Local historians want to uncover the genealogy and information lost in forgotten family cemeteries
The deer hunter told Linda Griffin that he knew of several unrecorded small cemeteries in remote wooded areas of Windham. For Griffin, who is president of the Windham Historical Society, the news confirmed her long held suspicion that there must be numerous out-of-the–way private burial grounds in the town that are long forgotten, remote plots blanketed with groundcover, shrubs, even trees. Griffin pictures fallen or leaning headstones, darkened by time and lined with moss, but maintaining a tranquil dignity after decades of neglect.
The hunter passed away unexpectedly shortly after their conversation, so Griffin has put out a plea to property owners with old graveyards to come forward so that historians can fill in some missing history, particularly genealogical records.
Early burial grounds were once an intimate part of a family’s property. Many were gated and landscaped, according to Griffin. Family members would conduct solemn visits on the hallowed ground, speaking to their deceased loved ones, sharing news and making vows to carrying on family legacies. Over time the old homes would fall away, be moved or sold. In some cases the graveyards would fall to neglect by succeeding owners.
Griffin said her own family was able to fill in key genealogical information recently during a chance discovery at an old burial ground off Nash Road in Windham. The inscription on a leaning one hundred plus year old tombstone revealed the names of her husband’s fourth great grandparents.
Griffin and other researchers at the Windham Historical Society are convinced there are reams of faded history and genealogical information inscribed on aging headstones, just waiting to fill in the blank pages of local archival records.
Property owners with old family burial grounds can contact the historical society by calling 650-7484 or visiting www.windhamhistorical.org.