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Best time of year for Genealogical Cemetery Expiditions (Cemunking)


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A long time ago my Mom came up with the term “cemunking” for the hobby of going out to canvas a cemetery and look for familiar names, and record information from the markers. It’s a hobby that’s not nearly as risky as spelunking (exploring caves), but it does have it’s risks. Poison Ivy, Wasps/Hornets and other bees, snakes, briars, unstable headstones, etc. I can’t help but think back on the many expeditions we’ve made in search of our ancestors final resting places and wonder why we picked the time of year that we did.

I know there’s a lot to be said for warm weather, but when it comes to researching in cemeteries I’ve found yellowjackets, sprained my ankle, I think I missed out on poison ivy, but I’ve seen weeds and thorns prevent access to some cemetery areas. Now that I’m thinking about it THIS is the perfect time of year to go out and research in the cemeteries. Get out there before the first growth is on the weeds and briars, before the snakes start crawling and bees start flying. Also, going out this time of year makes it easier to spot ankle-sprainer holes and divots.

Some things to think about as you go out on your cemetery search. Sometimes you’ll find a cemetery within site of a caretakers house and you might have someone stop by and see what you’re up to. This is fine and normal, be cordial and explain what you’re doing. They’re not trying to cause trouble, they’re concerned YOU might be out to cause trouble.

Take a number of useful things with you. Some artists paper and crayons are great for making rubbings of stones. (Make sure not to mark on the stone.) They can help you read otherwise difficult or impossible transcriptions. Also, take a digital camera with plenty of room on your memory card so you can document each stone. Some people like to take a pad for mapping purposes to (as well as a gps device if possible.)

If you have the time and interest, you might find it worthwhile to take a census of the cemetery while you’re there. Simply record the inscriptions of names, birth and death dates as you go through the cemetery. Try to be methodical. If it’s a place that you are relatively close to and don’t have to make oto large a trip, you might break it up into a few visits. Once you get everything recorded consider submitting the information online for other people to use.