(Originally published 11 February 2018. Updated 10 March 2023.)

Elizabeth Young tombstone at its removed location in North Carolina. (Photograph by Find a Grave contributor ID #47226355.)


Family reunions come in all forms: DNA matches, brick-wall breakthroughs, friend-requests from long lost cousins. This week our family was reunited with an ancestor's tombstone – one that had rolled three states away!


The Greene Connections Archives Project includes a section devoted to identifying local cemeteries. Volunteers contribute by posting photos and improving entries on FindaGrave.com. When a contributor offers suggested edits to a grave listed on the site, the volunteer managing the grave’s entry receives an email. Such an email arrived recently with an unusual entreaty. The contributor advised that he had added a tombstone photo to the entry that I manage for my 7th-great-grandmother Elizabeth Young in Mt. Zion Cemetery, which is located in Castile, Morgan Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania. However, this was not a typical image upload. In 2013, I had visited the graveyard looking for this very stone and discovered that it was missing. The contributor explained why. He had photographed Elizabeth’s tombstone not in Pennsylvania where she rests, but in North Carolina, where the marker stands in the yard of a friend! The stone had been found by the current owner some years prior while driving through Pennsylvania. It was abandoned in a ditch with other markers. Finding it in good condition, it was rescued. Not knowing where it belonged or why it had been so neglected, it was resurrected in its new home. The Find a Grave contributor, anxious to identify the person the memorial honored, searched for a burial entry in an appropriate location that matched the marker's inscription.


When James and Dorothy Hennen recorded the inscriptions at Mt. Zion Cemetery in 1977, Elizabeth Young's stone was next to that of her daughter and son-in-law, Mary (Young) McGinnis and Joseph McGinnis, who are my 6th great-grandparents. This McGinnis couple are often mixed up and misrepresented in McGinnis family trees due to the existence of another Joseph McGinnis whose heirs like to climb our family tree. These two men and their families are frequently conflated despite their different geography and relations, so I was anxious to photograph these tombstones as physical proof, in addition to documentary evidence, that Joseph and Mary had lived. Unfortunately, upon reaching the row of graves, I found that only Mary (Young) McGinnis's marker still stood.


Tombstone of Mary (Young) McGinnis, Mt. Zion Cemetery. (Photograph by author.)

Thankfully, the Hennen’s provided a record of exactly what was carved into each stone. Accordingly, I created Find a Grave entries from the Hennen’s notes for Elizabeth Young and Joseph McGinnis, so that they could be linked to the family and their known burial locations could be represented. As such, when the North Carolina contributor searched Find a Grave for an inscription to compare, he found my entry and an exact match!


Whether or not Elizabeth's gravestone will be returned to her grave in Greene County is a pending consideration. In the meantime, it is incredible to have virtually reunited Elizabeth with the marker that remembers her.


This is the updated text posted on her Find a Grave site:


SOURCE NOTES: Dorothy T. Hennen, compiler, Cemetery Records of Greene County, Pennsylvania, 12 volumes (Waynesburg, Pennsylvania: Cornerstone Genealogical Society, 1975-1979), 10: 699, Mt. Zion Baptist Cemetery, Elizabeth Young entry.

“Elizabeth / Young / Died 1834 / Aged 72 Yrs.”

Hennen recorded tombstone data in Mt. Zion Baptist Cemetery in 1977. When the present researcher, Candice Buchanan, visited the cemetery 8 June 2013, this tombstone could not be located. Based on Hennen’s list of graves, the stone should have been beside Mary McGinnis (nee Young), who was most likely her daughter. While Mary’s stone was located, neither Elizabeth’s, nor Mary’s husband Joseph McGinnis’s stones were found, though they should have been together. In 2018, Find a Grave contributor ID #47226355 contacted Buchanan with a tombstone photo matching exactly to the Hennen’s inscription for Elizabeth Young. The stone had been found abandoned in a ditch in Pennsylvania, thence removed to a location in North Carolina where it is still located.