Congratulations to Merry Hill, the Find a Grave® featured volunteer of the month for April 2022!
Learning about history has always been a part of Merry’s adult life. She started with gravestone rubbing during her high school and college years. Then she was a full-time archaeologist for twenty years in London, Stafford and Wales, UK. After returning to Massachusetts about 30 years ago, she started helping her friends and family with their genealogy. She found Find a Grave many years ago and has enjoyed the site and the community. In Merry’s words,
Find a Grave has been a great resource in my own genealogical research, helping me find several long-lost ancestors, and connect countless family relationships. On the ground, I’ve spent most of my time mainly in Massachusetts, and while on trips to Nova Scotia, California and Connecticut. I have seen how helpful Find a Grave has been for me, and I know that as people use it more and more, what I am adding to their research is and will be greatly appreciated by others.
During the worst of the Covid outbreak (2020-2021), I was isolated and going to the cemetery was such a wonderful outlet. I was able to get out in the fresh air, maskless, and continue to “collect homework” for the winter months. It really was a godsend to have such a fulfilling escape!
One touching experience Merry had was when she personally helped her sister-in-law, Catherine, find out more about her father’s first wife and young daughter. While he was serving in the British army during WWII, his wife and daughter died. The story of his first marriage was not known until after he passed on, over fifty years later. Merry helped her research online and they were able to find the death dates and burial location. However, the cemetery was not well known. After more research and travel, their burial sites were found at a small country churchyard in the woods called Llandyfeisant Church Cemetery.
Merry and Catherine visited the graves for Joan and Judy together. Merry says, “It was such an incredible place, such a moving experience. I was so glad to have been able to find them.” Merry knows the affect that this work has on those looking for their family members. She wants to help and give back to others.
Last April 2021, I connected with another local Find a Grave volunteer, and together we started a small volunteer group to tackle the very large Hope Cemetery here in Worcester. I would highly recommend others to form similar groups to take on the daunting larger cemeteries in their locales. We contacted volunteers who were active in Worcester, created a Google Docs spreadsheet to keep track of who was working on what section (to avoid duplication), and about monthly sent out an updated map showing our collective progress. Not a huge chore. We each worked on our own, at our own pace and when we wanted. It worked very well. With just five active volunteers last year, it really has been a great success.
It’s amazing to see what you and other volunteers have accomplished. In April of 2021, Hope Cemetery had 25,603 memorials and was 57% photographed. A year later, the cemetery has 43,460 memorials and is 75% photographed! We love to see volunteers working together on projects. As we were looking through Hope Cemetery at headstones that Merry photographed, these headstones stuck out to us. They include intricate carvings of flowers and leaves that remind us of spring and another style where part of the raw stone remains.
We are so glad you are a member of Find a Grave and know that the photos and memorials you have added will continue to help others. Our accolades to you for your extraordinary work and for being Find a Grave’s volunteer of the month!
Do you know a Find a Grave member who would make a good Volunteer of the Month? We welcome your suggestions. Please send an email with details of their work to firstname.lastname@example.org.