This past week, my husband and I spent a day in Lynn, MA, where so many of my father’s people come from. We visited the wonderful little Lynn Museum, drove along the waterfront, and, most importantly to me, found my Keene family plot in the Pine Grove Cemetery.
Among the many things I had hoped to discover at the cemetery was a headstone for Thelma, the first wife of my grandfather, who had died so young. I had hoped that there would be more information either in the records or on the grave to fill in some of the missing pieces to her story.
We found the Lynn public works office early in the morning, where the cemetery records are kept. The clerk who assisted us couldn’t have been nicer. We left the office with several printed pages of locations and families to search for. I had done my homework and printed up the detailed pages of cemetery maps found online. We thought it would be quick, armed with the plot information and the maps.
Pine Grove Cemetery is HUGE. It’s over 250 acres. The lanes wander and meander without much symmetry or organized plan. Most of the lane signs are missing, too. We finally found out that if we used Google Maps, the car’s GPS, and the printed maps in conjunction, we could sort of find our way around. Sort of.
We finally found the Locust section where the Keene plot was supposed to be. We wandered among the gravestones without finding anything. We tried to search out the plot number again, but that led us to the wrong section. We searched the printed maps once more, where we finally saw the correct plot, right where we had parked the car. But, on the other side of the street in another section.
And, there it was.
I’m standing right at the curb, and the Keene plot consists of the first two headstones closest to me and the line of stones in the second row, beginning with the large square one and going to the right of the photo.
From the information we got at the records office, there are a total of 25 grave sites in this plot, with 23 individuals. Unfortunately, of those 23 people buried here, only seven have headstones. It’s unclear if there ever were headstones for the others or if they have been lost to vandalism over the years.
Berthemla H. Keene is buried here, but sadly, hers is one of the missing stones. The record indicates that her grave is “D.” We had no idea where “D” was, as all the other graves with headstones were numbered.
She died at 18 years, 11 months, and 26 days.
Her story makes me sad: dying so young, being largely forgotten in our family, and having no physical record of her presence here. But, without her passing, my grandfather would have never married his second wife, and I and my family simply wouldn’t exist.
Which is a very strange thought….