Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Guest Post: The Pine Cone Story

Guest Post: The Pine Cone Story

By: Anne (U.K.) - February 18, 2010

Anne (U.K.) offers this wonderful story to supplement yesterday’s list of ways to slip almost painlessly into family history progress: “Having read the post and pondering how it is possible to make family history less scary and more appealing, I thought of ideas we had tried as a family. The article is missing one trick – family history days out during holidays, visiting areas where your ancestors once lived. We gained so much appreciation for our ancestors by seeing the areas in which they lived and learning more about the lives of the people who lived contemporaneously.”

When our children were small, my (now) ex husband and I used to plan our summer holidays and short camping trips, very carefully, so as to be sited near places of genealogical interest. Our poor children got used to spending part of each holiday in local history libraries, or in cemeteries, and, in smallish doses, were fairly compliant, providing a treat was promised for ‘afterwards.’

One summer we camped in the south of England, actually in a field attached to a farm which used to belong to my great x 3 grandfather Horne. After a Sunday morning spent roaming round the tiny village, we took off for a drive to the seaside, promising the offspring a long paddle, but neglecting to inform them that we would be stopping at a cemetery or two en route. I had a goal, to find the gravestones of my 5th great grandparents, Elizabeth Jezzard nee Lovewold (died 1816) and her husband George Jezzard (died 1821). On a boiling hot Summer afternoon, we parked by the side of a tiny church in a quiet village called Chislet and surveyed the graveyard. The oldest part beside the Church was (relatively) small and I started trying to identify where the best area to search might be. We split up, and agreed to meet back after a few minutes to compare notes (the offspring would have been 8 and 10 at this time).

At the appointed time we reconvened, sweltering, by the side of the church walls, and I sat upon a convenient gravestone which had fallen over, whilst husband sat upon the upstanding companion gravestone, and we held a conference. Feedback was disappointing; most of the stones were illegible, and those which could be read were covered in a mossy lichen. We had two options, we decided; give up (the children’s eyes lit up) or scrape every gravestone in the cemetery to try to find the names for which we were searching. Even my enthusiasm waned at this idea, but I then tried to be supportive by asking if we could maybe clean one stone and see how long it would take.

The kids were dispatched to the nether regions to find some scraping implements (I know this is a no-no, but time was of the essence here, and they are my ancestors after all!) and my daughter produced some old, dry pine cones. Handing his watch to my son, my husband said ‘right, time me!’ and started off at a furious pace rubbing the face of the stone upon which I had been sitting.

Slowly we watched as the first name ‘ELIZA..’ became visible. ‘Five minutes!’ shouted my son, and my husband stopped. ‘This will take too long, we had best forget it ‘ I said; ‘but out of interest, you might as well finish this one. Try the surname so someone else can benefit.’ And we stood watching as slowly ‘Jeza’ became visible.

We looked at each other, and we all grabbed a pine cone, each furiously scraping different parts of the gravestone. Before our eyes, the words

In memory of Elizabeth Jezard who died Feb 17 1816 aged 76 years

(illegible first two lines, then)

till God did please to grant me ease
And free me from all pain

were revealed to us.

I (ever the practical one, not) promptly burst into tears. Whilst I was weeping in a mixture of disbelief, gratitude and reunion, the kids and my husband then started upon the gravestone on which they had been sitting, next to Elizabeth’s. The inscription read:

In memory of George Jezard
who died 18 May 1821 aged 86 years

So there we had them. My 5th x great grandparents, and we had been sitting upon their very gravestones.

It took a while before I could leave that quiet Church graveyard in the almost deserted village. Only the promise that we would stop at the Churchyard in which I believed George’s father was buried could get me out of there. The original experimental pine cone was placed on top of Elizabeth’s gravestone, in lieu of flowers, but somehow more appropriate. And off we went for a paddle, and then a trip to another country Churchyard where, unbelievably, another miracle awaited us.

The story continues with Pine Cone 2: The Sequel.



  1. Anne, what a lovely story, it brought tears to my eyes. I see you have been taking “always leave them wanting more” lessons from Ardis. =)

    Comment by ellen — February 18, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  2. Thank you for sharing that, Anne. What a lovely experience for you and your family. I’ll be waiting for the next installment! :)

    Comment by Researcher — February 18, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

  3. That is an awesome story in so many ways. Thanks for sharing it. Don’t wait too long for part 2.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — February 18, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  4. That is absolutely amazing! YAYYYY for ancestors!

    [Sorry for the delay in posting, Michaela — my filter must have interpreted your enthusiasm as spam! – Ardis]

    Comment by Michaela Stephens — February 18, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  5. A terrific story. Up until that miracle happened, it sounded like a sweltering day in Shawneetown, Illinois, almost 11 years ago. My children were hot and bored and irritable. And we didn’t have anything to promise them but a drive through Kentucky.

    And we didn’t find anything.

    Maybe we should have looked for a pine cone first!

    Comment by Mark B. — February 18, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

  6. Amazing story, Anne, and nice pics too!

    Comment by Alison — February 18, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

  7. So wonderful, Anne. I can’t wait to hear the next miracle.

    Comment by Jami — February 18, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

  8. Yep, this fits nicely with the You Can Do This post from yesterday.

    Great story, and great story-telling. Thanks.

    Comment by Hunter — February 18, 2010 @ 4:39 pm

  9. A wonderful example of the serendiptity that often accompanies a search for our ancestors. And the storytelling is delightful. However, I must admit I cringed at the description of scraping the headstones with pine cones!

    Anne (and Ardis), I hope you will forgive me for a short threadjack and cemetery research primer from a cemetery buff and historic preservation professional.

    Cemetery and gravestone preservation has advanced significantly in the last few decades. Many techniques for gathering information, such as using shaving cream or chalk to highlight inscriptions or making rubbings, are now known to be damaging to stones. Yet, most of us wander through cemeteries with no clue that we might be doing something that could damage the artifacts or obliterate the very information for which we search. Most of us make these gaffes innocently, as Anne did. However, Keepaninnies should be better informed. Here is a quick overview:

    Check with the cemetery to see if they have guidelines on what visitors are permitted to do to stones. Many historic cemeteries have regulations which are posted near the entrance or available in the cemetery office.

    Don’t sit or lean on stones (old, soft stones can break under even modest pressure).

    If you need to clean a stone in order to capture its information, do so with water and a soft bristle brush. Generally, you should leave extensive cleaning to the experts. If you just can’t resist, check out the cleaning page from the Chicora Foundation, a top-knotch cemetery preservation firm.

    Photography is the best medium for capturing information. Photograph in raking sunlight when possible. You can use a mirror to focus light across the headstone. Here’s a brief article with some cemetery photography tips. There are also other good webpages that go into detail on how to photograph headstones, however, not all are preservation minded. Remember, if the site recommends doing anything to the stone itself, it’s probably not a good idea.

    Only attempt to make rubbings on sound stones in good condition. More modern granite markers are good candidates. However, limestone and sandstone markers can be extremely fragile with internal fractures which are not visible, but can pop through the surface with only minimal pressure.

    Be careful where you walk. Broken or tipped stones are often underfoot although you can’t see or feel them. They are easily damaged. You can gently probe for these with a metal rod and dig them up–but check with the cemetery caretaker first.

    Happy grave hunting!

    Comment by blueagleranch — February 18, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

  10. blueagleranch is a conservation pro — if she recommends this treatment for any Keepaninny’s future graveyard exploring, it’s the right thing to do.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 18, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

  11. Wonderful story. Such a happy ending.
    And thanks for the gravestone conservation tips.

    Comment by jks — February 18, 2010 @ 9:25 pm

  12. How beautiful! You know, oftentimes people say that they don’t do genealogy because “everything that can be done has been done.” But when I found the Swedish parish ledger with my great grandfather’s birth recorded in it, I had already known everything written there but was nevertheless overjoyed to see the handwriting, to know that someone had seen this baby who would later move to America and join the Church and have two children. That, to me, is the part of genealogy that anyone can do and that is amazing. The personal part. Like the inscription on those graves.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — February 19, 2010 @ 1:55 am

  13. Remarkable story. Thanks for sharing it here.

    The epitaph’s lines are familiar:

    Affliction[s] sore long time I [he/she] bore;
    Physicians were in vain;

    [or some variation]

    Comment by Justin — February 19, 2010 @ 7:33 am

  14. Thank you so much for that story. I also remember cemetery trips on family vacations with my parents looking for ancestors. There’s really nothing to compare with that feeling of actually finding someone. It really is amazing. There are so many miracles that follow family history. Thank you for sharing yours.

    Comment by Bill — February 19, 2010 @ 8:35 am

  15. I so enjoyed your post. I remember family trips to cemeteries as well. It creates quality time that is memorable.

    Comment by Marie — February 19, 2010 @ 9:05 am

  16. Dear All,

    I’ve just got back to this- my work pattern this week meant I came home from work last night,ate, slept, then had to head straight back in today to cover for a colleague attending a family funeral.Am literally just home.

    Thank you all so much for your kind responses. I was convinced nobody would find anything interesting in the story- as I said to Ardis, I do sometimes feel that the line between items of genuine interest to others, and obsession, is quite fine (although the glazed expressions are usually a clue!)

    I must just say to blueagleranch that a couple of years after the events above, I read an article online which your comments pretty much echoed, and I sat cringing in front of my pc, having basically unknowingly broken every rule in the book.I realised then I would never be able to submit the story to the Church News!! However, my act of vandalism confirmed the marriage relationship, and the only stones subjected to the pine cone treatment happened to be those I was looking for, so I feel I can justify my actions in a ‘led by the Spirit and at least I didn’t cut anyone’s head off’ sort of way. Besides which, the gunk covering the graves is something I had never encountered before (we were in a coastal area) and implements with which to do the job decently, had I none. My last justification is that I may well never pass that way again, so carpe diem and all that- and I never will again, your honour, I promise :-) Thank you so much for sharing your expert knowledge of how clean up gravestones correctly.

    Justin, the fact you have supplied the rest of the epitaph is particularly thrilling. Thank you so much.

    It’s wonderful to share family history stories. I really enjoy those on Keepa, both in posts and in the comments.Thank you Ardis, for allowing me to give something back. I’ve never got round to writing up Part 2, but feel motivated to do so now. And I promise faithfully that no gravestones were harmed during that encounter!

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — February 19, 2010 @ 11:28 am

  17. I agree with Marie, I also endorse family trips to cemeteries. I have wonderful memories of doing the rounds on Memorial Day at several places around Salt Lake. I learned a lot, not just about our family, but also general history. It was in the Salt Lake cemetery that I first learned about the internment camps in Utah after asking my mom and grandmother about the “different looking” Japanese graves with their lanterns and food offerings, for example. And stumbling across the graves of names I knew from Utah history lessons was always thrilling.

    The conservation tips in the comments here were another unexpected lesson. Thanks for the continued education, everyone!

    Comment by Mina — February 19, 2010 @ 11:36 am

  18. Anne (UK): I notice that a search of Google books for “afflictions sore” or “affliction sore” reveals many variations of the epitaph as well as discussions of its merits.

    E.g., Elegies and Epitaphs (255, 256).

    Comment by Justin — February 19, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

  19. I enjoyed the story, more so, because I do believe that these 2 Jezards are probably long lost relatives of ours. I would like to see pictures of the stones, as Chislet is a long way from Canada, to go to the cemetery to see them.

    Comment by Bill Gurney — February 19, 2010 @ 7:10 pm

  20. Thanks for this beautiful story. Reminds me of how I came to meet Ardis.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — February 19, 2010 @ 10:30 pm

  21. You met Ardis while sitting on a gravestone?

    Comment by Hunter — February 19, 2010 @ 10:38 pm

  22. All sorts of WOW.

    And Anne, one thought that comes to mind is how weakness can be turned to strength. For all that the method you used was actually a no-no, I have a hard time thinking anything but that as far as heaven was concerned, your experience was a yes-yes. Too “serendipitous” to be just chance, imo.

    That said, I LOVE the tips given here by an expert. It’s so good for inexperienced people like myself to know those kinds of things.

    I hope someday I can walk through cemeteries in England and find some of my ancestors’ history as well.

    Comment by m&m — February 19, 2010 @ 11:12 pm

  23. You met Ardis while sitting on a gravestone?

    Not quite, but he had a virtual pine cone, which he used to scrape some virtual lichen.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 20, 2010 @ 5:48 am

  24. Here’s another recommendation for genealogists who own a GPS: In addition to the address of the cemetery, include the lattitude/longitude coordinates of the gravestone in your paper records, electronic notes, and whatever web-pages you post the genealogy info to.

    My belief is that most cemeteries don’t have grid maps where visitors can look up the grave location from knowing the names. But with GPS coordinates, you can send other people have have portable GPSs right to it, or within 20 feet or so.

    Anne, you’ve inspired me to add a new twist to BoM-slinging with the kids on family vacations. As children absorb more of the lesson, and take it more to heart if they see the parents actually doing it, it theoretically should also hold true with missionary work. If the child never sees the parent doing it, how can the parent assume the child will consider it important?

    Comment by Bookslinger — February 21, 2010 @ 6:39 pm

  25. Anne, this is fascinating.I came across the site this morning purely by accident

    George Jezzard is my GGGG Grandfather and I have quite an extensive tree on Genes Reunited.

    I am not sure if our paths have crossed in that site, but I would be pleased to discuss the history with you if you have a mind to.

    Equally great that there are some brilliant pictures in both of your blogs.

    I assume my Email address will be released to you but just in case I will keep an eye on this site

    I have never done any searching of cemeteries, but however time consuming it may be, it is certainly a way of adding further information to the research. I now live in Cornwall, so visiting Kent is not a regular thing.

    Keep up the search

    Kind Regards

    Comment by John Kimber — March 7, 2010 @ 7:29 am

  26. Hello,
    I was delighted to find your story while I was searching for information on my ancestors. My great grandparents x5 were Anne Jezard and Edward Finch. The family and I come from Thanet in kent uk. Mainly from St Nicholas -at-Wade, Chislet and nearby villages.I would welcome and be grateful for any further information about them that you may have .

    Kind Regards

    Comment by elise trigg — January 24, 2011 @ 9:19 am

  27. what a moving story, glad you managed to find what you were looking for

    Comment by Ranolph — September 1, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

  28. Anne, what an inspiration to go exploring. Most people would be extremely grateful to find just one grave in such conditions, so to have found two was definitely not just luck!

    Unfortunately, living in New Zealand, it is not likely we will ever get to see the graves you managed to find. George and Elizabeth were my children’s 6th GG grandparents too. I love the photo with your children, they look so unimpressed, but I was wondering if there is any possiblity you would be able to post a little closer view of the graves? And the one of John Jezzard in Sturry too please.

    Thanks for sharing your amazing story.

    Comment by Lynne W — April 24, 2012 @ 11:03 pm

  29. Hi Anne

    On reading the Pine Cone Story you reported on in February 2010, I believe I am related to the same Jezzards you mentioned, and I wondered if you have Emily Jane Jezzard born 21/02/1872, died 15/01/1904, interred in Wandsworth Cemetery, within your family tree. Emily Jane is my grandmother, who died when my father (her son) was only just one year old. She was never talked about and I have found various information by my own efforts, but would dearly love to have a photograph of any sort of her.

    Comment by Ann Lowes — August 11, 2014 @ 7:13 am

  30. Having seen the comment recently left by Ann Lowes, I felt compelled to add my own comment. My Grandfather was John Jezzard (1875-1931) and one of Emily’s many siblings. Therefore Your Grandmother was my Great Aunt which I believe makes us second cousins? I have a photograph of my grandfather but none of you grandmother I’m afraid. What a small world we live in

    Comment by John Kimber — September 6, 2014 @ 6:27 am

  31. It was good to see John Kimber’s comment about Emily Jane’s brother John, who likewise would be my Great Uncle. I certainly would be interested to know what John Kimber knows about the Jezzard family – did you know we are distantly related to David Suchet through our Great x 2 Grandfather George Jezzard, master mariner, 1807-1884?

    Comment by Ann Lowes — September 18, 2014 @ 4:56 am

  32. Yes Ann, I did know of the Suchet connection as a result of the “Who do you think you are” programme and I had a brief Email exchange with him and his newscaster brother John. They kindly agreed for me to add them to my tree so long as I didn’t publicise it. I have trees built on both Genes Reunited and Ancestry and I am happy to make those available to you. Alternatively if you would like more direct contact, feel free to Email me at We also have a famous footballer in the family of course in terms of Bedford Jezzard who was a striker for Fulham FC.
    Kind regards, John

    Comment by John Kimber — September 18, 2014 @ 11:05 am

  33. Hi John, I have just written you an email to the address you have given in the above comment, but unfortunately there appears to be a problem with it, even though I copied and pasted it, Anyway, here is mine ( and I look forward to hearing from you again. Kind regards, Ann

    Comment by Ann Lowes — September 29, 2014 @ 5:23 am

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