Thursday, October 27, 2011

Serendipity - Graveyard Encounter

There was a persistent, yet light, drizzle as I pulled our car to the side of the road, near the entrance to Woodlawn Cemetery in the quaint northwestern Maine village of Andover.  We'd been doing a lot of what I had come to call cemetery crawling lately, and it seemed as though each time we either brought some degree of rain or there had been enough precipitation just prior to our arrival to sufficiently wet the often untrimmed grass.

We had been on a quest to find long departed relatives, usually with only word-of-mouth guidance from the living; age, unfortunately, can sometimes blur the memory and city or town names aren't always accurate, resulting in false leads and wild goose-chases.  But this one stop in the town that was the birthplace of my departed mother was a sure bet for finding her and my ancestors.

(Note: at another time I'll explain something about birthplaces and records of birth.  It will serve as a word of caution to ancestral researchers.)

Woodlawn Cemetery, Andover, Maine

My wife and I emerged from the car and proceeded toward the main entrance to the fairly large cemetery.  At the entrance were a woman I presumed was maybe my wife's age, and a younger woman, who I later discovered was her daughter.  They had been planting some annuals near the gate and stood and turned in our direction as we approached.

"Can I help you?" the older of the two asked as we got near.

"Well," I began hesitantly, somewhat cautious as to what information I was willing to share, "I'm looking for Wymans and Akers families."

"I'm an Akers," the replied.

Maybe it's just me, but I never expected to find a living relative in a graveyard in a never visited community.  But there we were, distant cousins who had never met.  There is one good reason for that strangeness: mother was adopted and never wanted to pursue her origins; she knew the name of her birth mother, had documentation of the event, identifying not only the mother's name but also the town of Andover as the place.  But that was all that she cared to know.  It wasn't enough for me.

The woman identified herself as Linda, and the younger woman as her daughter, Angie.  Turns out Linda and I are distant cousins.  Her great grandfather and my birth great grandmother were brother and sister, siblings of William I. and Mary Agusta Newton Akers.  My birth great grandmother was both Sara Eleanor Akers, later known as Lena S. Akers.  She married John Bond Wyman, a stonemason from Paris, Maine.

That chance meeting was several years ago, and in the meantime I have found other relatives from my mother's previously unknown heritage, including one family on the Wyman side.  My birth maternal grandmother was Myrtie Lena Wyman, youngest daughter of John and Lena.  She died at the age of 25 from tuberculous.  We found the gravestone of John and Lena, and a stone for their young son, John S.  Myrtie is buried in Woodlawn with her parents and brother, but with no marker.  Her sister Linnie is also there without benefit of a stone or any form of marker.

Linda, Angie and I have been in contact on an infrequent basis ever since the day that started with the chance meeting at the graveyard, and the question: "Can I help you?"

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