Visiting Family Graves

So I spent my Thanksgiving visiting the graves of my ancestors. I came down to Maryland to see my brother and his family for the holiday and the morning before we all got together, I went around to local cemeteries making offerings for my dead. I’ve been trying to untangle a rather snarled family tree, and my recent focus has been my mother’s paternal line. I made real breakthroughs on this visit.

Firstly, I visited my aunt who told me quite a bit about my grandfather. Many of those stories are personal so I won’t recount them here, but it answered a lot of questions. Then there were the cemetery visits.

I started the morning yesterday by first going to Harmony Chapel Cemetery in Cecil County, MD where I made offerings to my maternal grandmother Linnie Hanna, her parents Lucinda Heffner and Hugh Shoff, and her brother Howard Shoff. (My photos did not turn out well of their stones, so I will be visiting them again later today and will add photos then. Once I poured good, clean water over their stones in offering to their spirits, it obscured the inscriptions. I also laid out flowers and prayed).

Then, I went to Brookview Cemetery in Rising Sun, MD (and boy was it fun finding this cemetery! It’s quite well hidden, which of course makes it peaceful and serene. It’s abutted by a large field and set well off the road, shielded by a long, wooded lane). My grandfather Roland Isaac Hanna is buried here. Last year, I realized that he didn’t have a headstone (he was not the best father, and he carried many, many scars from his own childhood.) so I paid to have a simple one with his name and dates of birth and death erected. I got to the cemetery and realized I had no idea where it was located save tehat it was in the north east section. So, I asked him to guide me to the stone and…walked right to it.

Roland Hanna

After visiting for a time with Roland (and also making offerings to various random veterans in the cemetery – I’m easily distracted in cemeteries) I and my friend A. (who was kind enough to accompany me and help haul offerings and drive) went on to Colora, MD, to West Nottingham Cemetery. I’d always been fascinated by this cemetery as a child but had never, ever visited. I don’t think my parents realized that my mother’s father’s father, his mother, and two of his brothers were buried there.

Again, I had no idea where they were and the cemetery is large. I talked to them, and poured out an offering to the other spirits of the place, and the cemetery itself asking for help and again, walked right to my great grandfather’s stone (the look on A.’s face was priceless when I did so). Again, offerings were made. As I talked to him, speaking about my desire to untangle this family line and deal with the pain and hurt that had festered there for so long, a pale spider kept running along the top of the stone. In some cultures, spiders are psychopomps, and carry messages too and from the dead. I took it as a good omen.

Perry B Hanna

Then I had to set myself the task of finding his mother. Again, I only knew that she was there so I again asked for help. I kept getting distracted by interesting stones and people but eventually I heard very clearly ‘go over to the building’. I thought perhaps someone was there who could help so I did. Just as I was about to walk out of the cemetery proper and to the main building, something made me look down and to my left and there was my great great grandmother’s grave. (Her husband is buried in PA, in a family plot. He died earlier than she and it seems her children wanted her buried near where they lived so today I’m going on the quest for his grave).

elizabeth johnson

Right next to her are the graves of two of her sons: John T. and Basil Randolph Hanna.

John T Hanna

BAsil Hanna

I made the requisite offerings, thanking them profusely. Later that night I was doing some research and managed to extend that line back several more generations.


Maryann Dabravalskas (nee Hanna) (1947-2012) (and John Paul Dabravalskas 1917- 2005)

Following Maryann’s line:

Linnie Hanna (nee Shoff) (1909 – 1987) and Roland I. Hanna (1903-1991)

Following Roland’s line:

Edna Baldwin (1880-1944) and Perry Barnes Hanna (1876-1949)

Following Perry:

Elizabeth Johnson (1836-1909) and Stephen John Hanna (1832-1897)

Following Stephen:

His mother is Esther Ailes (1798-1887) and father James Andrew Hanna (1800-1874).

Esther’s parents are Stephen Ailes (1771-1816) and Sarah Byland (1773-1830).

Stephen’s parents are Stephen Michael Ailes and Elizabeth Swayne

Back to James Andrew Hanna, his mother is Martha Jenkins (1781-1857) and his father is John Hanna (1773-1857) and…that’s as far as I can take this line.

(if anyone reading this has any information on any of these ancestors or family lines, please please contact me here!)

So all told, it was a very productive visit. I need to come down again, both to research in Baltimore (Edna Baldwin lived and worked there and she is a cipher, a complete mystery in my line) and to go to York, PA where generations of my mother’s maternal line settled. I have many more graves to visit!

Happy holidays, all.


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