Cemetery book valuable new asset for researchers

By JOANNE ANDERSON

Betty Rodgers, local historian, said it best: “The book is a work of love by those who documented and did the footwork, and is a phenomenal job by those who stood until the last of the information had been edited and printed.”

The project that got nicknamed “The Book” is a beautiful hard-bound deluxe edition of 719 pages containing nearly 50,000 names of those interred in the more than 250 cemeteries inside Jackson County, including all cities, communities and rural areas. A byproduct of the research was the discovery of lost cemeteries and, in some cases, improved cemetery care.

The first publication that includes all known African-American cemeteries, the book also has more than 50 cemeteries that have never been previously recorded.

Editor Else Martin’s footnotes add genealogical information to many of the entries. Military buffs will discover a number of military graves that have been identified. Maps are provided for many of the cemeteries. A description of each

cemetery’s location is included and often contains interesting historical information on the cemetery. A comprehensive index lists first and last names for ease of searching. In many cases, it even includes cross-referencing by maiden names of married women.

“The book itself is beautiful and would be a wonderful addition to a personal library as well as being available in public places,” said Liz Ford, chairwoman of the Pascagoula Historic Preservation Committee. “It will be a great asset to those who research for personal, business or legal purposes.”

Tommy Wixon, president of the Jackson County Historical and Genealogical Society, said recording burials from the Colonial era to the present gives a significant amount of knowledge about the people and their history of Jackson County.

“The vast majority of these records are not available from official government records,” Wixon said. “Only legions of hard workers tromping through brambles and brush could have produced such a valuable document.”

The genesis of the book came from three earlier volumes published by the Genealogical Society in the 1960s and 1970s called Requiem I, II and III. Over the years, local historians and researchers added cemeteries and updated existing ones.

The book is dedicated in honor of Thelma Estabrook and Melbaleen Lewis, and in memory of those who have passed away: Mrs. Rita Gentile Krebs, Mrs. Harry F. Wright Jr., Mrs. A.G. Shampine, V.B. Taylor, Elizabeth Alberts, Mrs. J.B. Majors, Mrs. Ted Von Sprecken Jr.; and Milton M. Walker.

Among those contributing were: Ray Bellande, who assisted with Ocean Springs records; Ivan and Linda Ellis in West Jackson County, Katie Steen, who concentrated on identifying unmarked graves; Rodgers, who checked and rechecked the work in progress; and the staff at Pascagoula Public Library, and several others who are named in the book.

Martin and JCHGS members Harry McDonald and Rodgers, who worked most on the book in recent years, were assisted by a publications committee, composed of Wixon, Doug Coulter, Joanne Anderson, Lindsay Mack, Renee Gautier-Hague, Sherry Owens and Peggy Saliba, in getting the project to press.

McDonald traveled hundreds of miles criss-crossing the county updating cemetery lists, and with the help of published obituary records was able to locate lost burial places.

“The Jackson County Cemetery Book is the greatest piece of history that has come out of the society in many years,” he said. “It will help many families find out where their parents and grandparents are buried. The locations of many small family cemeteries and so-called ‘lost’ cemeteries are now identified.”

Rodgers agreed.

“Each generation, at some point in their lives, will look for this information for their personal and historic interests,” she said.

“Genealogists use the dates found on headstones to help locate birth, death and marriage records, and, in some cases, military records on their ancestors,” said Sherry Owens, manager of the Local Genealogy and History Department at Pascagoula Public Library. “All of this information helps build a more rounded, detailed picture of their ancestors’ lives. This book can also serve as a starting point for compiling a family genealogy because of the additional information it has on the early settlers of Jackson County.”

The new cemetery book is the first major work to be published by the society since 1989 when it issued the definitive “The History of Jackson County, Mississippi,” a 438-page hardbound compilation of histories of families, places, institutions and events.

The publications committee welcomes revisions/additions to the book. They may be e-mailed to Joanne Anderson at jmanders@cableone.net, or mailed to JCHGS, P.O. Box 984, Pascagoula, MS 39568. They will be compiled and posted regularly on a Web site at a future date to be announced.

“The Cemeteries of Jackson County, Mississippi: A Requiem” is now on sale at the Pascagoula Public Library’s Local Genealogy and History Department located on the second floor. Copies are $50, plus $3.50 tax for Mississippi residents. Mail orders may be e-mailed to Owens at pggen1@jgrls.org or posted to JCHGS, P.O. Box 984, Pascagoula, MS 39568. Add $6 for shipping and handling.

Anyone who would like to share historical records, photos and/or documents for this column, the library and/or the historical and genealogical journal may contact this columnist by e-mail, jmanders@cableone.net, or Sherry Owens and Renee Hague, at Pascagoula Public Library, 228-769-3078. Photos and original documents will be scanned and returned to owners.

Source: GulfLive.com

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