Montgomery County Illinois History

Grandma, Where are you?  The call echoed in all cemeteries…

By Margaret Simpson Rambo

“Grandma, where are you?  I know you’re here someplace, now where are you?"  We hope this call will be echoed in all the cemeteries, specifically in Montgomery County, Illinois.

Whether you remember “Grandma” as a child, or even if it’s a second great grandmother you never knew, you will find time spent in a cemetery will mean more than names and dates.  Your presence stimulates many questions that are unanswered and invariably the feelings will warm into one of real kinship.  You are one part, and they are one more.  It takes many parts of make the whole – the whole of you. 

Cemeteries are not at all depressing places, rather one of quiet that invokes a reverence.  They are revelations of history, holding countless stories of people who felt and experienced all the things that you and I do.  A person is very fortunate to live in the area near many of their ancestors, or even just a few.

John and I are “emigrants” removed from our home county, yet we have located and visited many cemeteries, even though we have no family members to search for here.  We have found satisfaction and interest in finding and learning about someone else’s “grandmother”.  We revisit, often, many of the cemeteries we have learned about.  One begins to feel that “they are expecting you”, and we too, have found a kinship bond.  Since we are not near our own ancestors, we record the information of the people of Montgomery County, hoping someone will write down information on our people in the same way.  To us, even more important than personal information is putting down as record that all these people were here.

As children most of us were part of the activity of clean up day at the cemetery.  It always preceded decoration on Memorial Day.  With perpetual care, this labor of price and respect does not occur.  Cemeteries that are not under perpetual care soon become our abandoned cemeteries.  The term itself is a reproach!  What creates these abandoned places of rest?  People.  They move, those left, grow older and soon who is to recall where family members are buried.  The responsibility of keeping graves free from brambles and weeds does not pass from generation to generation anymore, thereby denying out children of the knowledge we gained from it.  Do your children or grandchildren know where their great grandparents, great aunts, uncles and cousins are buried?  Chances are they do not.  Distance may be the reason, or the fact that the past custom of clean-up day is no more.

Family bibles are much sought after for records of birth, marriage, and death.  I have yet to see one that records the burial sites.  Even the County Death Records may not be too explicit.  Cemeteries were often referred to by several different names, or even by just the town or the township, a cemetery not specifically designated. Sometimes the spaces were even left blank.

My great, great grandfather died somewhere in Indiana, sometime around 1862.  I experience a feeling of unrest because it is all I have been able to learn.  What few relatives are left, did not even know his name – he died before their birth.  Second great grandfather Simpson was on a visit, the remainder of the family in the state of Iowa.  Undoubtedly, his place is unknown, perhaps an unmarked grave.  Similar problems are part of everyone’s family tracing.  My hope is that a group of people have, or will find him and that he will someday be claimed by his descendants on record.  My discontent will continue, until I have exhausted every clue and possibility.  More than dates, I simply want to know where he is!  The missing part of my whole is extremely important to me.

Today people speak of “finding themselves” and are not sure of what they are searching for to feel complete.  To know who you are, or what you are, is in the knowledge of your beginnings, the background of your family, your heritage. 

Before the season’s growth gets a good start, call a friend and get out in the fresh air.  Take your lunch!  Offer to help several people.  Groups can finish a cemetery reading much faster.  Spring is the rebirth, and I guarantee you will feel it within yourself.

Find somebody’s “Grandma”, somewhere, someplace, and someone will find yours!

Transcribed by Ann Stoddard, Dec. 26, 2010

Posted in: Montgomery County
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