Ordinary headstones may hide secrets…

We begin this story with a routine hunt for headstones. We have been enjoying a very pleasant and early spring, and decided that it would be a good time to go hunting down headstones. We selected several Find-A-Grave photo requests for local cemeteries and planned our outing.

We looked up the various burial plot listings in the cemetery databases and circled each plot on the cemetery map.

We put the camera equipment and “Graving Bag” in the car and set out for a relaxing hunt. Except for the heavy dew on the grass and the resulting wet feet, the hunt went quite well.

When Aleta Van Dyke’s headstone came up on the list, it was just as easy to find as the others.

However, unlike the other headstones that we had just found, hers seemed, well, different. There was nothing unusual about the stone itself, in fact it was remarkably clean and easy to read. However, sometimes the mysteries do not leave clues on the headstone itself.

Stepping back a bit and looking around at the surroundings and reading headstones nearby, we noticed that there may be a family connection here…

OK, let’s have a closer look.

In our experience, a group of headstones with similar colors, fonts and details usually means that we have found members of a family. Reading the inscription “Daughter” we first guessed that we found both mother and daughter, and since the  family names were different, Viola Cook was probably Aleta Van Dyke’s married daughter.

Oops, no, that theory won’t work. Viola, born in 1900 was somebody’s daughter, but she could not have been Aleta’s daughter since Aleta was born in 1911…

OK, Viola and Aleta could have been sisters, but then we wondered, was there a Mr. Cook, and if so, where was he?  We decided to work on that puzzle later, and went on to the rest of the headstones.  We returned home with photographs and a mystery to solve.

We uploaded the photographs to Find-A-Grave, and in a private email we sent the family that had requested Aleta’s headstone the photos that included Viola Cook.

Later that evening, we received a return email thanking us for the photograph of Aleta’s headstone, and also for the ‘bonus’ photos.  They finally decided that to solve the mystery they would have to ask Mom, by now quite elderly, who Viola was and if she could explain the matching stones next to each other.  Mom told them that Viola and Aleta had been lifelong ‘live together companions’ and while they were not exactly a dark family secret, their relationship was not discussed much, especially that long ago.  Mom was pleased to find that they had been buried alongside each other, and commented that since they were together in life, as any “married” couple is, they should be together in death.  

Another “mystery” solved and a happy ending!


About Hunting Down History

Megan Heyl is a genealogist, researcher and teacher and has been involved in genealogy for many years.
This entry was posted in Tales. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ordinary headstones may hide secrets…

  1. Jim says:

    Welcome to Geneabloggers. I enjoy trying to find headstones or my ancetsors. I’ve found a number of them through http://www.findagrave.com.

    Regards, Jim

    • Thank you for the kind words – I have also found quite a few headstones posted on genweb sites, internment.net, billion graves, and local societies often have them on their websites. Happy Hunting – Megan – Genealogy Huntress

  2. It can be so exciting to finally be able to locate and visit an ancestors headstone – especially when other family members are then found nearby!

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