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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Cold Day in February

One cold February day in 1965 my sister, Marianne and I travelled to Brent, Georgia (Forsyth County)to see the graves of our ancestoros buried on the old Davis Smith Plantation. I had been there before, but unsatisfied with previous results, determined to go again. In part, I wanted to know whether or not the two small sons of Davis Smith by his first wife were buried there; also to record the names and dates from all of the tombstones. I summer, the graves were wildly grown over, but now only thorny vines were tangled around the old cement tombstones. Just as we arrived, dark clouds loomed in the silvery sky and an icy wind howled outside our automobile. Marianne declared "I am not going inside that cemetery!" So I treked up the hill alone, pen and paper in hand. At least I would not be nagged to depart and I could savor the joys of finding more graves. Excitely, as I had done so often before, I slid my fingers under the thorny vines and let them read names and dates. I did not find the graves of the two children, but was surprised to discover a previously covered-over weedy entanglement of a flat cement grave, chipped, broken and slowly sinking into the earth. My fingers read Jeremiah Smith ! I'd found the grave of Davis' brother, a person who had eluded me as he seemed to frequently travel the countryside rather than have a home of his own. But here he was, presumably where he died! When I returned to the automobile, Marianne was asleep. My hands were bleeding from thorny wounds but I did not care. I had my information! And, to prevent repeat trips, I had formed the necessary habit of recording every name in every visited graveyard. That is how my book, 30,638 Burials in Georgia was finally published in 1995. Since, thousands more names were published to several cemetery databases from private and public graveyards and added to the website. Of course no one person can publish the trillions of names in all of Georgia's cemeteries, but I hope that this collection helps the members of Georgia Pioneers. To use the database, you must be a member. A good means of locating private cemeteries is to obtain a county map, observe the legend for churches and cemeteries, and then start the field trip. It is easier to understand relatives once you get into the community where they resided. They had nearby farms, attended the local church, or buried on their plantations, which sort of tells a story of its own. The pieces begin to come together as you visualize the countryside and speak to a few old-timers. Every genealogist has had similar graveyard experiences and just remembering them brings to mind the personal dedication and labor of love which is expended by each us as we exert ourselves to step in and experience the past as our ancestors knew it. Not to mention the time and expense which we never added up but would probably be shocked to see the total of it.
Jeannette Holland Austin, author of over 100 genealogy books
Georgia Pioneers

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