By: Terry Simpson
Roughly ten years ago a friendship was formed, and it is one of those that will go down in history as if it were marked in stone.
Genealogy buffs Connie (Hughes) Goodman and Crystal (Todd) Neal met all those years ago and instantly clicked.
The ladies found each other wondering if they would be liked by the other, but that was quickly forgotten as they started chatting about something they were both fascinated with — genealogy — and became best buds and “partners in crime.”
Goodman found her interest in genealogy at the age of 13, after receiving an assignment at school.
Neal was 10 when the bug bit her. Both girls immediately took a liking to what is now known as one of the fastest growing hobbies in the United States. They read for hours, researching anything they could find.
Years later, they met as adults and as they shared their love of history and genealogy an idea hit them.
Neal wanted to encourage younger generations to become more involved in their past, in such ways as joining local Historical Societies, using the library for research (instead of relying so much on the internet) and tracing their roots through genealogy.
Goodman had written a few books over the years and thought it might be an interesting project to research two local cemeteries in Fountain Run (where the ladies’ family members were buried).
After finding out that the last book published on cemeteries in Monroe County was in the 70s, the duo decided this would be their next project and “Monroe County, Kentucky Cemeteries — Bicentennial Edition” became a reality.
When they set out on this adventure, they had no idea how big the task they were undertaking would be, yet they enjoyed most of the journey. Sometimes the job was not immediate, but when they looked back, the memories were good
“We have itched and bled and laughed and cried. We’ve had poison oak and twisted ankles from falling over fences…no one realizes the blood, sweat and tears that have went into this book,” Goodman said.
The ladies noted that Goodman was more of the “hunter,” while Neal did most of the typing. “It took forever to type. I wanted it perfect,”
Goodman has permanent battle scars from those hunts, not just from poison ivy or ankle injuries, but a condition known as Alpha-Gal caused by a tick bite, which makes one allergic to red meat. None of this has stopped her though, she loves every minute of it.
They did their best to make sure every grave was recorded from rocks that didn’t match the death certificates to stones where they had to do rubbings to get the information. The rubbings were completed using baby powder, flour and even dirt from the ground. It was hard work, but worth it to the ladies.
They walked miles over “hills and hollers,” climbing over and under fences, following “farm directions” and asking permission to search land. Neal noted that it is impossible to find every grave with some having no evidence.
“It was hard work. We found over 100 more cemeteries than the original book. Connie wanted to make sure we found every single grave, and me, well I’m OCD. I wanted to make sure it was correct. This was a huge project and if we left any out it was not done on purpose,” She said, explaining that a list is printed in the back of any unknowns.
The pair worked on the book a few years and then found themselves taking a break, which turned into a four to five-year hiatus. With their work and family life, they had less and less time for their favorite hobby. However, they recently found their passion again and have finished with the book being sent to publishers.
They are hoping to not only to forge a yearning for knowledge of history in the younger generations but to encourage locals to get out and visit the cemeteries. So much vandalism and theft go on and they feel that if more people are interested that the graves will be better preserved and the cemeteries kept cleaner and more secure.
The ladies shared many interesting stories and information found along their journey from the largest, smallest, oldest and even those single grave places you would be hard pressed to find. The book itself only lists stones, directions and anyone found to be buried in cemeteries by death certificates or newspaper obituaries.
However, the team did share an interesting story of two infant names carved into a barn on a farm where they were buried and that of what appears to be a slave owner (based on the grave site and surrounding land) which resembles a Hershey’s Kiss. They noted that some people even bury their dead on their own land with this becoming more and more popular in the past several years.
Goodman shared a tale of the “Poor House.” In the past, before nursing homes became established (or for those who couldn’t afford private care), the elderly were sent to live at the County Farm or the “Poor House.” “They worked the farm for their keep,” the ladies added.
Unfortunately, no rocks were placed for any of those graves located at the property. Goodman, who also wrote a book on this subject that can be found at the library, saved up her own money and had a monument displayed for those buried there. “It’s things like that, we want people to know about. It is fascinating to us,” she said.
While this book may only contain listings, the girls did give a teaser of the possibility of another book or another type of media to share the stories of their journey. Those interested in the “Monroe County, Kentucky Cemeteries — Bicentennial Edition” will be able to purchase it soon with a tentative publication date of Oct. 2019, just before the upcoming Bicentennial celebration of Monroe County.
The navy and gold hardback book has over 500 pages and is easy to read with everything listed in alphabetical order and sectioned by cemetery. Neal noted, “Even if you aren’t a genealogist, it will be an asset. If you have family buried in the county and want to find them all you have to do is flip open the book.”
Who knew that just like their friendship, written in stone, that their passion, also pulled from stones and recorded, would become the next Monroe County History book. The book can now be reserved at a special cost of $69.95 plus tax. If you would like it shipped there is an additional cost of $6.50. Follow the Tompkinsville News for more information on when the books will be available. Goodman and Todd will also be set up at local festivals with the books when orders are ready.
Contact Connie at 270-255-1018, fill out and mail the form elsewhere on this page or mail check or money order, with your name, address and phone number to Monroe County Cemetery Book, P.O. Box 112, Fountain Run, Ky., 42133. You may also have a name embossed on the cover for an additional cost of $6.
Reserve your book now as the cost will increase to $79.99 after release.
Connie is married to Howard Goodman and Crystal is married to Ray Neal. They all live in Fountain Run.