To some, “meeting” relatives who have been buried for over 100 years might seem…strange. But, if you’ve never met relatives on one side of the family, it isn’t that strange. Is it? Since working on my ancestry for almost 10 years, I have never thought it strange to go hunting for the grave sites of ancestors with the notion that this is the closest I will ever get to meeting them. To be able to visit their final resting place and just sit or stand, and contemplate for a moment what their life was like, what it was that they had to endure, and the historical moments they were a part of, is an emotional experience. This is also one of the reasons I love history: I find myself more interested in learning about the lives of others that came before me and to understand what they went through in life. And for anyone seeking out the final resting place of an ancestor, it might be the only tangible piece they have to that person. In 2013, I got to meet relatives on my dad’s side of the family for the first time.
Most people who know me knew I grew up never knowing my father, his parents, my aunts, or anyone on that side of the family. I was raised by my mother and grandmother. My mother is adopted, her adoptive mother being Swedish and Norwegian and her adoptive father being Italian (yes, this is why I have an Italian last name, and no, I am not Italian). This means I grew up knowing my mother as the only person I was related to by blood. It never bothered me, and I would actually tease my mom about a Parent Trap situation and ask if I had a twin sister living with my father. But as I got older, I got more curious and started asking more questions. 2008 is when I first dabbled in ancestry, and in 2011 when I was grad school, I found a book about Mercer County, Missouri, where my father is from, that had photo of him, his parents, and his sisters. By 2012 I got an ancestry account and did my DNA. 2012 was also a very big year for my mom and finding her biological family, and I will do a post about that in the future. 2013 was the year I moved to Virginia, and that is when the deep exploration of some of my ancestors really began.
I lived in Northern Virginia for 3.5 years, first in Winchester and then in Leesburg. As I began to look at my family tree, I wanted to explore ancestors who lived in Virginia and see how close I was to being near the areas they settled in. The one line I focused on was the Criglers, my father’s maternal line. Jacob Crigler, a 7th great-grandfather, was born about 1700 in Germany (we think, that is still debatable) and immigrated to the British Colonies in 1717. He was part of a group that traveled from what is known in present day as Baden-Württemberg, a state in Germany that borders France and Switzerland. A group of 80+ men, women and children who were supposed to travel to Pennsylvania were brought to frontier Virginia instead. The captain of the ship they were to travel on was placed in debtors prison for an extended period of time, and by the time they were able to travel, they had little money left, and the captain decided to hijack them. These families became indentured for seven years to the lieutenant governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood, near a site called Fort Germanna, established by Spotswood in 1714, in present day Orange County.
Around 1720/1721, during their time at Germanna, Jacob married Susanna Clore Weaver, widow of Philip Joseph Weaver, both part of the group that arrived in 1717. In 1721 their eldest child, my 6th great-grandfather, Christopher Crigler, was born. The family moved to present day Madison County, Virginia after their seven year indenturement was completed. Christopher married Catherine Finks and my 5th great-grandfather, Christopher Crigler, Jr, was born in 1769. Christopher married Nancy Anne Gaines, and they were the first two relatives I met on my father’s side.
Christopher and Ann Crigler died in Frederick County, Virginia in 1822 and 1825, respectively, and are buried in Old Chapel Cemetery, which became a part of Clarke County in 1836. I discovered they were buried there a few months after I moved to the area. I visited in August 2013 but couldn’t get in the cemetery as it was locked.
From what I could see over the stone fence, I saw the area in which they were buried as I spotted my 4th great-aunt and great-uncle’s headstone.
A couple weeks later, mom and grandma came for a visit and we went back to the cemetery, which was unlocked. I could finally make my way over to “meet” my relatives.
For anyone trying to find grave sites of their ancestors, it can be an arduous task. Many times, early settlers would bury their loved ones on the homestead, with no markers and oral histories passed down as the only sources to their locations. Some graves are lost to history. Since 2013, I have been able to visit the final resting places of other ancestors, on both my mom and dad’s side. As I continue to do research, I have hope that for most of them, I will be able to one day visit their gravesite. I hope, dear readers, if you are looking for your ancestor’s final resting place, that you are successful as well.