I’m on of those weird people who enjoys wandering around any old cemetery I come across in my travels. The words engraved onto tombstones can be so sad, so poignant and give us such a meaningful look into the era these people lived. Seeing young deaths and the dates indicating the influenza epidemic or a shipping accident. Alternatively I am often left to wonder what happened as I read these words. The natural deaths, the unusual deaths, the terrible deaths all have stories to tell, and so often we know nothing of these stories because they have nothing spectacular to highlight them to us all these years later.
In Akaroa I found an interesting grave. A member of the local constabulary had died in the course of his duty – I forget the exact year but around the 1880’s – He had been in his mid thirties. What was of interest to me, his grave was neat and well cared for, and had been rededicated by the Canterbury Police Department in 1990, over a hundred years later. Had I been staying in the area for longer than one day, I would have loved to find out more about this man…and now I’m ashamed to say I do not even remember his name.
Searching through a cemetery is also a common task for any genealogist. As my grandmother grew up in Port Chalmers, I decided visiting this town for a day gave me the opportunity to do some digging into her family. Unfortunately there was very little family history detail available at the local library (I needed to head over the hill to Dunedin to access this) so I decided I would be satisfied with a visit to the local “old” cemetery.
It still cuts me up to know the grave I found holds 6 members of my family. My great grandmother, Janet Condie, Elizabeth Lean 55, John Lean 33, Richard Lean Jnr 44, Adelaide Lean 1 and a still born baby. The two little ones would have been grandchildren or perhaps even great grandchildren of Janet. (My great grandfather, who died later, is buried in the “new” cemetery a little way away, I never got the time to visit him.) What saddened me was the simple plaque on this grave. My husband joked that my ancestors’ Scottish roots may have had something to do with the simplicity of the marker. But I swear, if I ever win the Lotto (yeah right!) I’m going to return to the old cemetery in Port Chalmers and put a headstone on this grave to honour all those who lie below. I might be crazy but I hate that their lives have not been acknowledged in death.