Living

Family roots uncovered in LaGrange

Share or Comment

In the autumn of 2006, a week-long genealogy road trip first led me to the town of LaGrange. With me that September day was my 80-year-old mother and oldest daughter, exploring our family roots in Penobscot, Piscataquis and Aroostook counties as we traveled from our home in upstate New York throughout Maine and into Canada. Little did we know that our visit would lead to the discovery of a 131-year-old ancestor.

Our family roots in the LaGrange area date back to the late 18th century when generations of our Bishop, Wilkinson, Garcelon and Jackson ancestors farmed the land and harvested timber. As we prepared for our trip, researching census records and historical documents we were fortunate to connect with John Bishop, a distant cousin living in LaGrange. Bishop graciously welcomed us upon our arrival, serving as historian, host and passionate tour guide of his beloved town.

Our 2006 visit led us to several area cemeteries in search of relatives, including Hillcrest Cemetery right in the center of LaGrange. As we strolled through the well-kept grounds looking for family names, we came upon a tiny broken headstone in the grass. The inscription read, “Sarah, twin daughter of William and Rose Garcelon. Died October 6, 1886, 9 months and 14 days.” Much to our surprise, we had discovered an unknown family member that had disappeared from our history. Baby Sarah had died as an infant, the twin sister to my great-grandmother Sadie Garcelon.

The discovery of the stone presented many questions to us that day and many times since. Why was her tiny headstone there all alone without other family members? Whether illness or some other tragedy took her at such a young age, we will likely never know. One thing was for certain though, we knew we needed to repair and restore the stone. With Bishop’s blessing, we carefully packed up the pieces with plans to return.

Fast forward to October when we found ourselves back in LaGrange at last with the beautifully restored headstone in tow. In the 11 years since our first visit my mother’s health began to fail, limiting her ability to travel. Though she passed away last year, surely her spirit was with us when my daughter, my sister and I returned to Hillcrest to place the stone back in its rightful resting place.

During our return trip we were fortunate to visit again with our cousin John Bishop and his wife, Jean. Now in his late 80s, Bishop greeted us like long lost relatives. His voice and spirit are still strong and we shared our appreciation for family history and our 18th century grandparents, Welcome and Betsey Lindsey Bishop. I can’t think of a nicer man to be related to.

While we may not have found the answers to our questions about the mystery of baby Sarah, we are grateful for the connections we made to our family ancestors in LaGrange. We can’t wait for the discoveries our further research and next visit will bring.

Photo courtesy of Joyce Carroll
LOOKING INTO THE PAST — Joyce Carroll’s mother and daughter examine a gravestone at Hillcrest Cemetery in LaGrange in 2006. The trip to Maine to research family history uncovered an unknown family member as the headstone marked the grave of the twin sister of Carroll’s great-grandmother. “Baby Sarah” died as an infant in 1886.

Photo courtesy of Joyce Carroll
BRANCHING OUT ON THE FAMILY TREE — Joyce Carroll of Peterborough, N.H. shares photos with her distant cousin John Bishop of LaGrange. The two met for the first time when Carroll researched her family roots and discovered her relative.

Photo courtesy of Joyce Carroll
REPAIRED STONE — A decade after discovering her great-grandmother had a twin sister who died in infancy, Joyce Carroll, left, and her sister returned to LaGrange with the repaired headstone.

Share or Comment

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.