Renewed interest in genealogy fuels efforts to maintain historical cemeteries

Anne Holt's Tennessee

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (WKRN) — A renewed interest in genealogy is fueling efforts to restore and maintain historic cemeteries.

Sometimes a tombstone is the only clue to a person’s existence.

Kathie Greaves has always been fascinated by history and she loves a challenge. She finds a bit of both in cemeteries scattered throughout Brentwood.

“There are many ways you can research and learn about history.”

Greaves starts at the end of life to discover what may have happened since birth. The search takes her to small family cemeteries in Brentwood.

“To me, it’s like walking into a museum and it has so much information. Each one of these stones have a story to tell and it’s up to us to find out what that story is.”

According to the tombstones in Johnston’s Chapel Cemetery, Brentwood’s founding fathers settled here more than 200 years ago.

“John Johnston, who the cemetery and church were named after, was born in Ireland in 1734. His wife was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Makes you wonder how did they ever get together,” said Greaves. “Also Mr. Johnston was a revolutionary war patriot. We have two in this cemetery alone.”

Kathie works with the Brentwood Historic Commission. Her territory includes very small family cemeteries. Some long-forgotten, overgrown with weeds and in dire need of cleanup.

But they too hold clues to the city’s history yet to be uncovered.

The restoration of Johnston’s Chapel Cemetery continues to yield a wealth of historical data.

“In the example of James McCrory, you start to notice that he died on June 7th and if you look at William, he died on June 6th, and there’s one more stone you can’t read very well and you realize it’s the same year, the same day.”

With additional research, Kathie discovered the families fell victim to the cholera epidemic of 1849.

“We transcribe the actual stone so we have all that information on it and then our particular ones go on our city website.”

Most of the cemeteries Kathie works with have only five or ten graves in them. On the website, you’ll see a picture of the tombstone, the transcription on it and the condition of the stone.

It can make a family’s genealogy search a lot easier.

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