Since ancient times we have honored the dead by constructing tombs, graveyards, and church cemeteries. Egyptian pharaohs built massive pyramids. In the middle ages and beyond, kings and nobles were laid to rest under the floors of majestic cathedrals. European immigrants to the new world brought with them the custom of burying their dead in churchyards, in consecrated ground.
On a recent visit to see family in northern Minnesota, I traveled with my aunt to an old family cemetery and church. Built by Norwegian immigrants in the late 1800's, the Lutheran church had been empty for many years. In March of this year it re-opened. On the day we visited, the side door stood open in anticipation of more workers arriving to paint the floor.
Last October in Paris I'd visited the awesome St. Eustache Cathedral built in the 16th century. There in this grand cathedral, at least two of my paternal ancestors were baptized before migrating to Quebec.
For all its simplicity, the 19th century Rindal Lutheran Church in rural northern Minnesota was no less awesome. Simpler, but still amazing and pure. As I stood in each building, I absorbed the atmosphere surrounding me. The silent coolness seemed to hold memories of those who had once worshiped there.
On this particular August day, the sun radiated against an ever changing sky. A cooling breeze rustled fragrant pine trees and dried cut grass.
As my aunt and I walked the grounds of this rural cemetery, we read the tombstones. She told me of those she knew who rested there. Some stones told their own story. A beloved infant who died in his first year. An adult son buried with his parents. Soldiers killed in World War II, or who died after coming home. We saw many military graves in the cemetery, each one marked with a Veteran's star. As in other cemeteries, small flags are no doubt placed there on National holidays.
My love of history and family fuels my interest in genealogy. Genealogists can learn much from old cemeteries.
A while ago I discovered an amazing site called Find A Grave. On this free site, one can search for or post burial sites of relatives. Pictures and obituaries can be shown, and pages linked to other family members. There's even an option to place flower memorials. It's a remarkable site to remember those who have gone before, and to research family history. Through it, I've found lost cousins and viewed family stones too far to visit easily. Our 21st century technology comes to the graveyard.
So much can be learned about history by studying one's own genealogy, and by visiting ancient cathedrals, or old family church yards. Give it a try.Debra K. Maher
My question: On what site can you search for over 66 million graves?
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