For years, I tried without success to track down my great-great-grandfather, John Hendrickson. When I finally located his marriage records, I was sure that particular brick wall was obliterated. My hopes went even higher as I found information (thanks to my Internet cousin, Gene Bird) about John pioneering in Kansas following the Civil War.
I lost track of John for a few years, then finally found him again in a 1900 census, when he was living with his daughter. After that, he once again disappeared.
About a year and a half ago, I ordered a microfilm from my local Family History Center of a family history put together by someone living in Washington. As I skimmed through the film, something popped off the page—it was the name and location of the burial plot of John and his wife.
When I got home, I looked through my gazetteer to locate the county where the cemetery was located, then went online and visited the USGenWeb county page to look for a volunteer who might be willing to photograph his headstone.
I was lucky enough to find a volunteer. However, she had to contact the local historical society to locate the cemetery, then contact the farmer who owned the land it was on. She then had to wait until the crops were in so she could drive across the field and get to the burial ground. Sadly, it was overgrown with weeds, and she couldn’t find John’s tombstone. However, she thought that several stones had been knocked over by cattle, and were under the weeds. She decided to go back with one of her grandkids to try to find the stone and take photos for me.
Then came winter, when it was too difficult to reach. Then came spring and planting began. Then came summer when crops were growing, and then came fall when the crops were once again in but there were snakes. She is now waiting for good weather.
For a person without a lot of patience, this whole experience has been a hard lesson for me. Sometimes I’m tempted to jump in the car and drive 2,000 miles to take the photos myself. What would you do? Write and tell me what you think.
Nancy Hendrickson is a contributing editor for Family Tree Magazine. She also is a family historian, freelance writer and the author of two astronomy books. Her Web site is at www.ancestornews.com. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org