Saturday, May 3, 2014

Family and Chatham, New York

I recently discovered that an acquaintance to whom I was introduced by a mutual friend is my cousin.  I remember we discussed whether or not we were related because we had the same surname and I said I wouldn't know without researching her family.  It turns out I did!  I was researching other children of my great-great-grandfather John L. Winchell, Sr., wrote to her father and found out I already knew his daughter.  

We met last week in Chatham and had an enjoyable time talking.  It's been a long time since I met anyone who was interested in my family history and it was fun.  Not only that, Susan is an archaeologist and has the knowledge and tools to do more research.  It's refreshing to be asked questions that I have to think about.  We'll meet again soon.

When I first got to Chatham, I drove up Spring Street to locate my great-uncle's house.  It is still there and looks much as it did almost a hundred years ago.

From the angle I'd say that Spring Street has changed over the years. 

The rain held off and the clouds even parted a bit so I decided to drive to the Mellenville Union Cemetery to look for Paul's and Clara's graves.  It has been many years since I was there.  I started looking around tombstones of about the right era, but thought it might be possible that they were buried near Clara's father.  I was right.  I found them right behind George Shufelt's tombstone.

I wondered why it was important for me to find these that day.  I was told so very little about my family that there are only little clues to my relatives' lives, the houses, the tombstones and the occasional newspaper article.  It's sad, isn't it?  I collect what I can and preserve that information.

Speaking about preservation, I need to do something about the lichen on the tombstones.  You can barely read the inscriptions.  The Connecticut Gravestone Network has a very informative page about cleaning tombstones.  They are much more delicate than you would think.  Please remember that what you use to clean at home is not good for cleaning tombstones!  

It seems I really need to remove the lichen because it's very damaging, according to the network:  "Many lichens will, once removed, leave a scaring affect on the stone because the waste product they give off is an acid that works with the stone's own salts and chemistry to erode it or bleach out some of its mineral component."  Once I remove the lichen, I think I better flush the stone well with water.  

I've thought of a good project for when I get itchy feet and need to get out of the area again.  I can go to Berkshire County, look for the family tombstones and see what conditions they're in.  I've never seen some of them.

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