A Horrific Headstone on Halloween

Vicki’s note – an article from Legacy Tree Genealogists BLOG by Allison McCord:

A Horrific Headstone on Halloween



Halloween in the U.S. means stories of ghouls and ghosts and terrifying nightly jaunts through haunted cemeteries filled with shadowy grave markers rising above black grass. It evokes a picture of the cold night air filled with howling wolves and screeching bats flying under an icy blue moon.

Speaking of scary cemetery stories…I spent many months gathering documentation regarding a great-great-great-grandfather. Alfred Great Barker – what a fabulous middle name – was born in the late 1700s. During his lifetime, he experienced the rise of the Industrial Revolution in England, married the daughter of a doctor, supported his nine children through the ribbon-weaving industry, sang in the Coventry St. Michael’s Cathedral Choir, and carried a cane. As an adult, he left forever the land of his forefathers, sailed the Atlantic Ocean, and crossed a continent by train to live out his final years in a lonely, arid desert town situated in the American Great Basin.

After gathering all this information from documents like the U.K. Censuses, bishops’ transcripts, civil registration, newspapers, private journals, and the immigration records of Castle Garden, and after synthesizing the information into a fairly illuminating life sketch, I decided to take a trip to this ancestor’s final resting place.

Eager to view his grave monument and think through all I had learned about this person’s life, I walked up and down the rows of the tidy, small-town cemetery, searching for the only remaining physical evidence of this ancestor.

Shoes wet from the glistening dew in the grass, I made it to the final row of aged limestone headstones and began inspecting each one, searching for my ancestor’s name, when I came to this horrifying sight:


This devastating scene of the fractured headstone was akin to coming across my actual ancestor, broken in half, lying in misery in the hot summer sun and frigid ice and snow, neglected, forgotten and forlorn. Well, perhaps not quite as bad as all that, but it was certainly an unpleasant shock!

Undaunted, I snapped the photograph above, then sent out an SOS to as many descendants and relatives as I knew. Within a few months, enough money was collected to commission this repair job – interestingly enough, from the exact same monument company that had chiseled the headstone 142 years earlier:


Now I am assured that throughout this haunted season and for many haunted seasons to come, while skeletons dance and goblins drool, this ancestor’s dignity will remain restored, and his headstone will continue to reflect his fascinating life.

Want to find the final resting place of your ancestor? Commission the professionals at Legacy Tree Genealogists to gather the documents you will need to track down your ancestor’s final resting place, and make that trip to your ancestor’s cemetery.

Allison McCord- Legacy Tree Genealogists Project Manager
As a girl, Allison loved her grandmother’s thick, white genealogy binder. Immersion in her family history gave her a sense of her own identity and filled her with awe as she discovered her family’s tragedies and triumphs. Uncovering her own history led Allison to study research methodologies utilized by genealogists and historians. Allison has a Bachelor’s degree in Family History and Genealogy from Brigham Young University with research experience in Great Britain and the United States and project management experience worldwide.


There are a lot of genealogy sites and blogs out there – a lot of good ones. We asked Allison McCord, one of our Project Managers, about her favorites and here are her picks. Enjoy!

From Allison: I heard Judy G. Russell speak at RootsTech 2014 and she has a truly engaging speaking and writing style. You can watch her excellent presentation here: https://rootstech.org/about/videos/?id=3168208970001.

Built by David H. Pratt, PhD, this website is one of the best places to learn how to conduct English genealogy research. The site explains clearly “some efficient ways to trace English persons in the past.” Easily navigated, this website provides information about civil registration, bishop’s transcripts, marriage records, poor law, maps, and more.  http://dea.byu.edu/

As a kid, Wes Clark loved to take pictures with his Kodak Instamatic. As a result, he has an enormous collection of snapshots of his growing up years in 1970s in Burbank, California. Wes’ description of each photo is hilarious and self-deprecating as he captures the essence of southern California, his parents’ interior decorating failures and the avocado-green fridge. While not really about genealogy, this website illustrates that family history can be fun and engaging, and that ordinary lives make for fascinating reading.  http://wesclark.com/am/

From Allison: While this website keeps me up-to-date on the newest technology available to genealogists, my favorite feature is “How I Hack Genealogy,” where genealogists from around the world respond to fascinating questions like, “How do you envision genealogy in the year 2020?” or “What is your advice to beginning genealogists?” When asked about a genealogy super power, genealogist Helen Smith responded, “Crowd sourcing,” citing the volunteers who indexed the 1940 US Census.  http://hackgenealogy.com/





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