12-Year-Old and her Dad Hunt Down 48 Grandparents

Rain didn't keep us from visiting the graves of Jeremy's 10th great grandparents, Ebenezer and his wife Esther Catlin Smead.
Rain didn't keep us from visiting the graves of Jeremy's 10th great grandparents, Ebenezer and his wife Esther Catlin Smead.

Some parents and grandparents delight in taking their kids to Disney World or on a beach vacation. We like that too, but it seems that I always like to wrap a Dead People Adventure into wherever we go. So, when our son-in-law, Jeremy suggested we drive to Vermont to visit his parents a few weeks ago, we were all in. I suggested an additional quest to find as many of his grandparents as possible.

I did some research on Jeremy's paternal grandmother Irene Knight Smith's line and came up with a list of fourteen cemeteries and 49 grandparents buried within 60 miles of Pete and Pat's home in South Londonderry, VT.

Over the course of four days, Jeremy and our granddaughter Emma Grace, had their photo taken with 48 grandparents, rather the graves of their grandparents. Only Alvin Moffit, their 5th/6th great-grandfather proved to be elusive. We learned a lot about their ancestry. They were farmers, town founders, and soldiers and some were victims of a massacre at the beginning of the 18th century.

Jeremy at Old Deerfield Burying Ground, Deerfield, MA, where he discovered 20 of his family members were killed in a massacre in 1704
Jeremy at Old Deerfield Burying Ground, Deerfield, MA, where he discovered 20 of his family members were killed in a massacre in 1704
The Dead of 1704 memorial commemorating
 three of Emma Grace's 11th great grandparents and 17 other family members, including infants and children.
The Dead of 1704 memorial commemorating three of Emma Grace's 11th great grandparents and 17 other family members, including infants and children.
The graves of Ebenezer & Esther Catlin Smead
The graves of Ebenezer & Esther Catlin Smead

What better way to get involved in family history, than by going to the site of a massacre, where your family were the victims? So, our first stop was Deerfield, MA, the site of the 29 Feb 1704 raid by the French and their native American allies.

To give some history, Deerfield Village was founded in the late 1600s on the former site of an English settlement, Pocumtuck. While the site was great for farming, it was on the edge of British settlements, about fifty miles from another settlement and the nearest help. Like towns in the American colonies, Deerfield Village suffered an attack from the French and their Indian allies, on 29 Feb 1704, during Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713), Britain's second war with France, fought in Colonial America.

It is believed between 48 and 56 people were killed during the savage raid, with the remaining towns' people taken captive and marched to Canada. The Haunted Houses website gives more details of the massacre.

Three of Emma Grace's 11th (Jeremy's 10th) great-grandparents were killed in the raid, along with 17 other family members. A memorial to the "Dead of 1704" stands in the Old Deerfield Cemetery.

A tablet in Deerfield Memorial Hall Museum commemorates her 11th great-grandfather. It reads: 'Mr. John Catlin 65 son of John and Isabel of Wethersfield, Ct. One of the founders of Newark, N.J. He came to Deerfield in 1683 at its permanent settlement. noted in the annals of both Towns, the Progenitor of Deerfield, Catlin, was killed in defending their ancestral home. Children slain: Jonathan with his father, Joseph at the Meadows, Captured and released John 17 & Ruth'. A plaque, recognizing him as the first schoolmaster of Newark, NJ, was erected in his honor in 1911 and is located on the corner of Newark's Broad and Commerce Streets.

John's wife, Mary Baldwin Catlin was killed as well. Elizabeth Lawrence Smead, mother of Ebenezer Smead, is the third grandparent who fell victim to the French and Indian raid. Ebenezer married John and Mary Catlin's daughter Esther. They became Emma Grace's 10th (Jeremy's 9th) great-grandparents.

The Smead graves are in Old Deerfield Cemetery as well. Ebenezer's epitaph has worn away over time, but was transcribed in the early 20th century, it said: 'In Memory of Mr. EBENEZER SMEED Who Died July 19, 1753. In the 79th Year of His age. Esther's gravestone is still legible, it reads: 'HERE LYES Ye BODY OF Mrs EASTER SMEAD WIFE TO Mr EBENEZER SMEAD DECd DECr YEh 12th 1733 IN Ye 59 YEAR OF HER AGE'

"Head" Count, Stop 1 = 5 grandparents

Grandparents Photographed: 5

Federal Street Cemetery, Greenfield, MA, Joshua Wells, Jeremy's 8th great grandfather.
Federal Street Cemetery, Greenfield, MA, Joshua Wells, Jeremy's 8th great grandfather.
Elizabeth Smead Wells, daugher of Ebenezer & Elizabeth Catlin Smead and wife of Joshua Wells.
Elizabeth Smead Wells, daugher of Ebenezer & Elizabeth Catlin Smead and wife of Joshua Wells.
Thankful Smead Graves, Jeremy'8th great grandmother and sister of Elizabeth Smead Wells.
Thankful Smead Graves, Jeremy'8th great grandmother and sister of Elizabeth Smead Wells.

Meandering our way toward Vermont, our next stop on our cemetery tour was the town of Greenfield, MA. Here we visited High Street, Federal Street, and Country Farms cemeteries. The first two were within the city limits and just a few blocks apart. Federal Street Cemetery is much bigger than Old Deerfield, with over 1600 burials. Here we were looking for Emma Grace's three 9th great grandparents, Elizabeth Smead Wells, her husband Joshua Wells, and Elizabeth's sister Thankful Smead Graves. The women are daughters of Ebenezer and Esther Catlin Smead.

As an experienced cemetery sleuth, I gave the new grave searchers a heads-up that it might take a bit of time to find the graves we were looking for. I suggested we split up and cover the area more quickly. Not two minutes later, Jeremy shouted, "Found 'em." He had parked the truck less than 15' from their plots. We had a good laugh at my expense and congratulated Eagle Eye Smith on his find.

"Head" Count, Stop 2 = 3 grandparents

Grandparents Photographed: 8

High Street Cemetery, Prudence Smith Hastings.
High Street Cemetery, Prudence Smith Hastings.
Benjamin Hastings, Jeremy's 8th great grandfather and husband of Prudence Smith Hastings.
Benjamin Hastings, Jeremy's 8th great grandfather and husband of Prudence Smith Hastings.

I was sure there was no way Jeremy going to find Prudence Smith Hastings and her husband Deacon Benjamin Hastings, his 8th great grandparents as quickly in the High Street Cemetery. Five minutes, maybe four was the length of time from the point he closed the truck door to when he again shouted, "Found 'em! What's so hard about this?" By the glint in his eye, I wasn't sure if he was enjoying the adventure or if he just liked poking me and letting me know, that the quest to find his grandparents wasn't all that challenging.

"Head" Count, Stop 3 = 2 grandparents

Grandparents Photographed: 10

Abigail Wells Graves and Job Graves, Jeremy's 6th great grandparents.
Abigail Wells Graves and Job Graves, Jeremy's 6th great grandparents.
Mrs. Prudence, consort (wife) of Deacon Ebenezer Graves, died 19 Oct. 1804 AE 74, Jeremy's 7th great grandmother.
Mrs. Prudence, consort (wife) of Deacon Ebenezer Graves, died 19 Oct. 1804 AE 74, Jeremy's 7th great grandmother.
Jeremy's 7th great grandfather, inscribed 'Deacon Ebenezer Graves died 26 Apr 1914 AE 88'
Jeremy's 7th great grandfather, inscribed 'Deacon Ebenezer Graves died 26 Apr 1914 AE 88'

The final stop of the day was the Country Farms Cemetery. The address was Health Camp Road. The problem was the road ended at a community garden, then turned into a dirt path, which led to a fenced-in area with pigs, then curved around a stand of trees. There was no cemetery in sight. I got out of the truck and signaled Jeremy to follow. The eagle-eye grave searchers were hesitant. Jeremy followed the rest of the family and stayed put, in case a quick getaway was necessary.

"Come on! It's an adventure! It's got to be down the road here somewhere." Jeremy reminded me this was rural New England and that trespassers were shot. Failing to deter me from my mission, he reluctantly followed. He confessed as we passed the pigs, he'd only seen them live at the fair or in the supermarket meat section. "Notice the electric fence, they'll stay where they are," I said as I continued down the beaten path. As we turned the corner at the edge of the trees, we spotted gravestones. The irony was not only were we looking for stones, but the family's surname was Graves!

Job Graves, his wife Abigail Wells Graves, his parents, Ebenezer Graves, and Prudence Hastings Graves, Jeremy's 6th and 7th grandparents were supposed to be buried here. Having easily found Job's mother Thankful in Federal Street Cemetery, Jeremy was feeling lucky.

As there were only 40 graves, it wasn't difficult to find them. However of the 40 graves in the cemetery, nearly half belonged to people with the Graves surname. The realization struck that this was a family cemetery and likely ALL the people buried here were related to Jeremy and likely at one time owned the land and the dirt path we'd just traversed.

"Head" Count, Stop 4 = 4 grandparents

Grandparents Photographed: 14

Jeremy and his paternal grandparents Irene Knight and Raymond Smith., Sr. It is Irene's ancestors that we;re hunting.
Jeremy and his paternal grandparents Irene Knight and Raymond Smith., Sr. It is Irene's ancestors that we;re hunting.
Irene Wright and Frank Dexter Knight, Jeremy's great grandparents. Catherine A. and Lucille C. Knight are his great aunts.
Irene Wright and Frank Dexter Knight, Jeremy's great grandparents. Catherine A. and Lucille C. Knight are his great aunts.
Jeremy and his dad, Pete, at the grave of his 2nd great grandparents, Harry Kathan Knight and Georgie May "Birdie" Parsons Knight. The grave has her maiden name as Johnson, which was her aunt and uncle who raised her.
Jeremy and his dad, Pete, at the grave of his 2nd great grandparents, Harry Kathan Knight and Georgie May "Birdie" Parsons Knight. The grave has her maiden name as Johnson, which was her aunt and uncle who raised her.

After arriving in South Londonderry and having a delicious dinner, we convinced Pete and Pat, Jeremy's parents, Emma Grace's paternal grandparents to join us in our grave-hunting adventures the following day.

After visiting the graves of early 17th and 18th-century grandparents, we began our day with more recent generations. At Pleasant View Cemetery in Jamaica, VT are Pete's parents, Irene Knight Smith and Raymond Smith; Irene's parents Frank Dexter Knight and Irene Wright Knight and Frank's parents Harry Kathan Knight and Georgie May 'Birdie' Parsons Knight; Jeremy's grandparents, great grandparents and 2nd great grandparents.

"Head" Count, Stop 5 = 6 grandparents

Grandparents Photographed: 20

Jeremy at the grave of his 3rd great grandmother, Lucia Arnold Dexter Knight, Fairview Cemetery, Wardsboro, VT.
Jeremy at the grave of his 3rd great grandmother, Lucia Arnold Dexter Knight, Fairview Cemetery, Wardsboro, VT.
Ebenezer Taylor (1774-1862) and Amy Walcott Taylor and the6th great granddaughter and 5th great grandson.
Emma Grace and Jeremy with Silas Dexter and Maria Taylor Dexter Eddy, Emma Grace's 5th great grandparents.
Emma Grace and Jeremy with Silas Dexter and Maria Taylor Dexter Eddy, Emma Grace's 5th great grandparents.
Emma Grace & Jeremy with Ebenezer Taylor (1735-1799) andRuth Spencer Taylor, Emma Grace's 7th great grandparents.
Emma Grace & Jeremy with Ebenezer Taylor (1735-1799) andRuth Spencer Taylor, Emma Grace's 7th great grandparents.

Fairview Cemetery in Wardsboro, VT was the next stop on our itinerary. Here was Jeremy's 3rd great-grandmother, Lucia Arnold Dexter Knight. His 4th great grandparents and Lucia's parents Maria Taylor Dexter Eddy and Silas Dexter. Maria outlived Silas by nearly 40 years and married a second time to David Eddy, thus the discrepancy of surnames on her gravestone. Maria's parents and grandparents Ebenezer Taylor & Amy Walcott Taylor and Ebenezer Taylor & Ruth Spencer Taylor are buried in the same family plot.

"Head" Count, Stop 6 = 7 grandparents

Grandparents Photographed: 27

Sarah M. Vernaton Wilder Parson and William Henry Parsons, Emma Grace's 4th great grandparents.
Sarah M. Vernaton Wilder Parson and William Henry Parsons, Emma Grace's 4th great grandparents.
Emma Grace's 5th great grandmother, Jerusha Moffitt Wilder Thomas.
Emma Grace's 5th great grandmother, Jerusha Moffitt Wilder Thomas.

To this point in our adventure, Emma Grace's excitement was lukewarm. Until Wardsboro's Fairview Cemetery, she really didn't want to have her photo taken with her dead grandparents. Her discovery at West Wardsboro Cemetery, however, was a game changer.

We arrived with three names on our list. Emma Grace's 4th great grandparents Sarah M. Vernaton Wilder Parsons and William Henry Parsons and Sarah's mother, Jerusha Moffit Wilder Thomas.

For the first time in our hunt, the stones were not easy to read due to a buildup of dirt and lichen. So, I brought out our grave cleaning kit and our 5-gallon sprayer filled with water. After a quick lesson on how to safely remove the lichen, I passed out plastic scrapers, soft brushes, and 8" bamboo skewers and the family went to work.

"Head" Count, Stop 7 = 3 grandparents

Grandparents Photographed: 30

The top of Hallie L Parson's gravestone.
The top of Hallie L Parson's gravestone.
Emma Grace discovers another gravestone next between Sarah & William's stone and that of Jerusha. She uses a plastic scraper to peel off the lichen.
Emma Grace discovers another gravestone next between Sarah & William's stone and that of Jerusha. She uses a plastic scraper to peel off the lichen.
With water and a soft brush, she begins cleaning the dirt from the stone.
With water and a soft brush, she begins cleaning the dirt from the stone.
Nearly finished, she can clearly see the inscription on the face of the stone.
Nearly finished, she can clearly see the inscription on the face of the stone.
With the dirt and lichen removed, Emma Grace has discovered her 4th great uncle.
With the dirt and lichen removed, Emma Grace has discovered her 4th great uncle.

Emma Grace loved cleaning the stones to reveal the hidden inscriptions. It was then she found a small stone between her grandparents. It first appeared to be a misplaced footstone, covered in lichen. She went to work peeling off the mossy blanket. It too was engraved, not with initials like a footer. The top, in raised letters, said, "Hallie L," and the face of the stone said, "son of  W. H. & S. M. PARSONS DIED SEPT. 20, 1874, 1y 7ms 5 ds" Emma Grace had discovered a previously unknown child of Sarah and William Parsons! From here onward, her enthusiasm was off the charts. She hoped she could find and clean stones at each of the remaining cemeteries.

Extra Points for Discovering Previously Unknown 4th great uncle, Hallie L. Parsons!!

Jeremy and Emma Grace at the gravesite of John James Wright and two of his wives, sisters Margaret and Mary White
Jeremy and Emma Grace at the gravesite of John James Wright and two of his wives, sisters Margaret and Mary White
Pete and his cousin Tom Daigneault.
Pete and his cousin Tom Daigneault.

The last stop of the day was at South Hill Cemetery in Jamaica. Emma Grace's 3rd great-grandfather John James Wright died in 1957.  His first wife Maud Gray died at age 20 and is buried in Warrensburg, NY. His obituary stated he was buried here. But, there was no quick, "Found 'em!" shouted. John didn't have a gravestone.

As luck would have it, we found the graves of two of his children with his second wife, Margaret Jane White WrightJoseph Edward Wright and Annie Louise Wright Daigneault and her husband had gravestones at the far end of the cemetery. To the left of their markers were flowers on three mounded humps in the ground. Could this be James, Margaret, and his third wife, Mary Eliza White, who was also Margaret's sister,?

"Just in case," we took a photo of Jeremy and Emma Grace by the unmarked graves. We left disappointed, our first failure of the trip.

As we were driving down the muddy road, away from the cemetery, Pete pointed to a man by some machinery and remarked, "That's Tom Daigneault, he's some relation." We stopped, Pete and Tom talked for a bit and Tom confirmed that his mom, Annie Wright Daigneault was buried next to her brother and by her dad and mom.

Thanks, Pete & Tom, another one in the win column.

"Head" Count, Stop 8= 1 grandparent

Grandparents Photographed: 31

Mary Butler Dexter and her 6th great granddaughter, Emma Grace.
Mary Butler Dexter and her 6th great granddaughter, Emma Grace.
Dover Center Cemetery with David Dexter, husband of Mary Butler Dexter.
Dover Center Cemetery with David Dexter, husband of Mary Butler Dexter.

Our time in Vermont was drawing to a close, but we had 19 more grandparents to find before we headed home. David Dexter is buried in Dover Center and his wife Mary Butler Dexter is in South Wardsboro Cemetery, both near Dover, VT. These are Emma Grace's 6th great-grandparents. As per usual, David was found quickly and Emma Grace shouted, "Found her!" within minutes.

"Head" Count, Stop 9 & 10 = 2 grandparents

Grandparents Photographed: 33

Rebecca Sally Evans & Orrin Parsons, Emma Grace's 5th great grandparents. and William Henry Parsons' parents,
Rebecca Sally Evans & Orrin Parsons, Emma Grace's 5th great grandparents. and William Henry Parsons' parents,
Captain Amos Parsons and his wife Rhoda. Parents of Orrin Parsons and Emma Grace's 6th great grandparents.
Captain Amos Parsons and his wife Rhoda. Parents of Orrin Parsons and Emma Grace's 6th great grandparents.
7th great grandfather, Amos Parsons, Jr.
7th great grandfather, Amos Parsons, Jr.

A drive through the windy narrow unpaved roads of Stratton Mountain to the Ball Cemetery proved to be a challenge for the backseat riders, but we made it. The Parsons were buried here: Emma Grace's 5th great grandparents, Rebecca Sally Evans Parsons and her husband Oren Parsons, 6th great grandparents Rhoda Graves Parsons and Amos Parsons III and Amos Parsons, Jr. her 7th great grandfather.

"Head" Count, Stop 11 = 5 grandparents

Grandparents Photographed: 38

Jeremy braving the rain for a photo with his 4th great grandparents, Abel & Elizabeth Kathan Knight.
Jeremy braving the rain for a photo with his 4th great grandparents, Abel & Elizabeth Kathan Knight.
Jesse and Bethany Perry KNight, Emma Grace's 6th great grandparents.
Jesse and Bethany Perry KNight, Emma Grace's 6th great grandparents.
Jonathan and Tamar Keyes Knight., Jeremy and Emma Grace, their 7th great granddaughter.
Jonathan and Tamar Keyes Knight., Jeremy and Emma Grace, their 7th great granddaughter.

The weather did not cooperate with us the rest of the day, it poured rain most of the time. Luckily we had rain coats and although our feet were soaking wet, it was warm and we were on a mission!

Emma Grace's 5th great grandparents Elizabeth "Betsy" Kathan Knight & Abel Knight, Abel's parents Bethany Perry Knight & Jesse Knight, and Jesse's parents Tamar Keyes Knight and Jonathan Knight are buried in Dummerston Center Cemetery.

"Head" Count, Stop 12= 6 grandparents

Grandparents Photographed: 44

Jeremy and Emma Grace with John and Martha Moore Kathan, their 7th & 8th great grandparents and founders of Dummerston, VT.
Jeremy and Emma Grace with John and Martha Moore Kathan, their 7th & 8th great grandparents and founders of Dummerston, VT.

John and Martha Moore Kathan have a cenotaph in East Dummerston's Bennett Cemetery. Their gravestones in the Kathan Cemetery in Putney, VT have been lost to time. The monument tells their story, "IN MEMORY OF CAPT. JOHN KATHAN CAME TO N. E. IN 1729 FIRST SETTLER OF DUMMERSTON LOCATING S. E. OF PUTNEY R. R. STATION JUNE 5, 1752 DIED NOV. 23, 1787 AE. 81 YRS. MARTHA MOORE HIS WIFE DIED SEPT. 22, 1766 AE. 62 YRS. BOTH BURIED IN KATHAN CEMETERY PUTNEY. ERECTED BY DESCENDANTS OF THE SIXTH GENERATION.

Similar to our experience at the West Wardsboro, the cenotaph needed cleaning to read the inscription. The cleaning kit emerged once again from the truck and in a downpour of rain, we were able to get a good photo with Jeremy and Emma Grace. We also found and cleaned two small unreadable stones near John and Martha's marker and discovered they were Horace Kathan and Willie H Kathan descendants of the couple.

"Head" Count, Stop 13 = 2 grandparents

Grandparents Photographed: 46

Sunrise on No Name Road, South Londonderry, VT

Our visit to Vermont was not ONLY visiting graveyards, Jeremy gave us the tour of his hometown, Stratton Mountain, and all his favorite places, including "the Dam Diner" and the site of the filming of Chevy Chase's Funny Farm, near his high school. We poked around little shops, visited Coleman's family-owned maple syrup farm, bought lots of lactose-free Cabot cheese (a bit deal for those of us who can't digest dairy), had lunch in the towns around the area, and listened to musicians were playing on the porch in one of the villages. We reconnected with Jeremy's cousin Jared, and met his parents, wife Christina, and their family. We had lovely dinners with Pete and Pat on their deck each night. However, there were no bears or deer wandering through the backyard as promised, so we will need to return soon. And next time we'll be sure to stop at Jared and Christina's Rowell's Inn for a meal and dessert!

Our final morning was met with the most gorgeous sunrise. It was a reminder that we WILL return soon to visit the extended Smith family and learn more about Vermont.

Jeremy with Judah and Nancy Hancock Moffit, his 6th great grandparents.
Jeremy with Judah and Nancy Hancock Moffit, his 6th great grandparents.

Our drive home took us to Pawlet, VT, and the Old Pawlet Cemetery. Here we found Judah and Nancy Hancock Moffit, Jerusha Moffit Wilder Thomas' grandparents. Her father Alvin is buried here somewhere, but in an unmarked grave...our first and only failure.

"Head" Count, Stop 14 = 2 grandparents

Grandparents Photographed: 48

We photographed 48 of 49 grave sites  of Jeremy and Emma Grace's grandparents. On reflection, if Emma Grace includes her parents and both sets of grandparents that she was photographed with this week, the lucky girl collected images of 54 of her ancestors! To give some perspective, her earliest ancestor in this line is Elizabeth Lawrence Smead who was born 381 years ago, 134 years before the American Revolution and 369 years before Emma Grace's birth!

Although there was no Disney-like rides or characters on this vacation, we certainly made lots of memories and Emma Grace learned a lot about American and her family's history. She hugged the stone of a man who participated in the Boston Tea Party and stood stood at the graves of numerous Revolutionary War Patriots, and some Civil War Veterans too. She has also caught the bug to "Hunt Dead People" with me. Since our trip to Vermont, we have surveyed, GPS'd and photographed a cemetery in her hometown with a promise to have another date soon to do more.

If you enjoyed our adventure, but got lost in who's who, have a look at Jeremy's grandma, Irene Knight Smith's ancestors at Ancestry.com.

For more stories about cemeteries searches, check out Cemetery Sorties. If you're interested in reading about other genealogy-related adventures and family discoveries, jump to the I Hunt Dead People Blog. If you don't want to miss a single musing, subscribe to our newsletter.

2 Comments

  1. Mary Lou Gravatt on October 9, 2023 at 11:45 AM

    A great story and trip. Sounds like some of the ancestors wanted to be found when the truck parked next to the head stone. Always happy to learn of a young person getting hooked on family research. Maybe a DNA test for gift. Looking forward to your next trip.

    • Cindy Foster on October 9, 2023 at 12:05 PM

      That DNA test is a great idea. She got one as a gift a few months ago and went crazy when her results came back and somebody inquire within the first day about her family.

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