Congratulations to Alison Glass, the Find a Grave® featured volunteer of the month for December, 2022! Alison has a magnetic personality. Her excitement for projects, cemeteries, discoveries and research is infectious!
Alison was nominated by another Find a Grave volunteer who said, “Alison shines as ‘amazing Alison’- where she has helped many people not only learn about Find a Grave, but started them volunteering as well. She has helped families find each other virtually and enlightened others to the peacefulness of strolling through a cemetery and being surrounded by history; in admiration of those who gave their lives and connected everyone to a common interest.” (Linda)
Alison was born in North East England. She moved to Canada to take a position at the University, planning to stay for just six months but changed her mind and remained forever. She has been an Animal Technician, a wife and mother, and a bus driver for school children and St. Albert Transit. Just after her retirement in 2007, she was at a beach in Germany and noticed a bug bite. She came back to Canada and discovered that she was bitten by a tick carrying a bacterial strain which causes Lyme disease.
She learned that she needed less stress in her life and also “gentle exercise.” She and her daughter started research on her Uncle Ike’s family, which included gathering burial information. They placed the information on Rootsweb and that started the cemetery snowball.
“It started so innocently, with a simple email from someone I did not know. A young man in Ontario sent me a link to a page he had created on Findagrave.com, for someone very distantly related to Ike’s family who we had listed on our Family Tree, on Roots Web. I thanked Scott for taking the time to do this and a few days later another email with a link to another person on our tree. This went on for some time. I finally asked him why he took the time to keep on sending this type of information to me. His reply stunned me, “You are the only person who has thanked me for doing this!” This made me think that perhaps I should learn how to add information about my close family members who had lived in this area as a way of repaying him for his thoughtfulness, in taking the time and effort to provide me with information which I might otherwise never find, since Ontario is a very long walk from Alberta.
Most of my close family are still in England so I did not have many family members in the vicinity to add to the site. I thought I might as well add these few to Find a Grave. While I was in the cemetery taking photos of their markers, the thought struck me, why not photograph the markers around them and add those to the site too. A while later I realised that no one had entered the two cemeteries in St. Albert so I went to the St. Albert Catholic Cemetery as it was closest to home. I began entering information and photos, one section at a time, till I had photographed and entered the whole cemetery. Then I thought why not the whole section of Mount Pleasant Cemetery that my relatives are in. Of course the next step was to decide to photograph the whole cemetery, which happens to have more than 18,000 people interred there. What a mammoth undertaking, but with the help of a very good friend, Neila, who lives close by we got it done. Now no cemetery is too big for me to tackle, it might take several visits over an extended period of time but I will get it done.“
Alison has shown her dedication to finding graves by taking on special projects, many at the request of others. In 2010, she was contacted by a crime reporter who was interested in the family from a marker she had photographed. In some provinces, older vital statistics are not available online and headstones are a readily available source. As they talked, the reporter became more interested in her hobby of visiting cemeteries. Her story was later featured in the newspaper, which led to the next project.
Shortly after this article was released, “I received a phone call, and all I heard was “I am with the RCMP”! My heart skipped a beat as I wondered what I had done wrong. Then I heard the rest of what the caller had to say! I was not in trouble after all! The caller was Joe, a retired member of the force, and one of the people involved with attempting to locate the final resting place for each and every member of the NWMP and the RCMP. He asked if I could help by keeping my eyes open for markers with their logo or initials on them, as I photographed cemeteries I visit.” Alison has contributed over 500 headstone photos to this project. Locating and photographing their headstones is her way of honoring these fallen officers.
She told us about another time when she found a cemetery only because she saw the tip of the church steeple peeking out above the trees. She was traveling home from Smoky Lake. “When I got there I found the church boarded up and there was no sign of a name anywhere but behind it there was a small, well manicured cemetery. When I got home I entered the names of the folks buried in the churchyard, and then went looking for clues to the name of the church. Lo and behold, I found a query from someone wanting info about family with the same names as the ones I had recorded, and she named the church. Saint Anthony’s Cemetery, Warspite, Alberta. In early spring, 2015 a friend told me that this church has been demolished and is no longer there.”
Alison is always willing to go the extra mile for member requests. Once she “found a marker for a young lad that was almost completely hidden by a rose bush. The only thing showing was the toe end of the concrete slab defining his plot, I crawled under the bush and there was a flat marker showing he had passed away some 20+ years ago. I am guessing that someone planted a cute little rose bush, and that bush kept on growing un-hindered for all those years.”
One other project is locating the burial locations of all the first motormen who drove Edmonton streetcars. A few years back, a grandchild of one of these motormen contacted Alison about her grandfather’s grave, as she saw the photograph on Find a Grave. They became friends and connected with others regarding the streetcar (Edmonton 1) and her grandfather. To make a longer story short, some great-grandchildren rode the original streetcar that their great-grandfather drove in 1910. Here’s Alison on that streetcar too!
Alison makes a positive impact in others lives and makes new friends wherever she travels. She shared some of those experiences with us.
- A family in the Watrous Cemetery in Saskatchewan to whom I explained what my friends and I were doing in the cemetery and asked if it would be okay to photograph and enter their loved one’s marker onto Find a Grave. They were really pleased and made sure the marker had no grass trimmings on it before I took the photo.
- The lady sitting on a bench in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. She looked so sad that I went over and talked to her on my way out of the cemetery. Seems she had just lost her husband. She showed me his marker. When I explained that I could add his name onto a cemetery site on the computer. She was so excited, “Oh! that would be lovely, he will be remembered forever!”
- A Lady in Westlawn Cemetery, Edmonton who was tending a new marker. She asked that I not take a photo or enter the name on the marker on to Find a Grave. Her pain was too fresh. I kept my promise to her.
- The cemetery worker in Glenwood Cemetery, Edson who after watching me for more than an hour came over and asked where he should apply to get a job like mine. When I told him it was a volunteer ‘job’ he was amazed. He then answered my question about where I would find the “Old Edson” cemetery by offering to lead me there after he finished work. Without his help I would never have found it! No sign, fence, gate, just what looked like a deer track between the bushes off the side of a dirt road.
- The lady cleaning all the markers for her deceased family members who promised to tell the church minister that their cemetery would now be “online.”
- The two gentlemen who were installing a marker in the Tomahawk Cemetery who admitted they frequently got lost as they did not have a map of the area with cemeteries on it. That was the last cemetery on my list for that county so I gave them my map and suggested they acquire a county map for each county they go to.
“I find photographing cemeteries a great way to get exercise and have a reason for getting that exercise, as soon as the snow has almost all gone and the ground is starting to dry out I will be on the go and continue through the summer till either it gets too cold or too snowy or both. In the winter months, I get mental exercise from transcribing all the information from the markers and sending it to Find a Grave and from deciphering the inscriptions on the markers. It is not only a good mental “work out” but also rewarding when I manage to decipher an inscription that has baffled others. Thankfully I have a group of friends who are willing to verify for me that I have deciphered the inscription correctly.”
Alison, thank you for your kind and respectful nature and for connecting families through your work. We are appreciative of your efforts and the efforts of all Find a Grave volunteers. This work connects us as a community as we help one another and also allows people everywhere to discover information about those that have passed on.
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.