TRIPPING OVER TOMBSTONES by Diane Wheeler Ozkum [email protected]
While driving around Vermont and eastern New York, searching for records of my grandparents' forebears, I reached an impasse on my grandmother's PARRISH line. Having exhausted Vermont leads, I went to the clerk's office in Whitehall, New York, but did not find much there. The clerk advised that someone in the New York State government years ago had ordered all the pre-1885 records be destroyed. What awful news.
Undaunted, I went to Fort Ann [New York], where I knew my grandmother had been born. While running around the cemetery looking for tombstones, I tripped over one that had fallen. When I read it, I screamed for my companion. It was the tombstone of my great-great-grandmother.
Now, it being way past lunch time, we decided to go across the street to a small restaurant to have some lunch. Once inside, I was enchanted to see pictures of old Fort Ann all around on the walls. I asked the owner about them and she explained it was her hobby. I told her about my quest and she replied, "Oh, you must speak to Mrs. Parrish." She called Mrs. Parish and we were invited to visit her at her farmhouse.
We turned off an old country road into the driveway of a farm house that appeared to be having a yard sale, but wasn't, and an elderly woman came to the door and invited us in. When we entered the living room, she shoved a bunch of papers off the couch so we could sit down. I explained to her what we were searching for and she replied, "Yes, I was the town clerk at the time of the destruction (still am), but I said nope, won't do it [destroy the records]. So, I kept all the town records as far back as they go. My husband built me a room on the back of the house to keep them in." I was, at this point, ecstatic. I gave her a list of names I had gleaned including those of which I was not sure.
She promptly went out back and returned with birth and death records, the will of my great-great-great-grandfather, and so many records I can't begin to recount them all. She went to a photocopier she had in the corner and made copies for me. Then she gave me certified copies of the birth and death records. I paid her for the copies and she promised to continue searching her records for a couple of names she could not find right away. Later she found them and sent me information and certificates, and I sent her another small recompense.
I look forward to tripping over another tombstone in the future.