Well this is it!!!

Here it is. The big day. The chance to present my project in front of my friends, family, and community members. I’m very excited about this and I hope you all are too.

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Please join us on Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 at 12:00pm. The presentation will be held at the Dorchester County Historical Society at 1003 Greenway Drive, in Cambridge, Maryland, 21613.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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A Public Presentation…

Well it is that time of year. It is almost time to start collecting new sites and I look forward to new and interesting locations and photos to be able to share with you. The most exciting thing I have to share right now is that we have been invited to speak at the Dorchester County Historical Society and I finally have a date for that to share with you.

The presentation will be held on June 15th, 2016 at 12:00pm (bring your lunch!). It will be held at the Dorchester Historical Society Building at 1003 Greenway Drive, Cambridge, Maryland, 21613.

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I would like to extend an invitation to everyone who has been reading along and sending in locations, and supporting us throughout this project. I couldn’t have done this without all of the help from tips coming in through email and spotters keeping lists of sites they see while driving, and the guides for taking me to some of the more remote parts of the county. I would love to see you all there and be able to thank you in person.

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Remember to keep those tips coming in! There are just some graves that we could never find without your help!

Anyone going out now working on their own research remember, Spring has Sprung. Make sure you use bug repellent, I’ve already heard reports of ticks, chiggers, and mosquitoes. I have also seen some snakes while I was out, so be safe and make sure you keep an eye on your surroundings.

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Happy 2016!!!

Well after a lovely long break off to rest and recoup from my final semester I’m getting back into the swing of things.

In case anyone wanted to know, we did get an A on the mapping project from Salisbury University. I would like to thank everyone for all their help and support throughout this whole undertaking. I truly could not have gotten as far as I did without help from you and the community at large.

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Our next steps are getting the last of the photo pages posted to the website and then linking them to the corresponding points on the map. This is a time consuming process so it will take a few weeks to get them all done. I appreciate everyone’s patience.

Field collection will hopefully pick back up in the beginning of March. By then hunting season should have wrapped up and the worst of the winter weather will be behind us… hopefully.

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I have been putting together the list of all the sites people had told me about but I never had a chance to go to. Right now this comes to about 25 locations. If you don’t see your site on the map, please email us so we can be sure to get to it when we start collecting again.

Thanks again for your interest in this project; I look forward to achieving much more and to the additional discoveries to come in 2016!

College Countdown

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but my professors at college are so excited about this project that they’ve allowed me to use what I’ve collected so far as the capstone project for my geography degree.  Between the scope of what I’m trying to accomplish and the sheer number of hours I’ve spent researching, interviewing, and collecting they decided it was well worth the 3 credits necessary to count this as an independent study project.

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As a thought provoking addition to the map of gravesite locations I will also be laying my collected GPS points over a map of the 100 year flood model for the county. This will be both informative and at the same time, sad to see.  In addition to the graves currently at risk, we will be able to see which sites are going to be in jeopardy in the foreseeable future.  Sadly, from what I’ve seen, we will be losing a great many of some of the oldest gravesites in the county.

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For the next several weeks we will be taking a break from field collection. This comes at a great time since hunting season just opened and it’s bad time to be wandering around in the woods. Also with the holidays here it’s just easier to put things on hold so no one is stressed and everyone gets to enjoy the holiday season.

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For the next three weeks I will be creating the map based on the GPS points I have collected so far. I’m not sure exactly how many I have right now, but I do know it is over two hundred. Not a bad start and certainly enough to build a very detailed map to put on the website for now.

I know I’m behind on uploading the pictures taken at each site; I have over a hundred sites that still need to be posted to the website. Hopefully once the semester is over I will have the time necessary to get them up there, so I thank you for your patience.

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I’d also like to thank everyone who has been helping me along on this journey, and I can’t wait till we get to pick it up again after the New Year. Until then, I hope you enjoy the Holiday Season with your families and loved ones.

Happy Hunting.

Well… November is definitely not going to go as smoothly as September and October did.  We now have two new challenges to consider on our field collection days – Daylight Savings Time and Hunting Season.

When the clocks rolled back they severely cut into the daylight hours we have for good visibility and decent photos.  The days from here on out are only going to get shorter and shorter; not much I can do about that except go out more often, just in shorter bursts.

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Hunting Season is making things tricky. I have already completed all of the easy to reach cemeteries and graveyards so the only ones left are the more remote and hard to reach sites. Therein lies the problem. I’m not the only one mucking through the woods and marsh anymore, and I sure don’t want to become an accidental target. So I went out and bought a lovely Day-Glo orange hunting vest. I think it really brings out my eyes. We definitely stand out now…

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Better safe than sorry…

But on the plus side there are no more ticks, chiggers, or mosquitoes lurking about. Or at least I haven’t seen any. Blast. I’ve probably jinxed us now. Never mind.

I know I am SO far behind on posting new gravesite photos, I have tons downloaded from my camera, and I just haven’t had a chance to go through and sort and resize them yet. I promise to get some new ones up soon. But for now here’s where we stand.

Count as of November 1st – 175 Gravesites located in Dorchester County.

 

Thanks to everyone for following along on this adventure.

Remember to subscribe below to get an email every time a new blog is posted.

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone is enjoying the lovely fall season.  It has been beautiful driving around the county doing field work this past month.  I found myself wanting to take more pictures of the landscape than of the graves sites I was looking for. Since my search has been going so well and I have had so many volunteers taking me around the county, there isn’t really much to report by way of challenges or discoveries this week.

Here is a collection of spooky shots taken from around Dorchester County.

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Some vultures surveying the area…

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A Haunted house if ever I saw one…

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A black cat crossed our path…

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A strange floating orb… sunshine… or spirit?

I would like to thank everyone who has been following our blog. Hope you are enjoying reading it as much as we enjoy writing it and here’s hoping you have a safe and fun Halloween!

Friends…. And Family

The past two weeks collections have gone beautifully! The weather has been perfect, the tides haven’t been too high, and everyone I’ve met around the county has been so very helpful. And as serendipity would have it, a couple of the doors I knocked on turned out to be family!

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When out looking for these grave sites, as I’ve mentioned before, I always like to get the owner’s permission before heading out across their property. As a result, I’ve knocked on a lot of doors and talked to many, many people.  Sometimes those doors bring unexpected treats! This past week I got to meet my mother’s cousin, and then my grandmother’s cousin; both on the same day but on opposite sides of the county. Dorchester may be one of the largest counties in the state but it’s a small world when it comes to relatives.

Speaking of family, I have finally made it to the southern portion of the county. I’ve been able to visit my Great-Aunt’s and Uncle’s graves and been to the final resting place of my Great-Grandparents. I vaguely remember being there as a child and I was pleasantly surprised that the location looked just the same now as I remembered it.  I look forward to the drive further south and perhaps finding some more branches of the family tree. I know it may sound odd but there is a profound feeling of belonging. To know that these are my people, this is their place, and this is where I come from.

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Additionally I would like to thank my guides for the past two weeks. We have covered a lot of ground in  very little time and it’s all thanks to volunteers. They know exactly where we are going and exactly who to go to for permission. I would like to thank these people for taking time out of their day to help me with this project.  Hopefully we can keep up the momentum with collection this week.

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Make sure you subscribe to our blog to keep up with all of our new finds and pictures.

As always,  if you know where there are gravesites in the county please email us at dorchestergraves@gmail.com

Where to start…?

Our last blog post tackled the big question of why we are working on this mapping project. The next most common question is “where do you even start?” Getting started is actually very easy. Living in the county for 30 years has given me enough of a head start to know where to find the large cemeteries and the church yards. Once these larger properties are marked however, is when things get tricky. After that it’s all family plots, and these can be anything from dozens of graves to one single tombstone all by itself.

How do you know where to look for these you ask? Well I started with the locals. They are the experts on the area after all. The same families have been living and working here for hundreds of years. This is evident when you read the last names on the tombstones. You instantly recognize the surnames of friends, classmates, coworkers, etc.

So after asking around and talking to quite a few people I marked a paper map with all of the locations where people told me I could find graves.  This was especially helpful in the southern part of the county where practically everyone has a family plot either in their own yard, or knows of someone who has one near them. Also some of the larger burial grounds, church or public, were already marked on the paper map.

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After local “questioning” my next step was interviewing some of the older folks in the community. A friend’s grandfather is very interested in genealogy and his family tree, so he invited me to come spend an afternoon with him and he showed me the locations on my map of even more grave sites, and directed me towards the owners or caretakers of the properties so I could gain access to those sites.

After people, one of the best resources I have for locating as many sites as possible is Google Earth. I use it to try and verify the tips received from people around the county. The biggest trouble I have run into is that some are so grown over you can’t really tell that they are even there without actually going to the site!

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There really are graves there! I promise!

Another method we’ve used is simply driving down the back country roads, places off the beaten track, and just looking around. Mostly it’s just enjoying the beautiful scenery, but sometimes we get lucky and find a great location. Additionally I would like to thank the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office for keeping mental notes and telling me of the all the places they’ve spotted grave sites while out on their patrols.

Google Earth can also be used to try and find plots that no one has pointed out to us yet. This is the most time consuming part. Zooming in to a part of the county and then panning around, looking for something, anything that might mean grave sites.  Sometimes we are fortunate and can actually see the rows of stones on a property.

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Sometimes however we are simply panning around, looking for changes in agricultural patterns and then questioning the farmers on whether this is just an irrigation stop or perhaps something that warrants more investigation.

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As it happens, there actually were graves in the field shown above. That small circle in the middle of a soy bean field is someone’s final resting place.

As always, check back for more updates, but for now I’ll leave you with an interesting fact:

We have located 90 burial sites already, and haven’t even been south of
Church Creek yet!

Why are we here…?

The question I get from people most often when talking about this project is “Why?”. Apparently graveyards are not something people think about often. We go to a funeral, bury a loved one, and then move on with our lives, rarely thinking about that small stone in the ground. If you are lucky this cycle doesn’t happen often, If you are like me, it happens far more frequently than you would wish.

The answer is simple. Because. Because we are losing these sites to time and tide. Because some have no one to take care of them, because some are already past all hope of help. Because this is our heritage, our history.  Because there are so many stories out there to be told. Because these sites, no matter how small, or how old deserve the same respect and dignity of any of the large, for profit, cemeteries. Because I don’t believe anyone even knows where they are all anymore. And finally, Because if we don’t do it, who will?

Some are easy to find. They can be right in someones front yard.

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Some take more time and effort to find and then get to…

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When strangers happen upon us at a burial site we get some of the strangest looks; surprise, disgust, suspicion… Cars slow down and creep by, I guess wondering why there are a handful of people in the cemetery taking pictures and holding strange electronics. After all nothing says mischief like a pair of rainbow polka dot rain boots…

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However we have been fortunate in our travels that there are many more people fascinated by what we are doing than repulsed by it. I was able to speak with a man who was volunteering his time to help rebuild one of the more historic churches in the county down on Taylor’s Island. In addition to a quick history of that church, he was also able to guide me to another grave site nearby and gave me a brief history of that one as well.

Sometimes curious neighbors come out and speak to me absolutely thrilled that their site will be featured in the project. I had a lovely conversation with a church elder who gave me a brief history of the church, some great facts about the neighboring historical buildings, and discussed with me the sad situation that since the church has recently been renamed, the church elders feel they have lost some of their identity. I wish I had the capability to record some of these conversations, or at least had an anthropologist on my team to know what to do with such cultural knowledge.

Always looking for volunteers.   Email us at dorchestergraves@gmail.com

Back in Action…

Well it has been a couple weeks since our last post. Apologies, I was on vacation last week so I did not get a chance to post the pictures from the previous weeks collection. Now I am two weeks behind. Sigh….  However I am very excited about the sites located during the last outing!

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Also, I would like to take this opportunity to thank some of the locals in the area who have taken time out of their afternoons to be our field guides on this project. Most of the sites located were on private properties or farmland and we would never have been able to get out to the sites without the permission from the owners, and our field guides knew exactly who to call to get these clearances. So I would like to thank them for their time and efforts in assisting with this project.

Additionally this adventure has been humbling as I have realized that even though I was raised in one of the most rural counties in the state, I am not the well rounded country girl I once believed I was.  As we were trekking through various corn and soybean fields it suddenly occurred to me the very real possibility of running into slugs, spiders, snakes or any other brand of creepy crawly. Just about the time I gave myself a pep talk and was enjoying my new found courage, my field guide pointed out the holes and burrows surrounding the grave sites and told me the groundhogs or foxes would not be too pleased if we stepped on them… Oh, and they bite. So much for courage…

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Exhibit A:  It’s like Whack-a-Mole, if the moles were vicious, man eating, carnivores.