Julia Elizabeth Stevens PixleyJulia Pixley was my three times great grandmother and her grave was lost.  I knew from family lore and from Ancestry.com she was born in Fabius, New York and she died there too.  I knew Julia married Thomas Pixley and I was able to track the family using Ancestry as they moved west to Wisconsin.  Thomas died there; supposedly he drowned crossing a frozen river on New Year’s Day 1850, and, I assume, there was where he is buried.

Still using Ancestry.com I followed Julia as she brought her children back to Fabius where she, and her three daughters, moved in with Julia’s sister, Ann, and Ann’s husband, Elmore Wheaton, a tailor – this bit of information was found in the 1855 New York State Census.  Julia died shortly after the census was recorded and was buried, and that is when I lost her.

Linda and I were going to be in New York and we wanted to spend time in Onondaga County looking for Julia’s grave, so I started looking online a month before our trip.

Using Findagrave.com I located Henry and Phena Stevens, Julia’s parents and my four times great-grandparents, in Fabius at the Evergreen Fabius Cemetery.  Findagrave also helped me locate Julia’s paternal grandparents, William and Elizabeth Stevens, about 25 miles away in Elbridge, and Julia’s maternal grandparents, John and Mary Jerome, only five miles from Fabius, in Pompey Hills Cemetery – but no Julia.

I contacted the Onondaga Historical Society in Syracuse, hoping Julia’s grave was listed somewhere in their records – but no luck.  One of their researchers did know of an old Baptist cemetery in the village of Fabius, and suggested we walk that graveyard as it was possible this was Julia’s final resting place.

Linda and I drove our rental car into Fabius and had no trouble finding the Baptist Church.  In front was an historical marker noting the church building had been erected in 1818, so Julia may well have attended services in this very church 170 years ago.  Next to the church was a grassy area and we could see a few gravestones poking up – the old cemetery I was told about.  Linda and I walked that graveyard, but most of the stone markers were so weatherworn the names could not be deciphered.

Another sign at the front of the church gave the name and phone number of the pastor, so I called her.  She told me there was no historical registry for the graveyard, but suggested I contact Linda-Lou at the Fabius Historical Society and gave me her number.  As luck would have it Linda-Lou’s husband maintained the Evergreen Fabius Cemetery, where I knew Julia’s parents were buried.  She told us there was no registry of graves going back to 1855, but the oldest graves were at the back of the cemetery along the fence-line.

Caroline's and Julia's Gravestones

Caroline’s and Julia’s Gravestones

We followed her directions and worked our way back past newer headstones until we found a well preserved grave marker for Elmore Wheaton and his wife Ann (Julia’s sister).  Looking at the surrounding stones I noticed I was standing next to my four times great-grandparents, Henry and Phena Stevens!  Next to the Henry and Phena was their son, Joseph (Julia’s younger brother).  Next to Joseph was a very weather worn stone that was almost impossible to decipher and next to that was a stone for Caroline Pixley, Julia’s oldest daughter.  I went back to the weatherworn stone and then realized the date was right – 1855.  Touching the engraved letters with my fingers helped to make them out J-U-L-I-A, then P-I-X-L-E-Y … I had found her, my three times great-grandmother.  I could see why her stone hadn’t been listed on Findagrave – we only found it because we were looking for her, and literally I had to feel out her name.

Sometimes you really do have to walk a graveyard to find your ancestors.