For Genealogy

Tangible evidence seems to be a theme that crops up time and again for family historians. On our new online forum, people have been discussing the most interesting family heirlooms they've discovered, or had passed down to them.

At this time when we're commemorating the end of World War II, it's fantastic to look at the old photos, read the service records and paybooks, and look at granddad's medals. However, finding the final resting place of your great- or great-great-grandparents holds extra meaning.

People outside family history might find the gravehunting many of us undertake to be a morbid, possibly even a sinister pursuit. Churchyards can be maudlin places. With so many graves overgrown, forgotten or even vandalised, they aren't always an appealing place to visit. You could say they have an image problem.

However, I wonder if the booming interest in genealogy we've seen growing in recent years could change all this. If more of us are tracing our family trees, are more of us likely to visit a grave? While there, we can read and record the inscriptions on the stones, tidy up the grave a little bit, and perhaps even take measures to preserve the site. Of equal importance, we can reflect on the person buried there, think about their life and what they contributed to the family, and to the community around them.

With more people keeping alive the memories of their ancestors - which I admit isn't in all circles considered a fashionable thing to do - will the churches and other authorities respond with community-wide measures to preserve graveyards and cemeteries? It will be nice if they do. Hopefully, family historians can show them that witnessing tangible evidence of the lives of our ancestors is just part of it. What matters just as much is the thought and sentiment behind these visits.

Chris Duncan has written a very useful feature on finding graves this issue. I just wish I had read it and followed its advice before I spent a grey afternoon, three hours from home, tromping around village churchyards on the Lincolnshire fens... Enjoy the issue

Garrick Webster Editor

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I The text paper in this magazine is totally chlorine free. The paper manufacturer and Future Publishing have been g independantly certified in accordance with the rules of the B Forest Stewardship Council.

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