Canvass those cemeteries safely
It’s that time of year again when genealogists are apt to feel the urge to track down a family cemetery. I’ve written before about precautions to take before you venture into the wilderness of Maine in search of family or small cemeteries, but a few things are worth repeating for your own safety.
Be sure someone knows where you’re going. Better still, take someone else with you if possible. If you have a genealogical buddy, now’s the time to promise to go with them on their own cemetery crawl.
Be sure someone checks on you by a certain hour. If you’re not home they should call the sheriff’s office in the county you’re planning to visit, and they need to know where you were heading when you left.
Don’t rely on a cell phone as a means of communication when you’re in remote parts of the state. They don’t work.
Dress for rough ground and be sure you have an extra light jacket or sweater with you no matter how warm the day.
Be sure you have bug spray.
Watch your step in old cemeteries. The last thing you want is to break your ankle when you’re 10 miles back in the woods, alone.
Make sure you have a basic safety kit in your car for any small injuries.
Plan that something unexpected will happen such as a flat tire or a twisted ankle. Be sure you’re carrying water with you and enough energy food to make it a night or two if you’re stuck.
If you have a medical issue be sure you have a supply of critical meds with you.
Make sure you have good directions — don’t rely on a GPS in rural Maine. They will usually lead you down a wrong road or worse.
If something doesn’t feel right, leave. Trust your instincts.
If it’s a primitive road, think twice about striking out alone or with a sedan.
Finally, be aware of where you are, any turns you make, and your surroundings — always. Stay alert. That’s good advice even with in a cemetery in the middle of a town.
I can’t stress how important all this is. We all sometimes just feel the urge, on impulse, to strike out and see what we can locate about our family. However, if you live alone, have health issues, or are unsteady on your feet, you need to plan for potential emergencies.
It only takes an extra few minutes to pull together the items you might need in an emergency and to let a reliable relative or friend know what you’re doing. If someone tells you that you shouldn’t be doing this, please listen to them. You don’t want to join your ancestors any sooner than nature decrees.
Have fun, stay safe, and happy cemetery searching.
Nancy Battick is a Dover-Foxcroft native who has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society, author of several genealogical articles and co-transcribed the Vital Records of Dover-Foxcroft. Nancy holds a MA in History from UM and lives in DF with her husband, Jack, another avid genealogist. You can contact Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.