Years went by, life went on, we moved across the country.
Last autumn, weak and coughing on the couch as I watched one of those new genealogy shows on television, I logged back in to my MyHeritage.com account to have another look at my family tree. As I retraced my roots and refreshed my memory, I realized something that was almost too good to be true: my seven-times great grandparents, the first immigrants from Europe in that bloodline, were buried about thirty miles from where I currently live.
My cross-country move had brought me back to where my family had begun! How fortuitous! I was going to see those dead people, and I was going to see them right away. Or, their headstones, rather. I would not bring a shovel.
It may seem strange that I was so excited to go hunt for a couple of graves, but the sense of urgency was so great that I didn't even contemplate waiting until I was over my illness to venture out. I left the next morning.
Maybe it was because I knew that The Kid would get bored easily, or maybe it was because Husband never seemed very interested in or excited about genealogy, but I wanted to go alone. My first stop was at a grocery store in the town of Churchville, PA, where I picked up two lily plants in the hopes that I could find the graves to place them on. It seemed somehow wrong to show up empty handed to a cemetery, even if these particular stones haven't had visitors in a century or more.
As luck would have it, I had two sets of seven-times great grandparents buried in the same county. The first set, Isaac and Sarah Edwards, I know very little about. They had eight children (including my six-times great grandfather) and a great deal of land in Northampton Township, PA. Isaac was one of the first trustees of the Southampton Baptist Church, and while I have no information about where he is buried, I figured that the cemetery at that church would be a good bet, so off I went.
When I arrived at the church and graveyard, I realized that this probably wasn't the best plan. While both are still there, the church is now an historical landmark. It doesn't have running water, electricity, or a congregation, so it remains locked up unless someone rents it out for a wedding. The graveyard is accessible, but most of the stones are illegible, being so old and weathered. There was a number listed on the door to call for information, and a very nice woman answered the phone. She said that there was a map of the stones inside the church, and so I wandered around the yard searching for my ancestors as I waited for her to come and let me in.
The next cemetery was a bit easier to navigate. When I arrived, I discovered that it was located behind a working church and school. My first stop was in the church office to ask for a map.
There was no map.
There was, however, a nice young woman behind a desk who informed me as to where the oldest graves were, and thus, where I should begin my search.
Who was I looking for?
John Gill was born in 1750 in York, England. He learned the trade of shoe making from his father, and moved to London where he worked as a shoe maker for a bit. Not long after, he emigrated to America, manufacturing shoes in Philadelphia. His wife Sidney was also a first generation American, having emigrated from Ireland at the age of twelve in 1775. Eventually, the two married and bought a farm in Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, where they had at least two daughters--one of which was my six-times great grandmother, and the other of which is buried right next to them.
And I found them within five minutes.
John's was the easiest to read:
That's my great great great great great great great grandma Sydney to John's left, and my aunt Sidney to his right. I'm glad I brought flowers. :)
My feet are very dirty from the combination of wet grass and cheaply dyed black leather, but here I am standing directly on top of them:
Some say it's sacreligious to stand over a grave, but I challenge anyone to walk through a graveyard of this age and not do it. It's pretty much impossible.
I've heard family rumors that I could possibly be a direct descendant of Henry VIII, though my own investigations into that matter have led me only to dead ends thus far. There's only so much research that can be done online, and one day I'd love to visit England and Ireland to continue tracing my roots and find out more about my ancestors.
If they hadn't lived, then I wouldn't live. I think that's what is so exciting about genealogy to me. So many puzzle pieces had to fall into place just for me to exist as who I am. If Sidney hadn't met John, if one of them had emigrated a year earlier or later, if George Edwards hadn't moved to Ohio to become an Innkeeper, who knows what would have happened? And all that is only on my mom's side!
I like to imagine a future in which my great-great-great-great grandchild is sitting down to a computer (or using the microchip in his or her head, whatever) to research the family blood lines. Everything from here on out will be so well-documented that he or she won't even mentally be able to process all of the information within a lifetime, but I hope I'm discovered. If you are that grandchild and you've come across this blog post, then hello! I hope you're a fine person and you appreciate my contribution to your DNA. If you are not a good person, then please try harder--you have it in you. Just keep on digging.