Crumbling Gravestones - Strange but True Genealogy Stories
Baby Sisters' Graves Found Just Before Headstone Dissolves
strange but true genealogy story - Villamena Violet Doxey and Violet Annie Doxey both lived only a few months. The locations of their graves were unknown until about 100 years after their deaths when genealogist Gertrude Doxey tracked them down. But that's not the strange part.
The William and Agnes Doxey Family Come to America in 1885
Hard Times and Family Disaster Awaits
y great great grandparents, William and Agnes Woods Doxey came to America from England, sailing from Liverpool on the S. S. Wisconsin on May 16, 1885. With them were their eight children, including my great grandmother, Elizabeth Doxey Eccles.
William was a stone mason by trade. Agnes had given birth to their youngest daughter, Villamena Violet, just two months earlier in March. With great anticipation for a new life filled with greater opportunities, they didn't know that hardships awaited them in the form of sickness and death. Shortly after arriving in Ogden, Utah, baby Villamena Violet became ill with cholera and died on July 19, 1885. She was buried somewhere in Ogden, but a headstone would have to wait.
Another Move and Another Baby
Heartache Strikes Again
ecuring work, the family moved from their temporary lodgings in Ogden to Salt Lake City. There, in February of 1887 Violet Annie was born. But Violet was sickly and died just four months later in July. This time the family was more settled, and William being a stonecutter, prepared a gravestone and built a tiny wooden coffin himself for Violet. My great grandmother was only seven at the time and remembered a hazy vision of her father carrying Violet in the little box down the stairs and out the door.
Mother Agnes was inconsolable, and eventually the family broke up and she moved to San Francisco with her remaining children.
Years later, when there was genealogical interest about this family, my great grandmother, Elizabeth, was the only living sibling and had no idea of where the babies were buried.
The Search for the Missing Graves
Villamena Violet and Violet Annie are Found
ertrude Doxey, a niece of my great grandmother, and my second cousin, became interested in the whereabouts of Villamena's and Violet's graves when she started researching the family genealogy. Living in Salt Lake, she decided to look first in the City Cemetery. She called the cemetery and was told that indeed Violet was buried there. She went to the cemetery office and got directions to the grave. Two times she tried to find it with no luck. On the third visit she walked further than the directions she was given and found the grave. On one large headstone, cut by William Doxey, were the words, "In memory of Villamena Violet Doxey and Violet Annie Doxey," with their places of death, dates of death, and their ages, four and five months. Apparently, when Violet died, Villamena was moved to rest with her sister under a proper headstone.
Gertrude immediately wrote down the dates and places that nobody knew before, and photos were taken. Two weeks later Gertrude returned to the cemetery to show her mother her exciting find. But instead of being able to read William's carefully cut headstone, it lay in a crumbled heap at their feet. If Gertrude hadn't found it when she did, the information would have been lost forever.
So, What Does it All Mean?
What Makes This Story so Remarkable?
eople get interested in thier genealogy for different reasons, mainly to trace their lineage. When you think about it, why would finding the graves of two babies be so important since they left no posterity?
I have many reasons for believing that it's important to locate everyone in a family tree, that I won't go into here. I've also seen, heard, and experienced myself remarkable little miracles that happen when you research your family history. I firmly believe that help often comes from the other side -- the spirits of our kindred dead. Somehow that gravestone was preserved just until the needed information was discovered.
When you start researching your family history, many little side stories emerge that bring life to the names and dates you're collecting. It's easy to get started, if you haven't already. You can find simple steps to start your search here.