Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions, 1711-2003

Jean A. Douillette recently published Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions, 1711-2003. I have eagerly awaited this book for several years, after reading an article about Jean’s work on Lakeville gravestone transcription work for their 150th anniversary in 2003. Transcription is a time-consuming process – but when they are compiled into books such as this, they serve as invaluable tools for genealogists and those interesting in family history!

Earlier postings in this blog documented a few unsuccessful (but enjoyable!) trips to Lakeville and Middleborough to locate Ramsdell ancestors (Ammon-Booth, Richmond Cemetery). This book listed John and Sarah (Robbins) Ramsdell’s gravestones, as well as the stones of Stephen Cornish Ramsdell (son of John and Sarah Ramsdell, and brother to my ancestor, John Ramsdell Jr.) and his family, whose stones I will visit and photograph once the weather warms up. Turns out the Robbins cemetery where John and Sarah Ramsdell were buried later served as a pauper’s cemetery. My trip down Race Course Road brought me close to its location – but I was looking on the wrong side of the road! John Ramsdell Jr. and Maria Jones are probably buried in Middleborough with their son Edgar Ramsdell – perhaps someday there will be a Middleborough, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions published!

I wrote the following book review for Jean’s website:

Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions
is a remarkable genealogical and historical book that lists the gravestones and inscriptions from the 31 known cemeteries in the town of Lakeville. The organization of the book is very user-friendly; each cemetery chapter provides a history of the cemetery and directions on how to locate the cemetery, an important feature for readers who would like to physically visit the gravestones. Each chapter organizes the gravestone transcriptions alphabetically, and includes the epitaph, information about the physical state of the stone, and the carved artwork on the stone. Informative maps of each cemetery are included, and stones can be located alphabetically or by numbered location. Jean Douillette spent seven years documenting these gravestones, and her hard work reveals the fascinating stories of Lakeville citizens that were cast in stone. Douillette includes references to vital records and previous Lakeville gravestone research such as Charles M. Thatcher’s 19th century Massachusetts gravestone transcription project. Since the time of Thatcher’s compilation, some of the stones and cemeteries have unfortunately been lost, or the epitaphs faded. Douillette’s book, therefore, serves not only as an essential collection of genealogical information about the lives of Lakeville’s and Middleborough’s residents for the past three centuries, but it also preserves that history for future generations. Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions is an essential book for anyone interested in the history and genealogy of Lakeville, MA.

Copies of this book can be ordered through: http://www.jadoui.com/

Grave found at Dickenson homestead, Amherst, MA

Every time I visited UMass, we would often drive past Emily Dickinson’s homestead. She is one of my favorite poets, her imagery is beautiful and often stark and insightful. She is probably best known for her reclusiveness. She was born in 1830 and briefly attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley nearby, but left after a year due to homesickness. It wasn’t until her thirties that she began to live reclusively, but by that point she had amassed a group of friends and acquaintances to which she held vast correspondance with throughout her life, even if she chose to rarely leave her home. Scholars of Emily Dickinson look to these letters to reveal the personal life of this wonderful poet, and shy but productive human being. Dying in Amherst in 1886, her family discovered a huge collection of poetry (40 hand-bound collections with over 800 poems!). While she often wrote poetry in her letters to friends, she was never recongized during her lifetime as a poet. Several years after her death her first collection of poems were published, and she has since grown to international fame.

On Halloween of this year, it seems, workers doing landscaping at the Dickinson homestead (which is now a museum) uncovered a gravestone buried in the lawn. See the article here. It belongs to Thomas Gilbert, father of Susan Gilbert who was friends with Emily and later married her brother Austin. But it was puzzling at first – because Thomas Gilbert already has an ornate stone nearby in Amherst’s West Cemetery. It was soon sorted out, though – Thomas Gilbert was originally buried in Greenfield, but then was moved to be closer to the Dickinson’s. His original stone from Greenfield, it seems, was placed in the Dickinson’s possession. Perhaps it was used in the front lawn as a stepping stone? Every once in awhile a news story crops up in which that is the case – a garden stone is overturned and its discovered to be an old gravestone.

“What do you do with a used gravestone?” asked Jane Wald, the museum’s executive director. It will be interesting to see!