in such solitude.  I would often go to mom’s graveside to sit there and talk to her, of course, my grandparents too.  I would sometimes go to other cemeteries in the area I lived, especially older ones and just sit there at random gravesides or walk around reading the inscriptions.  I haven’t done it much in the last few years because…well life, you know how it is.  I always think to myself, I’m going to take my hotspot and laptop to a cemetery and work from there until my battery runs out.  I never do.

Looking back at old pictures I received from my uncle years ago, it is very apparent that enjoying the cemetery and feeling at ease there isn’t something I just became accustomed to while doing my research, it was instilled in me by my grandmother and my mother.  Though I’d have to say, my sister didn’t take from it what I did.   At some point when researching your family history, you will begin to see little things here and there in yourself that was also within one of your ancestors.  Maybe you are passionate about singing and you find that you had a great grandparent that was a musician of some sort or sang in a theater or maybe even started their own band.  It happens to us all, just most of us aren’t interested in the past only in the here, now and future.  You can actually learn a lot about yourself from those who have passed even long ago.

Look at my smile compared to my sisters, so funny.  My eyes of excitement tell it all!   This cemetery is now so overgrown that you can’t see anything from the road and there are no signs.  The headstone I am sitting on is actually Charity Hedgpeth, the wife of Elias Alford, my 4th great-grandmother.  What’s ironic about this picture is, that for years I searched for this Fulmore cemetery near Ashpole.  Even after moving out of state; I would visit my sister and ride out there following the directions provide and could never find it.  I have since found the place it is located but can’t get back to it. Then one day a couple of years ago, I was looking at all the pictures I have, as I always do every so often, and it hit me, this is the freaking cemetery I’d been searching for!!!

Until next time…

“If we know where we came from, we may better know where to go. If we know who we came from, we may better understand who we are” unknown author

Featured Photo by Anna-Louise from Pexels

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