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Finding grave sites is important

As a child I did not have those fun vacations my friends always talked about.

We did not go to Disney Land or the beach for a week every summer. We never went on a cruise or traveled to foreign countries on spring or summer break.

Instead, my memories of vacations while growing up consist of visiting cemeteries and sitting quietly in libraries and reading while my mom researched our family tree. We were dragged all over the country, but the bulk of the traveling was Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Indiana.

We got really lucky and there was a science museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that my brother, sister and I always wound up at. That Fort Wayne library was apparently the gold at the end of the rainbow for my family lineage. I still have a sweatshirt that says “Hands On Fun” from that museum. Whether or not I can still fit in it is not even debatable.

My rambling brings about a few points. While I was jealous of my friends who came back from vacations with tans and talk about cute boys at the beach and I came back with poorer eyesight from reading for a week and a headache from being in a minivan with my parents and two younger siblings, my mom’s efforts at genealogy reaped benefits for not only me for the rest of my life, but also for generations before and after me along our family tree.

We know where we came from, and for those of you who have gotten the genealogy bug, you understand how difficult it can be when you hit a dead end. You call a library across the country, immerse yourself in county birth and marriage records and walk miles up and down a cemetery, searching for a headstone with that certain name.

That’s why the work Will St. Amand is doing in Lafayette County to find grave sites is so crucial. The EAGLE ran a story about his efforts in Sunday’s paper. St. Amand and others had compiled data on where cemeteries are located in Lafayette County, but time, erosion, vandalism, kudzu and various gifts from Mother Nature have skewed data on where the graveyards are located.

Whether it is a small family buried on a plot of land or a larger church cemetery, St. Amand has made it his mission to once again locate those grave sites and plots and document it along with GPS coordinates for people like my mother in search of their ancestry.

This girl who was dragged through cemeteries and libraries salutes St. Amand wholeheartedly. Because of him, families might not have to spend years searching in vain for grave sites hidden away by weeds or forever forgotten. Because of him, a child like me might actually convince parents to drive down to the beach or an amusement park for a day when a headstone is discovered two days earlier than anticipated.

One of my biggest takeaways from the times I spent in a library on vacations was the fact people would always praise my parents for how well-behaved my siblings and I were while sitting there on hard seats, bored out of our minds. Now as an adult and seeing how children can’t behave and some adults even act like idiots at the library, shouting on their phones and being disrespectful to everyone in sight, I can say I am glad my siblings and I were raised with certain sets of manners. I am also glad we were raised to appreciate books, history and the written word, because we have all chosen professions that salute that upbringing.

Only the lawyer will have much to show for it, though.

Stephanie Rebman is editor of The Oxford EAGLE. Contact her at stephanie.rebman@oxfordeagle.com.