The Douglas County Cemetery Preservation Commission is working on a project to identify the names of long-buried residents.
Member and genealogist Marcia Atkins uses a mix of tax records, census information, county marriage logs and other records to give names to blank tombstones across the county. She said she's currently working on a private cemetery in the northeastern part of the county.
"It is a large cemetery with over a hundred fieldstone marked graves," Atkins said. "This is one of the more difficult research projects that I have taken on because of the size of the cemetery and number of unknown graves."
Atkins said a genealogist can make an educated guess about the identity of someone deceased by looking at the length of the grave to determine if an adult or child is buried there. If there are only a few people buried there, it's easier to match families with census records.
She's been researching burials in cemeteries for the past two years.
"The research on fieldstone marked graves require a lot of time and answers don't come easily but, hopefully, they will be revealed in time," Atkins said. "The descendants of these unknowns deserve to know where their families are buried. These unknowns were our ancestral heritage, who struggled to forge a livelihood out of the wilderness that later became Douglas County."
One mystery she has solved is what happened to the son-in-law of a land owner where Douglasville's Fairview Cemetery is located.
She explained her process of going through various records dating back more than 150 years.
Atkins said a woman named Margaret Caldwell (or Colwell) owned the land from 1847 until after 1870 and had two daughters. One daughter, Ann, married John Magouirk (McGouirk) in 1840 and they had four sons.
Ann died of tuberculosis in 1850, according to the mortality schedule. The census taken later that year showed John, his four sons, Margaret and his sister-in-law, Sarah. Ann was not listed.
The census taken 10 years later showed Margaret and Sarah in one household. John and Ann's sons - the oldest was 19 years old -- were listed next door.
"But where was John?" Atkins said. "For a long time, I couldn't find him anywhere. Then, I took a closer look at the 1855 tax record for Margaret. She was listed as having three orphan children under 16 in her household."
Atkins then rechecked tax records for John McGouirk in the county, plus census and tax records in nearby states but could not find him.
"Obviously, the orphan children, listed in Margaret's household, were the children of John and Ann B," she said. "Since John died between 1850 and 1855, he may have died of the same disease that took his wife. Mystery solved!"
She said by 1880, Margaret and Sarah were not listed in the census and she found an estate settlement record for Margaret dated in 1884.
"Since there are no burials for these four adults in any other cemetery in Douglas County, it is believed that all four are buried in the Fairview Cemetery located on what was Margaret Caldwell's property," Atkins said.
Atkins said she took on the research project because she feels it's important that people are not forgotten after they die. She said the living should remember those who have passed, regardless of whether they are buried in a well-kept cemetery or in a rural cemetery with an unremarkable fieldstone.
"As I often tell my grandchildren, it is just as important to know about the people you came from, in the past, as it is to know where you are going, in the future," she said.