[It’s been a LONG time since I posted about our (my sister and I) geneology trip to Kentucky. Make sure to read Day 1 & Day 2 to eliminate any confusion!]
Day 1: Finding our “Branches”
Day 2: Rainy Day Revelations
Iron gates, manicured lawns and the right amount of shrubbery means only one thing. We are at a cemetery. As we bump along the paved road, we pass a gold sign bearing the name – “Grove Hill Cemetery.” The final resting place of Columbus’ grandfather James along with his second wife. If you recall my first venture into family genealogy, “One James too many…”, the name James should ring a bell. It is name often seen on the Ballard’s side and led to much confusion. If I had an arch nemesis it would just be the name “James” – not a particular person – the name itself.
Anyways back to the cemetery…. As we drive through the gates, I study the surroundings with an interested and eager eye. Somewhere among the pillars, markers and stones lies James Ballard. He lies here among the new headstones and plates as well as those that are smooth. So smooth that their identities are only known to the groundskeeper, God and themselves. I send out all the prayers and positive vibes I have that James’ grave is not under a weathered, beaten and unrecognizable slab of rock.
I desperately try not to think about the possibility that my sister and I could scour every name and not find his. Luckily, I had found his lot letter earlier – “Lot E” – which should help to narrow down the vast area. Or so I thought. My sister at the helm of the van drives us through the cemetery while I was on “Lot Watch.” We twist and turn from one lot number to another before I see the little black sign declaring the area behind it as “E.”
“Of course this just couldn’t be easy,” my sister mumbles. “Lot E” has to have been the biggest lot of all. It was shaped like a big (and drunken’) half moon with aisles placed this way and that way. It seemed that, as the cemetery filled up, they tried to squish people wherever they could. If this all was not hard enough, the lot was home to some of the oldest headstones of them all. I thought finding James would be quick and easy given that we had his lot, row and space number. . . .
Desperately holding onto my dwindling optimism, I turn to my sister with a smile, “Let’s find a needle in a hay stack!” She grimaces before she responds, “I think you mean a headstone in a cemetery.” We devise a plan. She would start on one end and I on the other. The rows seem to be more like groupings based upon people’s death dates or groupings based upon family names.
About a half hour later I hear my sister say she found some Ballards. Rushing over to where she stood on the opposite end of the lot, I saw about a half dozen weathered (but still legible) headstones. Two were quite large with smaller ones in front. One of the bigger ones bore two names on one side – James and Susannah. I knew Susanna was James’ second wife (we are descended from his first wife Amy). I remembered seeing another James and Susannah in the massive Ballard files. Double-checking the dates in my journal, I am dismayed that they did not match. Another reason I rule it out was because there was a small sign delegating him as a veteran of the War of 1812 – something I had yet read or heard of for my James.
So the searching began again. My eyes scanned the headstones while my mind was filled with questions. Why would James not be buried with the other Ballards? Was there actually another married James and Susannah? Or am I complete going crazy? Nearing the Ballards stones again, I carefully read the inscription. I mentally knock myself upside the head when I realize that this WAS indeed James. It turned out that I had compared James’ dates in my book to Susannah’s.
The wording was simple and direct: “Co. Jas. Ballard, Born Aug. 15, 1763, Died March 26, 1849.” He has been gone from the earth for over 164 years but seeing his grave – being able to verify his connection to me – gives me chills. He was born in Fredricksburg in Spotsylvania County, Virginia and came to Kentucky with his parents, Bland and Elizabeth (who would later be killed by Native Americans). It seemed like he was often overshadowed by his brother, Bland Jr., who became a well-known “Indian Fighter” after their parents’ deaths. However, today, I learned that James was a “fighter” in some sense as well. He was a veteran of the “War of 1812” and survived the death of his first wife. And, he is my fifth great-grandfather.
We came to the the cemetery looking for James. To authenticate his birth and death dates. More importantly, to prove that he was more than the brother of the “Indian Fighter.” He was more than just a name on an old piece of paper that was filed next to other papers – some of which are destined to never be asked for. They will grow old, yellow around the edges and become brittle – forever be left in a folder. We came looking for our past. We pulled out those papers. We went searching.
Today we went looking for James and today we found him.
Things I have learned on Day 3:
- Once you find a tick crawling on you, you will spend the rest of your day believing ticks are crawling all over you.
- The one time you decide not to use the GPS because “you know it way by now” – you will get lost.
- ‘Big Cinnamon’ (our road trip van graciously loaned to us by our parents) takes a LOT of gas.
- It is possible for a fair-skinned Minnesotan to freckle more. . . .
- There is nothing worse than being next to people who fail to know the ‘Number 1’ rule in camping – Never Feed the Wildlife.
- My sister does not like raccoons – at all.