In the presence of the past

kirkmichael kirkyard resting place of James Wallace and Ann Cunnison

The kirkyard, Kirkmichael Parish Church, Perthshire, Scotland. Image: Su Leslie 2013

Churchyards and cemeteries hold great fascination for family historians. Headstone inscriptions can provide invaluable clues to an ancestor’s life, and in the process of finding one person, it’s not uncommon to discover other family members buried nearby.

They are also places of contemplation.

The tiny village of Kirkmichael in rural Perthshire, is where my 4x great grandparents, James Wallace (1799-1874) and Ann Kinnison/Cunnison (1806-1882) lived and died.

They lie in the bottom corner of the kirkyard, down by the burn; their lives commemorated by a headstone bearing the following inscription:

Erected by
Greeley Colorado USA
in memory of his father
who died at Benauld, Kirkmichael
20th March 1874 aged 74
and his mother
who died at Blairgowrie
18 February 1882, aged 78.
The above Charles Wallace
died 16 May 1925
Interred in Greeley Cemetery Col. USA

I’ve visited the graves of quite a few ancestors now, but the Kirkmichael visit stays in my mind particularly. Partly because it was such an isolated place — I was totally alone there — and partly because James and Ann are the oldest links in the chain of my history whose physical resting place I’ve touched.

Posted to Ragtag Daily Prompt | Past


26 thoughts on “In the presence of the past

  1. Have you been able to connect with Greeley’s descendants?

    I know how amazing it is to stand over the graves of our distant ancestors. I always think—what would they be thinking? Do any of us imagine that anyone will visit our graves more than a hundred years after we died?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jude. About 80 percent of my ancestors, going back the five or so generations that I’ve been able to research, were born, lived and died in Fife, largely in parishes that kept very good records and where the past may be built around but isn’t generally torn down. I have been incredibly lucky.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully edited shot, Su! I have a fascination for cemeteries too and like imagining what life was like for those resting in these places. It must have felt pretty special that these graves belong to your ancestors. I love the fact that graves are never to be disturbed in Great Britain. Over here it’s normally 25 years and after that the family can buy time for another 10 years or so. Except the old ones from around the millennial before the last, but only if they were wealthy enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Sarah. I hadn’t heard of burial plots being leased, and having to be renewed, until a friend in South Australia told me. It seems also bizarre!!
      In my wandering around cemeteries I have found so many interesting headstones that have prompted me to research the person, and discovered some incredibly interesting and often sad stories —including a 17 year old girl fatally shot by a rejected lover. This happened in the 1880s in a suburban Auckland street. Gun violence has never been common in NZ — even now — and so this was a story very extensively reported. I’m glad that we don’t disturb our dead; they have so much to tell us.

      Liked by 1 person

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