Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday Love, McCoy, Mercer and Harrison...

Photo by Irene Smith-Rice
A few weeks I lost my mind and decided to do a little research on my wife’s genealogy. After a discussion with her, I decided to make an inquiry on www.findagrave.com and see if there was a photo of her parent’s headstones.

Unfortunately the cemetery in Norfolk, Virginia known as Calvary Cemetery did not have a complete documentation of the grave sites and of course the two I was looking for were nowhere to be found. Being the diligent family historian that I am, I constructed pages for the two and put in a request for their photos along with some grandparents who were located in the same cemetery.

Photo by Irene Smith-Rice
The first person to claim the assignment to photograph the headstones went two weeks and did not complete the task. After his window of opportunity expired, another volunteer by the name of Irene claimed the job and exceeding my expectations!

Not only did Irene capture every request I made, she had the insight to take photos of other grave in the general area that appeared to be associated with one of the names I provided.

As with most things everything you seek you don’t necessarily get and it applied in this case also. The one photo that could not be obtained was the headstone of Julia Mercer, my wife’s grandmother. This was only because there she does not have a headstone. Hopefully the family will be able to provide her with one in the future.
Photo by Irene Smith-Rice
What all of this reinforces for me is the power of the internet and especially those who volunteer to photograph headstones for www.findagrave.com

It was the people of www.findagrave.com that inspired me to photograph a cemetery in my area ( Union Cemetery )so other people would have the opportunity to have a photo of their ancestor’s and family members.

I would like to encourage others who have or know of a cemetery near them that is not photographed, to consider taking the time to document that cemetery and contribute their photos to www.findagrave.com

As a result of Irene’s gracious act of providing photos of my wife’s ancestor’s, I was able to make some new discoveries in the research of her family.

One of the more important photographs taken was Carrie Harrison Love, the niece of Julia Mercer, the grandmother of my wife.

This discovery began an interesting and confusing search into this family’s genealogy that opened many new avenues of discovery.

Photo by Irene Smith-Rice
What became confusing were the names of people in this family. What soon became obvious was a naming convention that added all of the confusion when it came to determining who exactly the person you sought.

Carrie was the perfect example of confusion. On the headstone were the dates of her birth and death. However, the only Carrie known at the time was the sister of Julia Mercer, Carrie Mercer. Additionally, their dates of birth were different and this had to be reconciled before we could say with certainty which Carrie belonged to this headstone.

According to the 1900 census for Norfolk, VA there was a Carrie Mercer who was the daughter of Frank and Mary Mercer. Carrie was clearly born about 1891 therefore in conflict with the dates on the headstone.

Then when I discovered the sister of Carrie Lilian Mercer Harrison, she had a daughter she named Carrie and who we have concluded is in fact the Carrie associated with the headstone.

1900 Census Norfolk, VA

It soon became clear (after a day or two) that there was some considerable repetition of names in this family, men and women that added some serious concentration when determining who was who in this family.

The names Julia, Carrie and Mary were repeated from generation to generation and siblings tended to name their children after their siblings.

1910 Census Norfolk, VA

We continue to see this tradition of naming children appear in the 1930 census which until it was sorted out only added to the confusion.

In 1930 we see a remarkable thing. The daughter of Mary A. Mercer (nee Saunders?) was living on the same block as her daughter Lillian. In Mary’s home was her daughter Julia and son Frank along with her grandchildren, including Corrine (Corean.) We also see Lillian thought enough of her sister to name a daughter after her.

1930 Census Norfolk, VA

What started with a simple photo request evolved to open some doors that will provide more insight into this family’s genealogical history?

Thanks again to Irene and www.findagrave.com!

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