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I’ve always loved Halloween. The candy. The silly costumes. The candy. The great Autumn decorations. Did I mention the candy? Maybe I love Halloween because my birthday is the very next day. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had a fascination with dead people.
I was raised in California where many of our Mexican friends and neighbors celebrated a holiday called The Day of the Dead. It is celebrated in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day (which is my birthday – coincidence?) and All Souls’ Day (November 2nd). During this holiday family and friends gather together to pray for and remember those who have died. One of the traditions associated with this celebration is the decorating of grave sites. Families will spend the entire day in the cemetery, eating picnics of their deceased relatives’ favorite foods, playing their favorite music and watching the children run and play among the tombstones.
These celebrations stem from the belief that during this time of year the veil between life and the after-life is thinnest. Each of these activities is designed to welcome the spirits of deceased ancestors to reveal themselves to loved ones. I think I identify a little better with these traditions than with the fear-inducing traditions of American Halloween celebrations (no haunted corn mazes for me…but I’ll still take the candy).
As a genealogist who wouldn’t want to hear from deceased loved ones? I would love one more chance to ask my grandfather to share his memories of his paternal grandmother. I would enjoy meeting the great-grandmother I am named after and would love to know if we share anything else – hair color, eye color, personality traits. It would be great to hear from my great-great-grandfather, John O’Brien. Maybe he could help me figure out which of the thirty-seven John O’Briens I’ve narrowed it down to is really him. Was he born in Ohio or Ireland? Was he really 99 years old when he died or only 85? Of course, as often as he lied in life, could I really expect things to be much different in death?
It’s not a trick.
What ancestor would you find it a treat to sit down and visit with if you could?
I may not be able to sit down with my deceased ancestors but I have learned that their death records can tell me a lot about their lives. If you missed my broadcast last week about death records you can watch a replay here. You can also watch a replay of Lorraine’s Halloween Day discussion of obituaries and cemeteries here. Then enjoy digging into a few of the 1,869 databases on Ancestry.com that contain death records!
Until next time – Have fun climbing your family tree…