This woman’s face drifted up to me this week. She came out of a pile of photos, a randomly selected card in a shuffled deck of memories. It has been some days, but I keep going back to her although — and maybe because — I have no idea who she is.
Some years back, I was doing a cemetery walk with friends. While trying to talk about styles of grave markers, I had a momentary brain freeze and sputtered: “One of those… Oh, you know! The sticky-up kind!”
It was not a great moment for me, although my friends thought it was hilarious. So to spare you a similar moment, I’ve put together a few examples.
Many years ago, I was lucky enough to take a class from the queen of Chicago cemeteries, Helen Sclair. She was not just a singularly fascinating person, but also a principled one. Her concern for cemeteries, and their residents, has always stuck with me. In that vein, I wanted to set down a bit of the methodology and ethics that I use in my research.
Before I get too deep into telling stories, I wanted to show how I work. Belle Ullmer here has (been) volunteered to run us through the process.
I think I noticed this one because I liked her name. Belle is just so pretty.
I thought she would be a good Snooping 101 test case because she has a distinctive name; she lived in years that are well documented in vital records; and as she is a woman, finding her might be a little trickier.
The lives of women can be hard to trace. Maiden names vanish from the record. Housewives rarely made the news. But they were here.