The Cemetery: A Genealogy Sanctuary

Gate at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Cemetery.

Gate at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Cemetery.

In November I took a wonderful class through Family Tree University: Cemetery Research 101 by Midge Frazel.

From past posts that I’ve written (see here) you may already know that I don’t mind graveyards.  In fact, I kind of like them.  They are fascinating places to visit and I love reading the tombstones to learn all I can about the person buried there, not to mention the artwork, engravings and statues.

The class gave me a better understanding of what I needed to know to be successful at researching, documenting and understanding cemeteries.  You’re probably thinking: You mean there is more to it than wandering out into a cemetery and taking a couple pictures?  Yep, a lot more. More than I ever dreamed.  I can’t wait to explore more cemeteries and to visit my ancestor’s graves too.

When I first discovered Find-a-Grave, I had grandiose ideas about being a contributor.  I live in an ideal area for it.  There are quite a few family cemeteries and out of the way churchyards that still need to be documented for the site.  I could just imagine myself with my trusty camera, bug spray and a notebook, traipsing around documenting what I saw.  Well, it hasn’t happened yet, but maybe now it will.

Our final assignment in the class was to travel to a local cemetery and document a tombstone there.  I was so excited!  While I wouldn’t be able to get to a cemetery where members of my family are buried, there are many historical cemeteries near where I live.  Choosing one of these was going to be very difficult.  I finally settled on asking my boys where they wanted to go, and of course, they wanted to go to the Chancellorsville Battlefield Cemetery.

I couldn’t really complain—it’s less than 10 miles from my house and made for an easy afternoon trip. This cemetery was for the Chancellor family, whose house burned down from artillery fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville.   The family rebuilt the house and lived there until it burned again in 1927. My kids have asked on multiple occasions if we could 1) tour the battlefield and 2) go see the cemetery.  Well, why not now?

Since it is on a National Park, I went to speak with the rangers at the visitor’s center.  I was told that I was more than welcome to take a tour. It is a small cemetery, surrounded by a brick wall about 6 feet tall, and locked behind an iron gate.  Yes, I said locked.  Unfortunately I was not able to get into the cemetery, but thanks to my zoom lens I was able to see many of the stones and look around the area.

The first thing you see through the gate is for George and Jane Chancellor—an amazing piece of genealogy information.  The transcription reads:

Here are interred
George Chancellor, Esquire. (1785-1836)
of Chancellorsville
Son of John and Elizabeth (Edwards) Chancellor and
Grandson of John Chancellor (1726 – 1815) and his wife
Nee Jane Monroe.  Aunt of President James Monroe.
In 1814 He Married
Ann (Lyon) Pound  (1783-1860)
Only Daughter of James Lyon (1755-1836) of Falmouth, VA.
And his wife Nee Mary Longwill (1748-1794) of Cecil Co., MD.
Ann was the widow of Captain Richard Pound of Fairview who
Is also interred here.  As a Wedding Gift her only Half
Brother, William Lorman, ESQ. (1764-1841) of Baltimore,
Erected the mansion called Chancellorsville in 1815-1816

What a fascinating experience. I recommend you take some time to check out an old nearby cemetery—before it gets too cold!


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, Va.


Interested in taking the Cemetery Research 101 class? The next session starts on 12/31!

One thought on “The Cemetery: A Genealogy Sanctuary

  1. Midge’s class on cemeteries was my first class, and to this day, I think that it was the best of all my classes. I put together a “cemeterying” bag at her suggestion and find it invaluable whenever I visit a cemetery to look for my ancestors or to take pictures for others. I also joined findagrave.com and have put together several memorials for my ancestors since then. I have met many great people on findagrave.com that have helped me further my research through both posting pictures and sending me information regarding their counties and knowledge of the local genealogy. Anybody interested should take this class. They won’t regret it.

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