Get to Know the Cemetery Caretaker

Several unrelated couples in my family tree eloped from Chicago to St Joseph Michigan. One day I asked my great-uncle (his mother was 1/2 of one of those couples) why?

Uncle Fran said it was a lovely beach resort community and that people would not only elope to St Joseph, but honeymoon there as well.

Time for a road trip!

In June of this year my husband and I took a mini vacation/genealogy trip to, among other places, St Joseph Michigan.

My family tree priorities included three Clarkes and a Littrell, but a couple Tolfs, a Clarin and a Mangels got some air time too.

The farthest point on my list of destinations was Maple Hill Cemetery in Hartford Michigan. My great-grandparents William Penrod CLARKE and Mary Ella LITTRELL were laid to rest there in 1944 and 1942 respectively.

After seeing (online) a cemetery restoration project in action, in 2011 I had written a letter to the caretaker at Maple Hill:

2016 09-15 Letter to a Caretaker

To which she had promptly responded, sending me copies of the burial permits for both William and Mary Ella.

Fast forward to a sunny June day in Maple Hill Cemetery, the first stop on our road trip.

As I mentioned in my letter above, a Find A Grave contributor had photographed the headstone so I knew its color and shape. But the cemetery is a little larger than we imagined and we didn’t see the headstone right away.

Fortunately, the genealogy fairies were hard at work that day. Shortly after my husband and I started looking for the plot, guess who arrived at the cemetery? The caretaker!

She couldn’t remember off the top of her head where William and Mary Ella were buried so, bless her heart, she drove back to the office to retrieve her book of burials.

2016 09-15 Visit with a Caretaker

With the caretaker’s help, we found the Clarke headstone and left flowers.

We also took pictures. No pictures of the caretaker mind you, as she asked to remain anonymous. But we took pictures of the Clarke headstone, of the cemetery’s burial book, and of all the Maple Hill names requested on Find A Grave.

Because that kind-hearted caretaker helped us find everyone on the list.

2 thoughts on “Get to Know the Cemetery Caretaker

  1. Nothing beats cooperative cemetery personnel !! In my experience the hard part is getting away from them to do what you need to do because they are always eager to talk when they’re in the presence of a live specimen. 🙂


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