During a trip out
east this month to visit our son near Washington DC my wife and I made a side
trip to the Philadelphia area where Wendy was born and grew up until she was
about 13 when she moved to Michigan. She
was armed with maps and copies of documents found on the internet. We were on a mission to find her ancestors.
In particular, she was looking for
the graves of her father, her grandparents on her mother’s side as well as the
final resting place of her great-grandfather.
These were all located near Philadelphia. She’d never been to visit them before.
We were putting a
lot of trust in our ancestral internet research as well as in our Garmin to
find these places. I don’t trust Garmin
all that much either as our navigational device sometimes wants us to go
off-the-beaten track, once telling us to take the wrong exit when we were only
miles from our house.
going?” I asked.
know,” Wendy replied.
Wonderful, as we’d be navigating through busy
and crowded streets, highways and roads adjacent to Philadelphia. We did find our first cemetery without issue,
a sprawling property on a hill overlooking Philadelphia’s downtown
skyline. Finding the grave of her
great-grandfather proved a tougher test.
So we checked at the office.
looking ladies looked up as we entered and stood at the counter then asked if
they could help us. “Is there any
rhyme or reason to this place?” Wendy asked, causing them to flinch a bit. Then Wendy pulled out her paper and the women
began checking computers and pulling file drawers. With their help, we found great-granddad, his
headstone heralding his volunteer service in the Spanish American War.
The next cemetery
to visit was where Wendy’s father was buried.
He died when Wendy was still quite young and living with her mother as
the two had divorced. So she never knew
his final resting place. We had the name
of the cemetery but not the address.
Could Garmin help
us out? As my three-year-old grandson
often says, “Uhhhhhh, no.” Very
frustrating as our navigational device can give you the exact address of any
Dunkin Donut within 70 miles (seriously, it did this once when we were looking
for a bakery), but try searching for a prominent local cemetery and it comes up
empty. It did give us the church
So we went
there. By the way, the neighborhoods
where Wendy and her relatives lived have become quite run down and are now what
could be called blighted urban districts.
Not places where you want to be at night. Even in the daytime a local library even had
a police guard at the check-out station.
And the church we located via Garmin had a parking lot surrounded by a
ten-foot tall chain link fence topped with barbed wire.
While I waited in
the car, Wendy had to ring an intercom, then explain what she wanted before
they would buzz her in. But she did get
in and we did get the cemetery address, arriving just before the office
closed—good thing too since we would have never found her father’s grave on our
own. Wendy had me query the office lady
for help this time since I complained she could have been more diplomatic on
our first go-round.
We did find her
father’s grave, a serviceman’s grave as he served in the Navy during World War
II. Wendy called out who she was,
introduced me, then we took some pictures before moving on. Found the gate where we had come in was now
locked. And I knew the office was closed
too. We hadn’t seen another entrance but
after driving to a dead end or two, pun not intended, we finally discovered a
road to the main gate, still open.
The last cemetery
we found quite quickly. No, Garmin
didn’t step up its game. There was a
sign on the main road that took us right to the cemetery. Garmin was actually trying to take us down
the road farther. Maybe it just doesn’t
like going to cemeteries. Superstitious