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Stories from the Stones

October 22, 2009

To distract myself from stressing about the condo mortgage at the new bank (right now we’re waiting to hear if the bank really truly does have everything they need in order for our file to go through final underwriting, after which we supposedly officially will be getting a mortgage for sure and be able to set a real closing date), I’ve been going through the headstone pictures I took on my road trip last month. There are so very many of them that it will be ages and ages before I can get them all up on Find A Grave, especially since I’ve been taking my time and doing a bit of research rather than just cropping the photos and typing the information from the stone into the database. I’m not able to find out more about every person, but I’ve had enough success that I’ve been encouraged to continue. Why it delights me so to discover stories about and connections between long-dead people who aren’t even family I’m not sure; I just know it does.

Brothers Take John Wood and Benjamin Wood, for instance. The markers for these two men—each a different style–have only their names, death dates, and ages on them. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to find out that not only were they brothers, they were twins, which must have been a lot more rare in 1751 when they were born, in a time before fertility treatments. That they both survived—one living to age 79 and the other to 82 in an era when so many babies died—seems remarkable. Also interesting but probably less unusual for the time is that they married two sets of sisters—first Lucy and Lois Olds, then after those women passed on, Martha and Abigail Stowell.

Parents In one case, I found a link between a headstone and another of my historical interests, namely the American Missionary Association, whose periodical I’ve been working on at Distributed Proofreaders. Hubbard Fay and his wife Eunice (Willis) Fay share a marker in East Alstead, New Hampshire. I didn’t have to do any research to verify that they were married to each other, as the stone has that information, but I was still curious to see what else I could find. It turns out that among their seven children was a son named Osmer, who graduated from Dartmouth and later from the Chicago Theological Seminary. He went on to teach in American Missionary Association schools in Montgomery and Talladega, Alabama and eventually became a pastor Rock Falls, Illinois. I haven’t been able to find any mention of him in the American Missionary issues I’ve worked on so far, but there are plenty more in the pipeline so I’ll keep an eye out.

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