Where’s that tombstone?

Many years ago I ordered the death certificate for my great grandfather, Melvin Halsey, who died in 1920 in a town about one mile south of the New York – Pennsylvania border. It had hardly any information except that he was buried in the Rosstown Cemetery about ¼ mile north of the border in Southport, NY. I wrote to the Town Historian to ask if she had any information. She had a list of tombstones but Melvin wasn’t listed. I wasn’t surprised as Melvin died in debt and his tiny farm was auctioned off and still didn’t pay off all his bills.

It was at least 10 years before I decided to go to the Rosstown Cemetery and see if I could find a tombstone. The cemetery is the woods and it isn’t mowed nor kept up at all. I did the best search possible but did not find his stone. Again, he died in debt, so he probably never had a tombstone.  Then the GenWeb site put online 65 tombstones in the cemetery and in 2000 added a list of 45 people buried in that cemetery without tombstones that came from old newspaper obits. That GenWeb is one of three counties run by Joyce Tice who now has 17,000 web pages online for Bradford County, PA, Tioga Co., PA and Chemung Co., NY.

Just recently, the Fulton History website added a couple of newspapers from Elmira, NY. In there I found an obit for Laura B. Halsey, she is my great grandfather third wife. Her obit said she was buried in the Rosstown Cemetery. Also on that website I found an obit Laura’s mother, Nina (Culver) Comfort. She too is buried in the Rosstown Cemetery. That means at least 45% of the burials in that tiny cemetery don’t have tombstones. I’m sure that there are other rural cemeteries that are similar. Is it any wonder that you may not find a tombstone for someone no matter how hard you search?