Friday, February 22, 2013

Annual Decoration Day – Day 22 of the Family History Writing Challenge

A quote from Wikipedia:

“Annual Decoration Days for particular cemeteries are held on a Sunday in late spring or early summer in some rural areas of the American South, notably in the mountains. In cases involving a family graveyard where remote ancestors as well as those who were deceased more recently are buried, this may take on the character of an extended family reunion to which some people travel hundreds of miles. People gather on the designated day, put flowers on graves, and renew contacts with kinfolk and others. There often is a religious service and a "dinner on the ground," the traditional term for a potluck meal in which people used to spread the dishes out on sheets or tablecloths on the grass. It is believed that this practice began before the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the "memorial day" idea.” (

As a child, I remember Decoration Day. We must have been in Texas visiting my mother’s family. I don’t remember a lot about it other than it had to do with food. I do remember the tablecloth on the ground with dishes full of great flavors. Now, this tradition seems to be a long lost memory.

We are planning a trip to Tennessee and I will have the opportunity to visit the grave of my great grandmother and other family members. Since Memorial Day falls into the period for the proposed trip, Decoration Day takes on additional meaning, I can see us having a picnic at the graveside. Decoration Day or not, we would still be going there to honor those who have gone on before. This just adds the tradition that I am sure was done in their time. Somehow, it seems to bring us closer.

The whole genealogy, family history trek started out with just birth dates, death dates, marriage, and children listed on a page. While it was gratifying to learn about these ancestors, it somehow was not enough. I really wanted to know these people, who they were, what they dreamed of, what they wanted.

I was fortunate to find some letters and documents to aid in the research. I searched my memories for stories and compared notes with other family members. I was lucky enough to find more distant cousins who were interested and learned what I could from them.

I am an excellent researcher if it is on-line. However, I am a total novice when it comes to physical research. Planning a trip to Tennessee where there are additional records is difficult. I need to refine my search techniques to know where to start. At least, the cemeteries are a good place to start.

The Depew Cemetery is in Sneedville, Tennessee is where we will have our picnic and meet Martha. Sarah Ellen (McColloam) Depew is there. She is Martha’s sister. James Northcross McColloam and Mary Polly (Grey) McColloam are there too. They are Martha’s parents.

Febra Northcross, the Indian maiden who walked off the Trail of Tears is buried in the Rhea Hollow Family Cemetery. She married John Rhea Sr. It is said that this cemetery is hard to find but someone in the family has to know where it is and we will find it.

The thought of celebrating Annual Decoration Day appeals to me on many levels. I am researching these people. They are family. Spending time, even with only the headstones, puts me in the trails they once traveled, getting me one-step closer to who they were.   

1 comment:

  1. I remember my parades always talking about going to graveson decoration day.