Congratulations to K. Berry and JGBC, the Find a Grave® featured volunteers of the month for August, 2022! K. and JGBC are a mother/son team, who work together documenting graves all over!
K. is an Artist and J. an Archivist. They have many of the same interests; love to learn, research, solve mysteries, and enjoy the quiet outdoors. They discovered that Find a Grave fit right in while being a bonding time for the two of them. K. shared her love of cemeteries with J. when he was very young. Here he is pictured at 5, helping her find and uncover a headstone in the snow.
We asked if K. had a couple of stories to share about their experiences. She told us that the special cemetery moments they’ve shared together over the years are countless. But, that there a couple that particularly stand out.
In K.’s words, just as I had experienced with my parents, family vacations included visits to family graves from California to Massachusetts and oh so many places in between. Old cemeteries were added to vacations when spotted. Since cemeteries are perfect time capsules of history and giant playgrounds to explore…they check so many of our boxes.
When J. was 10 years old, everything changed. We took him to Longmont, Colorado to visit my great-great grandparents graves. He fell in love with their headstone and wanted to know more about them and everyone buried near them. The mystery of it all exploded in an instant. We photographed every grave around our grandparents, careful not to miss any evidence to help answer future questions. Before leaving that cemetery, I had to find another grave. I had pre-arranged with a neighbor to photograph one of their family members graves. J. really liked this “small world” coincidence and that it was easy to help others at the same time. Find a Grave became a regular activity!
Fast forward a few years and J. was in high school and Find a Grave was our community service. J. had more community service volunteer hours than any ten kids his age. This, of course, helped on college applications. Then while away at college J. and I continued to be a long distant team. He graduated in three years with a BA in history. He’s now in his final year of graduate school in archival science. He refers to Find a Grave as his gym time, a welcome break between his academic day and work as an Archivist.
All the years of documenting headstones and graves and sharing their time together in cemetery research, has not only helped others searching for information but also had an impact on the trajectory for JGBC’s career! Another story that was particularly meaningful occurred last September, 2021.
While delivering my son to Massachusetts for graduate school, we naturally visited a number of graves of grandparents and historic spots. We went to the Old North Bridge in Concord, MA. I had originally shown him the bridge when he was five years old. He reminded me of yet more grandparents graves that we had never visited and pulled up their location. Their burials are located on the rotary and main drag of this beautiful and historically famous town, wedged between an old church and private residence, the Old Hill Burying Ground.
From the sidewalk, you look beyond a garden wall upward to see the 18th century graves. The first row of graves are marked like soldiers in formation on the hillside with clean slate headstones and their accompanying foot-stones. It was picture perfect. On the day we were there the sky was a terrific blue with wonderful clouds. The shadows were falling just right and we both were very excited by the site of the cemetery in relationship to the modern world. We looked over the garden wall and both had an amazing moment of excitement. There, just over the wall, the first and second marked graves were my 8th and 7th (J.’s 9th and 8th) great grandfathers graves, John and Jonathan Melvin. It was surreal! We euphorically scurried onto the hillside and paid respect to our grandfathers’ graves. Just like in Longmont, we photographed everything around that might be helpful later as well as for Find a Grave. We chatted with the home owner next door then enjoyed a nice meal in eyeshot of our grandfathers’ graves.
It’s stories like these that make each of our experiences so special. K. and J. have found that over all these years as they volunteered to upload grave data, images and verify info, they are providing other people with the same thrill they’ve had and that motivates them even more. The Find a Grave community has helped them connect with others, share information, make new friends, and meet extended family members.
Thank you K. and JGBC, we are so appreciative of your efforts and the efforts of all Find a Grave volunteers. While helping one another discoveries are made, puzzles solved, and friendships created.
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.