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Friday, July 2, 2010

Learning Experience

I have just learned an important lesson (I hope!). Let me start at the beginning.
We live near an old church with a history that dates back to 1727. The current building was constructed in 1775. It was founded as a German Reformed congregation by the first European settlers to come into this area. In 1869 the word German was dropped from the title of the church and it was simply a Reformed church. Several mergers in the history of the denominated changed its name to Evangelical and Reformed Church, United Church of Christ, and finally it became an independent congregation known simply as the Host Church.
The long history of this church next door, where many of our neighbors are or were members, has long intrigued me. Several years ago I purchased a book on the history of the church, published in 1975, which contains a long cemetery list. This list was not available anywhere online so I listed it on a website, offering to do look ups for people. I met some interesting people in the process and was actually able to help a few people find their ancestors. That was all the reward I needed.
Then I had another bright idea. I could (I thought) save myself the time it took to do look ups if I posted the actual cemetery list on another website called FindAGrave. It took me awhile to do it, but I told myself that I would save time in the end. I didn't know it, but that was only Stage One.
Stage Two began when a few people requested photos of the stones. I dutifully (and gladly) complied. But in the process I became aware that the cemetery record I had transcribed from the book was full of errors. One of the most glaring mistakes was listing women by their maiden rather than married names. This made it almost impossible to find a man's wife. Being a stickler for accuracy, I was embarrassed to have my name on something that was so full or errors.
Stage three began sometime this winter when I began revising and correcting the cemetery list. For months, I trotted down to the cemetery with my book, pencil, and camera to check stones and verify the names. I wondered what the caretaker of the cemetery thought of this screwball that kept wandering through the cemetery taking notes and pictures. Some weeks I went every couple days and other weeks I didn't have time at all for it. But I persisted.
Stage four was completed this week when I finally reached the Zimmermans. (Ever notice how the poor Zimmermans are doomed to be on the tail end of every alphabetical list?) The next job was proofreading which took me most of the week. About 10:30 this morning I finally finished the last stage. The list is as accurate and up to date as I can make it.
There are over 1900 names on the list so it was a large job with a sense of accomplishment to match. I found some missing women in the process of untangling the record which is gratifying to me. But the most important lesson I learned is to NEVER transcribe a cemetery record from a book. And I never will do it again. In fact, I don't think I will ever be so foolish as to tackle any cemetery that large, so help me God not to forget the lessons in this learning experience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very interesting. Mary H