By Barbara Pelissier, Westhampton Historical Society
Discovering as much information as possible about the person you are researching generally includes finding a final resting place. Whether compiling documents of your town’s veterans or researching your own personal genealogy, an accompanying image of a headstone and the location of the cemetery helps to round out a good search. Thanks to the legwork of countless passionate volunteers, cemeteries from Hampshire County to Zimbabwe (yes, Zimbabwe!) have been photographed and indexed at http://www.findagrave.com. Best of all, the results are available online at no cost. You don’t have to travel to the other side of the country or wait impatiently for the snow to melt in a Vermont graveyard to see your ancestor’s headstone.
Chances are good that you’ll find even the oldest ‘hidden’ cemeteries have been digitally cataloged, photographed and posted online. One fine example is the headstone of Ramsford Avery and his wife Polly, shown here:
This stone stands in a remote cemetery on a steep hillside along a sparsely populated road in Hampshire County, Massachusetts. But the Averys are not alone in their resting place…a total of 93 headstones have been photographed and cataloged on the website, as well as photos of the cemetery itself and driving directions.
For those who don’t drive or are physically unable to scramble up that hill, http://www.findagrave.com is simply invaluable. Individuals who cannot physically navigate a cemetery can successfully navigate http://www.findagrave.com. You can view every stone in that cemetery or visit cemeteries thousands of miles away without spending a single cent on gas. Leave your bathrobe and slippers on and virtually stroll through the graveyards at midnight, if you like. These gates don’t close at dark!