Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Serendipity of Genealogy

by Barbara Leiger Granato

I recently received a request to do some research for a man residing in California. He was looking for more information on the Stafford family who had lived in Augusta, Oneida County, New York back in the late 1700s.

After doing a little preliminary research from my home computer, I visited the Oneida County Archives, and found many land records from the early days of Oneida County – which was founded in 1798. That shed a little more information on the family, but what I had learned from basic surfing on the Internet is that John Stafford, “a Revolutionist of 1776,” was buried in the “Stafford Cemetery” in Augusta.

I also learned that the “Stafford Cemetery” was an old, abandoned one. And although I found a notation of the road it was on, there was no street address or directions available to find it.

I decided to take my chances, and hopped in my car in search of the little cemetery. I drove through the small village of Oriskany Falls, until I found a sign pointing me in the direction of Augusta. Soon, I discovered I was on Augusta Road and had no clue where I was, until I saw a road sign, “Scharman Road.” WOW! I had found the road where the cemetery was located.

Now, although this was a 55 mph country road, I slowly crept up the big hill, looking first on one side of the road and then on the other. It was not until I got to the top of this hill that I glanced to my right and saw the most beautiful sign set back a distance from the road – “Stafford Cemetery.” And behind the sign, there was a small American flag posted in the ground.

SUCCESS! I parked my car on the shoulder of the road and bounded across the open landscape to the cemetery. It was nestled between two country homes, set quite far apart from each other. When I reached the cemetery, there were only four stones, and three of them were totally worn and illegible. However, the stone that had the American flag next to it was partially legible, and sure enough – it was the stone of John Stafford, “Revolutionist of 1776!” As I looked around the little cemetery, I could see evidence of small trees and brush that had been cleared from the area. Behind the cemetery there was more brush that had not been cleared, but then a farmer’s field was beyond that. I wondered about the souls who were buried there, and began to imagine what life must have been like when they were living.

After taking several photos of the tombstones and the area where they were located, I drove back to the village of Oriskany Falls where the Limestone Ridge Historical Society is located. The society was closed, but after stopping at the Town Hall, the clerk there gave me the name and telephone number of the President of the Historical Society. Yes, small towns most often are friendly like that – and oftentimes will bend over backwards to be of assistance.

The president met me at the Historical Society and let me in to do some research. Although I was not able to find any additional information on the family, I relayed my story about the cemetery that I had just found.

The president looked at me in amazement. It seems that the Limestone Ridge Historical Society awards a scholarship each year to a graduating high school senior. Last year, the decision was based on the essay of the recipient, rather than grade point average. The boy who received this award was a Boy Scout, and the project he worked on to achieve his Eagle Scout badge was to clear an abandoned cemetery and place signage on it. Not only that, but he identified the tombstone of a Revolutionary War soldier, and planted a flag next to his grave.

Yes – this was indeed the Stafford Cemetery! Had it not been for the patriotic act of this boy scout, this cemetery would have been immersed in overgrown brush and trees, and I would have never found it.

Sometimes – especially when searching for genealogical information – I truly believe that things happen for a reason. Sometimes we are meant to find stories and symbols from the past.

Although I do not believe that this little cemetery had any personal relevance to the boy scout who cleaned it up and marked it, what a positive difference he made by doing so. He helped to memorialize a man who helped to make the United States a country!

©2016 Barbara Leiger Granato

After retiring from her job as a secretary at Mohawk Valley Community College, Barbara Granato had more time to pursue her love of genealogy. She is a member of the Oneida Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, currently serving as the chapter Registrar and Vice-Chair of NYS Lineage Research for DAR. In addition to teaching Beginning Genealogy classes, she is a Board member of the Central New York Genealogical Society, as well as a Board Member for the Oneida County Historical Society. She also is a member of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica and serves as a tour docent to the mansions on Rutger Street in Utica, and writes murder mysteries which are performed at one of the historic mansions once a year. She is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists as well as the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

1 comment:

  1. This is an awesome post. The emotion is beautifully written. The man from California is my distant cousin, and he showed me your pictures of John Stafford's grave site. Your pictures are lovely, and I enjoyed seeing them. My son is an Eagle scout. Is there any way you could give me the Eagle Scout's name? I'm also a genealogist and have researched the Stafford family. My email address is Thank you!