Family Volunteering and Cemetery Hunting

I love when STI Drive offers to drop a vehicle off at my house to let me test drive for a week. We had a special, but strange, family adventure planned that weekend, so the offer came at the perfect time.

One of our favorite ways to get outdoors, learn about history, have a family adventure, and give back to the community at the same time is cemetery hunting. We like to visit cemeteries all over Ohio to take headstone photos for other researchers who cannot visit the area. This is very easily done by registering as a photo volunteer through Find a Grave. There can be hundreds of requests at any given time, so we really do feel like we are giving back by using our time to help family tree researchers from all over the world.


You’d be surprised at how helpful a simple photo of a headstone can be to a researcher. The tidbits that you can potentially find on a headstone are middle names, dates of birth, death dates, spouses full names, military service history, and by searching the surrounding area, you could find relatives. These tiny facts can open up a new world to someone trying to expand their family tree.

I’ll give you a random example:

Martin Hensel Barbara Miller Hensel

These two rather stern looking people are my 3rd great grandparents, Martin and Barbara Hensel. He was a Corporal in the Civil War, fought in 14 battles, and was a prisoner of war in Tennessee for almost 3 months. (By the way, it is such a rare treasure to have photos of them both.)

Here is the story that I learned from researchers who came before me. All that was known of Martin Hensel was that he was born in Ohio and his parents were immigrants. No one could find him in any records prior to a certain date. The cemetery ended up holding the clue. Right next to Grandpa Hensel was a very worn out, fallen down headstone with a last name that looked like Annishensley. More research under this name cracked the case wide open and Martin Hensel was proven to be Martin Anneshansly, son of Jacob and Anna, who immigrated from Switzerland in 1806.

Pile of headstones

Photos like this make me very sad. Broken headstones just thrown into a pile in the woods. If only these caretakers knew the valuable information that headstones and their precise locations can hold.

Looking back to snap a quick picture of the car resting comfortably in the shade.

I am almost positively convinced that when it comes time for me to get a new car, it will be that one, the Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD. I did NOT want to give it back. The safety features are insane.


The BSD system beeps loudly at you if your turn signal is on but there is a car next to you or in your blind spot. There is a back up camera and both front and back sensors.

Trip info

Looking at this drive info photo makes me think of how easy we have it now compared to people like Martin and Barbara Hensel. My round trip distance for the grocery store and a craft store was only 6 miles, in a nice air conditioned vehicle that still has heated seats for when you get cold. (In Ohio, you might need them both on the same day, even in June.)

80s radio

Satellite radio. Jamming to the 80s!


Built in GPS!

Car 2




Thank you again to STI Drive for their generosity in loaning me a 2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD to spoil myself for a week.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

One Comment

  1. Crystal

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one who loves cemeteries. I am also on Find A Grave and have done a few photos. I haven’t done it in the last couple of years but my kids (they were about 5 and 6), my mom and I would go out to one of them cemeteries around here and just photograph all the headstones and then I would come home and go though and see which ones didn’t have a picture or didn’t have a memorial on there at all. I love the history of it all.

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