Wednesday, March 04, 2009
The Jones mystery
Tombstones reduce our lives to their simplest components: sometimes nothing more than a family name, sometimes the briefest of biographical information - family name, first name, middle initial, year of birth, year of death.
This marker caught my eye as I walked through the cemetery the other day. Perhaps it was the color, or the crisp inscriptions, or the fact that the three people whose names are on the stone were all born in the nineteenth century. It was only after I came home and studied my photos that I realized there was something strange going on here.
The first thing I noticed was that there was no date of death for "Ann W. ". This is not unusual for an infant's grave, and there are plenty of those in this cemetery, but this is not one of them. This is the wife of Thomas W. Jones, who was four years younger than her husband, who was twenty years old when their son Richard was born, and - perhaps - fifty-six when he died, and fifty-nine three years later when her husband died at the age of sixty-three.
A son dies three years before his father. A flag indicates that one of the people buried here was a veteran. But who? Was it the son, dead of injuries sustained to his body or his mind on a field in France while fighting the War to End All Wars? Was it the father, who perhaps served in the Phillippines or Cuba in the Spanish-American War?
And what of the mother? Is she even buried here? Did she perhaps move on, leave Nanticoke, remarry? Do her bones rest somewhere else, under another name? Or did she go to her grave a penniless widow, deprived of her only son, with insufficient funds to even pay someone to engrave the date of her death on the family stone?
There are ways of finding these things out. Public records, genealogical societies, old newspaper clippings. Someone, somewhere knows what became of Ann W. Jones, born 1860, wife of Thomas W., mother of Richard W. But her stone does not tell the tale.