Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Adventures in Grave Hunting

Anyone who knows me well knows that I spend my free time seeking out cemeteries to photograph for BillionGraves.  Living in Virginia, one doesn’t have to travel far before stumbling across a lone grave or small abandoned cemetery by the side of the road, in the grocery store parking lot or out in the middle of a field.  But sometimes graves are hidden, and this is where it is good to have a curious mind and an adventurous nature.

BillionGraves has taken the work out of seeking for some of the locations.  If you download their free App, you will find an icon labeled Cemeteries.

 When you click on the icon, you will see that you have a couple of options.  One is to enter the name and location of a cemetery.  This is great if you know what cemetery you are looking for but just need directions to get there.  The other option is to have the App show which cemeteries are closest to you.

Once you select “Nearest Cemeteries,” you will see a list of the cemeteries and their proximity to where you currently are standing or driving.  Notice in each cemetery section there is also the word "Images.Beside “Images” there is a number indicating how many pictures have been taken in that particular cemetery.  Don’t assume that if the number is high that means that all the graves in the cemetery have been photographed.  It may mean that someone spent time photographing the cemetery but may not have been able to complete the entire cemetery.  It is worth taking a look.

Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I decided to take a casual drive to enjoy a rare day of sunshine.  While driving, we decided to pull up the BillionGraves App to see if there might be some cemeteries that we could add pictures to for BillionGraves. Being in the adjacent county from where I live, I figured there may be a couple I hadn’t tackled yet.  Sure enough, the App indicated there was one off of RT 15 in Fauquier County.  Ruffner Cemetery.

BillionGraves is great about not only giving a marked location for cemeteries, but the App guided us to the precise location of the cemetery.  This particular cemetery location was behind an industrial building.  May I pause here to say, when you are grave hunting in remote locations, always take a partner with you.  Don’t go alone.  Make your safety a priority.

We pulled to the end of the access road by the building and parked.  In a mere 600 feet of us should be Ruffner Cemetery.  As you see from the photo, we were viewing a wall of trees.  Now, most people might throw in the towel and drive away claiming the BillionGraves App to be in error.  Well, not us!  We love an adventure.  So, with phone in hand, App on display, I sent my husband into that wall of trees to see what he could find.  (You didn’t think I was going to go in there, did you?!)  

In this particular case, there was nothing to find.  The trees and overgrowth were so thick that making his way through the woods was near impossible for my husband.  He gave it a good try and emerged 20 minutes later with nothing to report but bramble scratches and possible poison ivy.  (It is good to wear protective clothing when grave hunting.  We bring along chlorox wipes, bug spray and a first aid kit with us, because we do often find ourselves traipsing in some heavily wooded areas.)

Was the trip a loss?  Absolutely not!  Here’s what we did.  We took a photograph of the location and added it to the BillionGraves App for Ruffner Cemetery.  It’s not a picture of a gravesite, so there is nothing to be transcribed.  It is, however, a great picture of the location, should anyone else venture to seek out the cemetery.  My next step will be to research the cemetery and see who is buried there.  If anything, I will be able to add the names of the family interred at this location.  We may not have headstones, but BillionGraves has the GPS coordinates, we have added a picture of the location, and hopefully soon, we will add some documentation regarding the hidden cemetery site.

Next time you are out on a leisure drive, pull up the BillionGraves App on your phone and see if you can find a cemetery that can be photographed.  Remember, keep your safety a priority and take along a friend or two.  You never know what adventures you may have!