When one of my ancestral walls tumbled after a long fought research battle, I couldn’t wait to see where that family walked and lived. The wall fell on a Wednesday. Three days later on a bright Saturday morning, my wife and I stood in the Piper Hill Cemetery just a short distance south of West Stewartstown, New Hampshire ready to explore the tombstones looking for the Tirrill surname. We were quickly rewarded with success.
When I called the airline to obtain tickets using points from my mileage account, I was sure that the rewards tickets wouldn’t be available for many weeks. The representative asked when I wanted to schedule the non-stop flight to Boston and laughed when I said, ‘this Friday”. Her first response was, “I don’t think that will be possible.” “Are you going to a funeral or something?” I responded, “Well no, but we are going to a cemetery.” “I just knocked down an ancestral brick wall after 30 years of research!” “Really?” “I love genealogy too!” “Let’s see what we can do.”
The odds of contacting a fellow genealogist who appreciated my excitement and consequently pulled a ‘few strings’ to book the flights on such short notice were high if not astronomical. However, as often is the case in family history research, magic occurs, impossible becomes possible and sometimes events related to your family unfold immediately. The airline tickets were secured. Would my wife agree to drop everything and leave our brood of kids home and fly with me to the east coast with such short notice? Of course she would and did. She’s that kind of a lady.
By sunset on Friday we had checked in to our motel that was located just a few miles south of the Canadian border. The winter snow was still evident in shady places, but the weather was beautiful on that spring day. Early the next morning, I opened the motel room door and was greeted with the nose of a moose a foot in front of me as it stood under the canopy of the walkway and thus out of the misty morning drizzle.
Delighted to see him, we knew to take a "hello" photo from just inside our room rather that stepping out to let him help choose the camera settings. After a few words of greeting and a quick snap or two, our visitor walked away. I had no idea that West Stewartstown had such an interesting welcoming representative to greet travelers from across the country.
Our greeter or one of his family extended the welcome when we found the Piper Hill Cemetery. Standing inside the fence, he looked at us, flicked his head toward the back fence and began walking that way. Not wanting to be rude, we followed. I called out to him that we were looking for Tirrill graves. He responded with a quick glance back over his shoulder with a flick of his ears and a grunt that all but screamed, “Dumb Tourists!” Within minutes our guide had directed us directly to the graves of my 4th great grandparents, Seth and Azuba Chandler Tirrill and many other family members.
Apparently our guide enjoyed communing with the Tirrills given the evidence of his previous visits in the form of moose dung on their graves. I must say that the grass was greener there than anywhere else in the cemetery. The spring runoff water must have hit hardpan soil a few feet under the sod because it felt like we were walking on marshmallows as we moved from stone to stone.
After an hour of transcribing tombstone inscriptions and taking photos of each marker, it was time to leave to go find folks in town that may be able to assist in my ancestral research. Waving goodbye to our guide, he swished his tail, stepped over the back fence and walked down toward the Connecticut River. Like I said, West Stewartstown, New Hampshire really treats its visitors well.
The remainder of our trip was equally magic. We found records and homesteads, stories and more graves of my ancestors at every turn. The moose magic continued with us south to Plymouth, Massachusetts when even more family records, graves and residences were in evidence at every turn of our head.
I’ve seen moose charge fools who stray too close to them or their calves in the woods, so I can’t recommend counting on a moose to act as the guide on your own ancestral quest, but in my case, the image of a dignified moose comes to mind any time I think of New Hampshire or my ancestral families who lived there.
Who knows what you’ll encounter in your own family history research? If you don’t give up, eventually you too will have stories to tell about ‘genealogy magic’ that happened to you too. It’s inevitable. Maybe you’ll get a bird or a Chihuahua or a friendly two-year-old with sticky fingers that will point the way to your ancestral records. Or maybe you’ll encounter a smiling gray-haired lady or gentleman in a library somewhere that knows the exact book you need or who knew your family when they were young.
Interesting stuff happens in genealogy research. Count on it.
Posted 25 Apr 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog