Even in the midst of a pandemic, ESPL is able to connect with our patrons, and help them connect with their Eastern Shore roots. On a recent road trip to the Shore, a patron from Annapolis, Maryland wanted to find a small burial plot at “Johnson’s Corner,” an area not recorded on any modern map. This is a frequent request of descendants who want to make a pilgrimage of sorts to the burial plots of their ancestors. On the Eastern Shore, the majority of these burial plots are small and located in fields or dense woods on private property. Many are not visible from the road. Though the comprehensive tombstone guides available have maps, the locations can still be difficult to find, especially for visitors not familiar with local terrain.
Heritage Center staff directed this patron to the Accomack County Cemetery Finding Aid on our website to pinpoint the location of the small family graveyard that he remembered from his youth. The Cemetery Finding Aid covers Accomack County, expanding on the two guides in print: Graven Stones by Jean Mihalyka for lower Accomack and Tombstone Inscriptions for Upper Accomack County by Mary Frances Carey, Barry Miles and M.K. Miles. It is a downloadable Excel spreadsheet compiled and donated to Eastern Shore Public Library by Rob Lear, a Georgia resident with deep Eastern Shore roots. Over the course of many trips to the Shore Lear personally visited all of the graveyards in the two books to record GIS data points for each one. After his visit, he sent this email: “These coordinates were correct, but unfortunately I could not find any gravestones. My vague memories of being led to the site by my Aunt nearly 50 years ago were of 10-20 small gravestones mostly flush with the ground blanketed with pine shatters in a clean copse of pine trees bumping into a soybean field. I could identify the copse, but it is now a thicket of thorny undergrowth amidst dense growth of mixed bushes and trees. The owner of the nearby farmhouse purchased just 10 years ago has no recollection of the plot. Even though I couldn’t find the gravestones, locating the site helps my picture of my grandparents’ early years around the village of Atlantic. They grew up on back-to-back farms both of which now have stunning views of the Wallops Island launch pads. The contrast with 350+ years of unchanged pastoral farm life is incredible. My first physical visit to the Accomack Library was a joy. Staff were most helpful with my quest for history and I was amazed at the extent of 17th century history documentation. I have a taste of the 17th century settlement of the Eastern Shore from the bios of my ancestors in the Miles Files and am hopeful of learning more by spending time at the Accomack Library when COVID-19 restraints are lifted. Thanks so much for your help and I look forward to meeting you in person someday.”