Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - When Your Dead Relatives Call To You

Have you ever had those moments of serendipity? You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones where your relatives call to you from beyond the grave to guide you. When you're walking through a cemetery filled with various tombstones with surnames in your tree, but you don't know which ones are yours. You want to take pictures of them all, but just don't have time so you grab some and get lucky.

Get lucky. Is it really getting lucky if you take pictures of them all? Nah. It's being thorough. I had an instance of luck at Saint Gabriel's Cemetery in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Luck of the Irish or my relative pulling me in. Call it what you want, but it was thrilling. So here's the story...

My oldest and his grandpa pouring a new base of a family tombstone. To be
fair my oldest did the heavy lifting. Grandpa did the technical work.
My first week in Pennsylvania I head to the cemetery with my kiddos, mom, and stepdad to fix the tombstone for my 2nd great grandparents, Edward and Alice Quirk nee Blanchfield. I've been to Saint Gabriel's cemetery numerous times and didn't have any plans aside from visiting family stones and making sure my stepdad didn't try to carry an 80 lb bag of concrete by himself (rest easy...my teenager watched grandpa and made sure he was semi-sensible). So my littlest, my mom, and I wandered the cemetery while they poured a new base for our tipped over ancestral headstone. Toward the end of the time there we passed a tombstone for some McElwees. You couldn't tell who was buried there because there was a "McElwee" surname marker and the one that said "Father 1879-1937" and "Mother 1879-1931". No given/first names. I just looked at my mom and said, "The PA Death Certificates cover those dates. I'm going to figure out who these McElwees are!"

Owen McElwee
Bridget McElwee nee Brown

I headed home and we went about our routine of making dinner and just doing "stuff" in general. It wasn't until after dinner that I remembered about the mysterious McElwees. Well, do you know what? Mother McElwee is my 2nd great aunt. I never had a tombstone for her on FindAGrave, but I do now. I used to walk by tombstones like that and not investigate further. Call it laziness. Call it being too busy to bother. Either way I'm glad that I stopped this time.

Yeah, I snapped some photos on my phone for BillionGraves.com. Yeah, those nitwits are going to copyright my photos...whatever. This was the only photo I took of a gravestone today on my phone that I kept (my BillionGrave photos automatically delete). And it's the only one that belongs in my tree. I love it when that happens.


  1. Even though there is not much information on those little squares, I like them. I am impressed that the cemetery is kept up well enough that they haven't been covered over with grass.

    1. Sadly there are plenty of tombstones that are slowly being eaten by the ground and several of them belong to my ancestors. Soft ground, ant hills, and being a mining community takes it's toll. They do what they can, but it isn't like when my mom was a kid and the cemetery was immaculate. Still, at least it isn't neglected.

      Thanks for posting!

  2. So glad my handsome grandsons may have some memories of St. Gabriel's cemetery where we spent so much time when their age visiting the gravesites with my mom and Aunt Mary and Aunt Kay.

  3. It is amazing what you can find out simply by searching a name from a tomb stone! I've been on Findagrave several times but as most of my family is from outside the country there hasn't been much luck for me. You really do have the luck of the Irish! Did you have that name somewhere in your tree or did you find them simply by searching?If so That must have taken a lot of research, but it was a very fortunate find all the same.

    1. I had them in my tree already, but not the tombstones. It just completed a piece of the puzzle!