Monday, August 1, 2011

More Fun With Genealogy

Back when this blog was still relatively new, I wrote about researching my friends' family tree and the comical things we found in the newspapers of yesteryear. I'm still trying to wrap up that particular research project, and recently I discovered that I'd left a gap in the work. I never got around to visiting a cemetery to photograph the grave of Jess and Andrea's great-uncle John. So earlier today I picked up Andrea and we headed over to headstone-hunt in the searing August humidity.

I don't quite know how it happened to come up, but as we were traversing the cemetery (quite on the small side compared to some we've explored together), I happened to mention that there was a time when I got locked in a graveyard. Somehow it became determined that this should form the subject of today's blog post, so here you are.

It was several years ago; I know this because my husband and I weren't married yet, and we celebrated our tenth anniversary back in March. Not long after his grandmother passed away, we decided to do some research into his family tree. This was how I first became acquainted with looking things up at the historical society and using the microfilm reader at the library, skills that still serve me well today.

Our researches took us into a portion of the nearby city of Allentown, in a section that was relatively unfamiliar to me. We parked our car near the gates, noting as we entered that they were a good eight or nine feet tall. The cemetery in question is fairly old, and also very large, with much of it being out of the line of sight of the gate. This is relevant.

I'm rather fond of tombstone art, as macabre as I know that sounds. There are some really extraordinary pieces of it around here. This particular cemetery had an entire family whose headstones appeared to have been carved out of logs; the stonework on the bark was particularly impressive. Another local cemetery has one that is positively huge, and resembles a set of stairs on each side; on one side are all the family members' names and data written in English, and on the other side is the same information written in French (the patriarch having been a French immigrant). So as creepy as cemeteries can genuinely be, I sort of enjoy exploring them.

The sun was sinking low and we hadn't found our quarry, so reluctantly we headed for the gate. The eight-foot-tall gate. The eight-foot-tall gate that had, in the time we were out of sight of the area surrounding it, been closed and chained and padlocked. Night was falling and we were locked in a cemetery.

I might like them, but I don't like them that much.

This being twelve-odd years ago, neither of us owned a cell phone. Calling for help (beyond the prospect of screaming at the top of my lungs, which was my reserve plan if the sun went all the way down) was not an option. Neither was climbing the gate, nor the stone wall that surrounded the cemetery. Oh, and for bonus creep points, there were a bunch of crows sitting in the branches of a tree inside the grounds, watching us with unsettling interest.

I'm happy to report that we did not spend the night there. We walked along the perimeter and, as luck would have it, the cemetery has a second, somewhat hidden gate; the big one through which we had entered was for driving into the grounds, while the second one is adjacent to a sidewalk and is only wide enough to admit one walking person at a time. And this gate wasn't locked. We made good our escape, much to what I suspect was the disappointment of the crows.

It took us a little while to find our car, though, so they didn't give up right away.

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