This past weekend, my father and I took a trip to Western Pennsylvania. We planned to do this years ago, but for one reason or another the stars never aligned. This year we finally made it happen, and I’m glad we did. The Boddices emigrated from England at the end of 19th century and settled along the steep mountainsides that line the Monogahela River. While in the area, we stayed with my father’s cousin George Burgman and his wife Betty. George is the grandson of the immigrant, John Boddice, through the second marriage of his daughter, Jennie. On the first evening, while talking family history with him and his wife, George let slip that there was a Boddice family Bible. He explained that he’d looked through it years before and that there wasn’t much inside. After some digging through the attic, he brought down a thick volume with a badly degraded spine and plopped it on the table. I carefully opened the book and could feel the cover and spine slowly disintegrating in my hands. As George had mentioned, there was nothing in the front of the book, but that’s not where genealogy notes are kept in Family Bibles. At the book’s center were two complete pages detailing births and deaths of the immigrant family dating from 1872 to 1913. It was our first evening in Westmoreland county and the trip was already a success! I spent the evening scanning the Bible, photos, and funeral cards.
The next day we drove to Monessen and visited Grandview Cemetery. The cemetery sits atop a high ridge overlooking the river valley. It didn’t take long to locate John and Lillian’s graves based on a photo I’d found online. Curiously, there was a lot of empty ground around their headstone and we wanted to know who was buried near them, if anyone. The cemetery office was closed, so we left a message and decided to return later in the day. George led us back into the town and showed us the house where George and Lillian had lived, the locations of bars that they used to frequent, and the steep roads and staircases they used to climb the mountainside. After touring the town we returned to Grandview and found the caretaker’s son near the office. The young man took us inside and pulled a small pile of burial cards which I transcribed. The caretaker showed-up soon afterward and pointed us toward the necessary sections. At the day’s end, we returned to Dravosburg, for one last night.
On our final day, I explained that I wanted to visit the grave of another 2nd great grandfather, that was no relation to George. Luther Rambo Mack was buried in Monongahela Cemetery near Charleroi. I had no idea where that was in relation to Dravosburg, but we ended-up traveling back up-river (along the opposite bank) the same as the day before. The entrance to Monongahela Cemetery was beautiful. Tall old trees cast shadows across deep green slopes with a simple road winding up into the woods. We quickly found the cemetery office and then spent the next 10 minutes trying to orient ourselves among the labyrinthine paths and roads that criss-crossed the grounds. It was easily one of the best kept non-military cemeteries I have ever visited. At the top of the ridge, in a more sparsely treed area, we found the stone for Luther, Annie, and their immediate families. I took all the photos that I could, and some extras for Find-A-Grave, and called it a weekend.
Thanks again George and Betty!