The Downstate Delaware Genealogical Society held an appreciation luncheon Jan. 14 at Milton Public Library for volunteers who recorded cemeteries throughout Sussex County that resulted in the successful publication of five volumes of "Tombstones of Sussex County, Delaware."
The recordings began in the early 1990s and culminated in spring 2013 - a project that spanned a period of 20 years with 415 cemeteries having been recorded with dates of birth and death of more than 75,890 people. Volume One was published in 1999, Volume Two in 2001, Volume Three in 2011, and Volumes Four and Five in 2013.
In addition to the volunteers who did the actual recordings, Sussex County residents also were recognized for the invaluable contribution they made in locating many of the small, family cemeteries located on farms and in overgrown, neglected wooded areas, most having been abandoned many years ago.
Tom Summers, outreach coordinator with the Delaware Public Archives, spoke on the usefulness and value of such a project to genealogists and historians. Volunteers ruminated about experiences encountered over the years, such as coming upon a tombstone with an inscription of “Thank You Sweet Battle Axe for 24 Years of Hell and Happiness,” of finding a tombstone erected upside down, of being given a tombstone by a property owner who found it in a ditch and then finding and returning the tombstone to the cemetery from which it came, of straddling groundhog holes and fox dens in abandoned cemeteries, and of relocating the site of a long-forgotten graveyard. One volunteer even discovered her third great-grandparents’ cemetery.
The volumes are available in many of the public libraries throughout the state; however, information can also be found at www.downstatedegenealogists.org for anyone wishing to purchase copies.