Michele Lewis is on the look-out.
Lewis, a genealogist and USGenWeb Coordinator for McDuffie County, is currently scouring the area to find her true passion, her calling and her love - tombstones.
"Cemeteries happen to be my favorite," she said.
She's accepted the task of trying to establish an accurate record of as many cemeteries - whether public, church graveyards, or private plots - as she can find. Lewis, a former Tampa deputy sheriff and nurse, found great difficulty when she tried finding where her great-grandparents were buried. She found an inadequate and incomplete genealogical record.
"That really bothered me," she said.
Since then, she's made it her duty to not only try to give families some closure as to where their relatives are buried, and if their graves are maintained, but to supply genealogists with the information they need to develop an accurate historical record of the county.
"So now, I'm really into trying to find these family plots before they're lost forever," she said.
Because McDuffie County is predominantly rural, many cemeteries are on private property and unlisted. Lewis has done her best trying to track some down, but she needs help.
"I cannot find these plots that are on private property unless somebody tells me about them."
She says she's been able to find about 20 family plots that were not listed previously in the McDuffie County records.
Lewis noted that people sometimes aren't even aware they have a family plot on their property. Other times, people can underestimate the value that relatives and genealogists place on those plots.
"Somebody will buy a piece of land and find a few tombstones there, and they're not really interested in history. They're not related to those people, and they may not care," she said. "So they're not going to put forth a lot of effort and expense to go up there and clean it up, fence it in, that kind of thing."
She added that if she reaches a cemetery before the tombstones and markers get too deteriorated, a wealth of information could be discovered.
Columbia County historian Bill Blackard thinks that letting people know that private plots are important will be the key to Lewis' search.
"I'd be lying if I said we found them all by ourselves," he said of a similar search he and his wife conducted. "We couldn't have done it without people."
Lewis can be reached at 556-8510.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.