Using Headstones To Further your Family Tree
While it man not be 100% correct, data on tombstones can be invaluable in furthering your research. A little investigative work can really have it’s rewards.
It was a beautiful May afternoon and my stepmother and I set out on our trip to find Long Hill Cemetery, in Morris County. It was so small that I had some difficulty finding it. I ended up in another very remote plot called the Meyersville (Part of Long Hill) Cemetery. The care-taker there was able to tell me the one I was searching for was right next to the Catholic Cemetery. I finally found it at the end of a long dead-end street. The right side was clearly Catholic, and the left Protestant.
There was a little section with a small fence grouping about a dozen headstones together. I made my way there and I found one of my ancestors, William Fennimore. I wasn’t surprised as this was listed on his death certificate as his final resting place. I knew that his wife’s name was Matilda, and my grandmother recalled she was referred to as “Granny Thomlinson”, and that she had outlived William. I had been using Thomlinson as her maiden name, but was not sure at that point. A few feet next to William was a headstone that had fallen and cracked (what a shame), it read:
William J Thomlinson
and his Wife
There was a Thomlinson connection. In the middle of these two stones, slightly behind was a smaller tombstone reading:
This quite possibly is a son of Matilda and William, another person to research.
It’s very likely that Matilda is William’s wife. The evidence is strong; My grandmother remembered her, and Matilda Fennimore is listed in the census. However I need more “proof” ideally her birth certificate – but she was born in England and that will require a bit more information to track it down.
I went through and documented the other memorials in the little fenced area. I found Emily (Emma Violet) Fennimore Van der Poole, who I knew to be a child of William and Matilda. Towards the very back of the area was another grouping; James JM Jaques, Mary Ann Jaques, and their daughter Emma Jaques who died young. James and Mary Ann were most certainly the correct birth age to be parents to Matilda Jaques buried feet away. I also recalled that Matilda’s two daughters’ were Mary Ann, and Emma Violet, I assumed at that point that James and Mary Ann Jaques, were Matilda’s parents. All circumstantial evidence but most certainly worth researching.
A bit further away in the cemetery I found my great-grandparent’s graves, a great uncle, and a few cousins. I didn’t know the exact death date of my Great Grandmother, so this will information will allow me to request her death certificate.
A trip to the cemetery gave me strong hints back another generation, and a possible additional child of my great-grandparents tree. None of this is definitive proof, but it has opened the door to expand my research, and narrowed down possibilities. For instance, I now have the JAQUES surname to start looking into, which I hadn’t encountered before. I can also remove Thomlinson from my research as this was probably the name of Matilda’s second husband.