Many people who take up genealogy know about the many records that we can explore. We can look up anything from birth and death records to church records, marriage records, military records, and the list can go on and on. However one item that has escaped me until this summer were records that are on public display in almost any town you can think of. They are in government buildings, in public parks, in churches, and most any place that people will gather. They are there for you to see and use at will. I am talking about memorials that list names for many reasons. When visiting the towns where your ancestors lived it would be prudent to keep an eye out for these memorial records.
This summer I traveled to Digby, Nova Scotia, the home of many of my ancestors. By the waterfront, I noticed a memorial to the many people that had been lost at sea. They had many as Digby is well known for it’s fishing fleets. I found many names from my family being honored.
I also found the same in a local church. Seeing the names somehow made the place less unknown and a feeling that I belonged in some small way.
Downtown Digby also had a memorial to it’s soldiers of World War Two. Here also were familiar names.
In Haverhill Ma. I also found memorials with names on them. Here is a Korean War Memorial. Seeing one’s ancestors name here could be a major find for someone.
Even in my hometown of Plattsburgh, N.Y. I found names all around one our monuments.
I firmly believe that when visiting old hometowns and places that our ancestors lived and died, it would do well to keep a look out for these memorials. They could give you a clue that is needed to get more information. They may not be as good as a death certificate. They will not give you all the answers you need. But they just might be the key you need to open that door to getting to know your ancestors a little better.
Here is one more picture I took a few years ago. It is of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. Engraved into the wall is the name of my cousin.
Good advice, Charles … Sometimes things are hidden in plain sight. I’m amazed at the Civil War monument in my local cemetery east of Syracuse that bears the names of more than 100 men from a relatively small town. I don’t know what the population was at the time, but it couldn’t have been more than several thousand. Such a high percentage …. And I’m sorry about your cousin. I’ve been to the Vietnam Wall a few times, and it’s sad and awe-inspiring at the same time.
You are so right about the wall. What moved me the most were the pictures and items left at the wall. It was a very moving experience.
This is such a great idea! While i have gone looking for a few specific plaques that i had heard existed, and even been to the wall commemorating those who died in Vietnam, i never really thought about just checking out general memorial monuments and plaques in the towns we visit! What a great idea, one i’ll now practice, and pass along. thanks Charles.
I know I have had my eyes opened on this. I saw so many examples of this, once I started to look that I was pleasantly surprised.
Charles, this is one of the top tribute posts I’ve seen! Outstanding photos, too.
Thank you so much. I consider this high praise coming from you. Your blog is always well done and one of the best I have seen.
Thank you very much. I return the high esteem.
Great tip! And also a very meaningful thing to do even if you don’t have dead relatives from that town.
Our ancestors left their mark where they lived. This is a way to perhaps see a different side to them. A more complete story. I saw a window in a church that had my ancestor as it’s donor. I had no idea of their religion or beliefs up to that point.
This post is a wonderful reminder to look at the names on monuments. Too often I don’t read all the names on a list because the weathered engraving is faded and difficult to read. I really need to take the time to look more carefully at old monuments that might possibly contain ancestors’ names.
I would like to ask the Dakin expert a few questions. I am wondering if he could get in touch with me. Also by chance do you have the bottom portion of the plaque listing the people lost at sea between 1867 and 1967? Thanks.
Please send me your e-mail address and I will forward.
Don’t forget the award boards in the schools as another source of names , where the winners of certain prizes were listed each year – lovely polished timber with gold lettering. They are usually in the front hall,
This is a great tip.