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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By the Book

The question that has been popping up the most here recently is “How did you know they were here?” I’ve mentioned before that I use various methods including interviews with locals, old maps, and Google Earth. One resource I left out, because I wanted to be able to dedicate an entire blog post to it, is the Dorchester County Tombstones book.

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The book, compiled by Nellie Marshall and published back in 1965, was the work of countless volunteers and hundreds of hours of work, and is considered the largest compendium of tombstone records for the county. Tombstone Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, 1678-1964 is the book I have been referring to occasionally to make sure I am on the right track.

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The only downside to the book, and one of the motivators for this project, is that the locations given in the book are very, very vague. Descriptions such as the “Frank Hayward Farm” or “small burial plot on east side of county road” are no help when the team is out in the field. These locations, although probably useful back in the 50’s and 60’s, are just not very helpful now. The properties listed have been sold multiple times, subdivided, or have been overcome by the rising water table and are now lost to the bay or river. The descriptions are no longer very precise, and as a geographer with OCD it is imperative that I have the most precise locations possible, hence the GPS. No matter what happens to the land in the future, the coordinates captured by GPS will not change.

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The book contains hundreds of locations and I am thankful that I have located over two-thirds of these sites. Especially considering there is now an additional fifty years of growth covering many of them.

One other item of note, after speaking with the historical society, I was informed that the Marshall book does not include a number of historically black cemeteries. They are being included in this mapping project. Tragically this means that there are so many more cemeteries out there that we may never find.

The goal is still to record as many as we possibly can; so keep the tips coming.

dorchestergraves@gmail.com

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

Churches and Churchyards

I’m sure many of you are wondering why I am listing and photographing churchyards that are still active and in good condition. The answer very simply is that if I’m going to tackle such an undertaking, that I want to make sure that EVERY burial site in the county is accounted for. For future records.

These churches and churchyards may still be in use and still accepting new… residents, but that may not always be the case. There are several locations around the county where a church once stood but burned down, was lost to storms, or was otherwise destroyed and never rebuilt. The grave sites however are still located on these properties.

The graveyards that are part of a still active church are some of the luckiest in the county as they are well maintained and cared for. The ones where the church is no longer standing could stand some extra attention. When photographing one location there was quite a bit of garbage around the property and the woodlands were encroaching and would benefit from a trim.

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If I had the supplies I would have attempted some of the clean-up myself the day I visited, but sadly I was unprepared. My next step is locating the caretakers of these properties as I go along and perhaps helping them to organize volunteers to clean up the graveyards. If you are, or you know who the responsible parties are, please email us at dorchestergraves@gmail.com and perhaps we can work out some volunteer cleanup activities.