It's coincidence, hunch, synchronicity, fortuitous luck, guidance, paranormal, spiritual, karma, ESP, visitation, life-after-death, fate, divinity, genetic memory, providence, intuition, Deity, inspiration, psychic, revelation, subconscious reasoning, numeracy, vision, sixth sense, collective subconscious, dream, reincarnation, educated guess, inner voice, out-of-body journey, chance, non-mechanical reality, portent, omen or "the sheer cussed ... wonder of things." (Jones, Psychic Roots, p. 81.)
We call it Serendipity in Genealogy.
Eileen G. Pelletier was taking photos of all her ancestors' graves. While she was having success with most, one 2nd great grandmother continued to evade her. Hannah was a Civil War widow. Her husband had most likely been buried in a common grave in North Carolina. But where was she?
In the 1880 census Pelletier found that after the War Hannah had moved to Lewiston, Maine. Through a relative she discovered that Hannah lived there until her death.
I did not check [for her grave] there as I presumed she was taken back to where she had lived before her husband had enlisted in the army.
Pelletier went and searched the town where Hannah and her husband had lived. They found the graves of many of his relatives, parents included, but no Hannah.
Could Hannah have been buried in Lewiston, away from all her family? Pelletier traveled there to find out. While the cemetery in Lewiston was beautiful, it was large and there were no written records of the older graves. Pelletier searched the entire cemetery but there was no Hannah.
On the chance that she had missed Hannah's grave, Pelletier returned a second time. She searched. But still there was no Hannah.
On the third visit as we were traveling along I spied another family name, which was not hers, but I was just curious. My husband stopped the car. I got out and proceeded to walk to this other plot when I glanced to my left and there was Hannah's grave.
Hannah's marker included her husband's name on the same stone, even though she couldn't be buried with him. Pelletier found, however, what kept Hannah in the area. Four of her daughters were also buried there.
As for the stone with the family name that precipitated this serendipitous find? As you've already guessed, it was not a relative.
Adapted from Eileen G. Pelletier, "Hunting Hannah in a Maine Cemetery," previously published in RootsWeb Review: 18 October 2006, Vol. 9, No. 42.
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A story that is not quite genealogical but related was told to me by my dad. When he moved from Alabama to New Orleans to take the position of manager of the machine shop of a cotton mill, he came upon a cemetery in the area. Noticing the ornate and unusual markers, he stopped to look around. Pausing at one grave, he noticed a name that seemed familiar. It was the grave of the man who had long held the position that he was taking. My dad recconned that the old man just wanted to have a look at his replacement.