Congratulations to Tim Reynolds, the Find a Grave® featured volunteer of the month for May, 2022! Tim is interested in the stories that a headstone can tell, researching that person’s life, and then sharing their story. He has photographed many headstones in Australia, New Zealand, England and other countries as well.
As my Find a Grave profile says I came to photographing graves later in life, but I have always been a hobbyist so my new obsession may always have been in my genes. In fact, I can remember wandering through cemeteries from a young age and being taken with the stories that are either spoken or unspoken on the gravestones. And that is my motivation rather than genealogy, though I did think after a few years that I had photographed graves around the world but hadn’t done those of my own ancestors, so I rectified that when I travelled back to New Zealand a few years ago.
I’m not sure when I first took a photo of a grave, but I suspect it was when I was walking the battlefields of Gallipoli in 2007, specifically tracking down the graves of soldiers who had been awarded the Victoria Cross. For those of non-British heritage the VC is the supreme award for bravery while facing the enemy in what used to be known as the British Empire. I had collected the autographs of many VCs but they are a dying breed, and I soon realised that if I sought out their graves that was a much more fruitful project.
I was a student of history and that is what drives me in my new passion. I have broad areas of focus, such as Olympic gold medalists, national leaders (Prime Ministers and Presidents), rugby and cricket internationals, police officers criminally killed while on duty, and so on. But within these I have sub-projects, and one example of this is the first rugby international ever played, between Scotland and England in 1871. So far I have photographed the graves of approximately two-thirds of the English team and one-third of the Scots. To somebody who isn’t into grave photography, and particularly for those who do not know the first thing about rugby, this may seem a very esoteric interest, but I’m sure most Find a Grave volunteers would understand some of what drives me. The feeling of doing the research, then finally standing in front of the grave of a person who made history is almost indescribable.
I’ll finish by relating a spooky story when I was visiting Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney, endeavoring to photograph the grave of a man (Nathaniel Thomson) who played in the first cricket international ever, between Australia and England in 1877. I knew the section he was meant to be in but I couldn’t locate the grave. After a fruitless half hour, I saw an old man who was taking a break from tending his wife’s grave and we chatted. I resumed my search and the old man moved where he was sitting. Sometime later I remembered the names of those buried around the person I was looking for, and in between them there was a broken gravestone. I did some jigsawing and it was the man I was looking for, Nathaniel Thomson! And then I realised the old man had moved where he sat to the top of the row where the cricketer was. I always wonder if he was sending me a sign.
I have taken my camera to many countries in the world, and this year I’ll be going to Singapore and New Zealand. With Covid easing up I’m probably off to Europe and Britain next year. It’s a tough life but someone’s got to do it!
Check out Tim’s varied interests through the virtual cemeteries he has added. Our accolades to you for your extraordinary work on the site, in cemeteries, and for the community! We are so glad you are a member of Find a Grave and appreciate all your efforts in recording and memorializing those that have passed.
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.