During my document gathering phase in 2014, I found the index listing and ordered the death certificates for my 2nd great grandparents on my EDWARDS line. While quickly reviewing their death certificates (I was supposed to be focused on getting ready for my little one’s arrival), I noticed that the cemeteries listed were ones that I did not recognize. They were listed as Shanks Cemetery and Liberty Hill Cemetery. I went to Find A Grave and searched all the cemeteries in Clarke County, MS and could not find them listed. I also googled the names and still found nothing. I started asking around and no one could tell me where these cemeteries are located. My mom got on the phone and asked around and people said they remembered one of the cemeteries but couldn’t quite tell us how to get there. There was quite a stir. Several people became interested and wanted to locate them as well. When it seemed as though no one would be able to help me locate the cemeteries, I resolved that I was going to have to research the land records somehow to see if I could pin point them myself. Researching the land records would require a trip home to Mississippi. So, until I was able to make the trip home, I had planned to try to research through census and death records.
That was my plan until finally, earlier in 2015 I received a call from my mom saying that our cousin had spoken to an older gentleman who could take us to the cemeteries. They were in the woods and not easily accessed by car. We would need 4×4 wheel drive. In fact, he says that there are three cemeteries in those woods. I was so excited!!! Of course now I can’t just jump in the car and drive down for a weekend trip because I have a little one. But I was making plans to get there since I was told this good news!
I finally got to go home for Thanksgiving 2015 and we met with the gentleman to find one of the cemeteries. I’ll tell you more about what I have found when visiting in a later post. Just know that I later found out that this cemetery was not the one I was looking for. Since we would possibly need 4 wheelers to access the other cemeteries and I had my little one in the truck, I only got to visit the one.
Before going, I did put together a research plan, but since returning, I realize I need to add more to it. There are more African American cemeteries in those woods than I thought. The elders of the community named two more, bringing the count to five. Five forgotten cemeteries. My heart has sunk. Most of my ancestors on my mom’s side lived back there. The question that has been bouncing around in my head since that trip is: What happened to the communityand why did they abandon the area leaving their loved ones to be overtaken in an unkept resting place? I guess I have to expand my research plan to find out.
If you have some tips on researching a cemetery and unearthing the community that surrounded them without being physically there, please share them in the comments section.