While researching family history, there comes a time when it’s extremely beneficial, if not downright necessary, to go grave hunting. Despite websites like findagrave.com constantly adding mountains of tombstone images online, many graves can still only be found the old-fashioned way. And so it is that cemeteries are haunted chiefly by three miserable creatures—ghosts, the grieving, and genealogists.
Depending on the size of the cemetery, it may be prudent to find out who the record keepers or caretakers are. If contacted, they can likely provide the plot and row of the deceased to help locate them (or they can inform you that no such person is buried there). Otherwise, it’s possible to end up wandering the cemetery rows for hours without a guarantee of ever finding their final resting place. Though, if time isn’t an issue, it’s not at all a bad idea to do some wandering. One may stumble upon other relatives, known and unknown, along the way.
Getting nowhere with the information about Michael Meehl’s birth provided in the first North East Breeze article, I wanted to track down other sources. Michael’s tombstone, if it existed, seemed a good place to start. It was not on findagrave or anywhere else online that I could find, so it was time to head to the cemetery itself. I contacted the North East Cemetery Association to see if they had burial records for Michael, but I never heard back. If he was buried there, we would have to find him on our own.
And so there we were (Steph, her parents, one of her sisters, a nephew, and myself) in the cemetery on a sunny day in May of last year, visiting the dead with new life sprouting up around us. After paying our respects to Steph’s grandparents, great-grandparents, and great aunts and uncles, we headed to the old cemetery to look for Michael and Sallie Meehl, her great-great-great-grandparents and the original settlers of the family in North East. It turns out that North East Cemetery (also known as Oak Hill Cemetery) is full of Meehls. Though we were left scratching our heads trying to figure out how each one was related, I took pictures of every Meehl stone that we came across. These images proved invaluable later on as I worked on filling out the various branches of the family tree.
In the old cemetery are many old stones with faded, weather-worn engravings. Neither names nor dates were visible. As we passed them by, I hoped that none of them were Michael’s. He had died, so we were told, in 1895. Rarely are stones that recent worn to the point of illegibility, but, still, the thought pestered me. As I examined one of these stones, I heard a shout of discovery behind me.
In the end, it had taken us only about an hour. Michael and Sallie were indeed buried in North East Cemetery. Born thousands of miles away in another country, Michael Meehl’s bones rested within sight of Lake Erie, where he had brought his family in 1865. The modest inscription on his grave reads: “Michael Meehl 1811-1895”. He was born in 1811, not 1807. The more I read the first North East Breeze article on the origins of the Meehls, the more the cracks began to show. If it had the year of birth wrong, perhaps the place of birth, San Quintain, France, was wrong as well.