One task I wanted to complete prior to ending our 15-month stay in Pittsburgh was to locate my great-grandmother’s grave in Washington, Pennsylvania. Thanks to grandma’s death certificate and additional information from my cousin Dolores, I had a general idea of where to look for “Anna Puskarich 1886 – 1930”. My husband and I designated July 5 as the day to go grave hunting in “Little Washington”.
Our quest began in the “Old” Immaculate Conception Cemetery on Locust Avenue. This small cemetery was in plain sight along the road and was clearly marked. The grass was well manicured, but many stones lay broken or weathered beyond recognition. I climbed to top of the cemetery and began looking for the Puskarich family name. In the meantime, I snapped photos of every headstone I looked at, thinking I would later donate them to Norm Meinert’s Cemetery pages on the internet. I frequently use these pages in my research and periodically contribute to the information found there.
Acknowledging the lack of surnames ending in “-ich” and “-ski”, it became apparent that we were in the wrong cemetery. I gave up photographing the graves, because I didn’t know how much time we would need to find Anna’s resting place. We headed back along Locust Avenue to the “new” Immaculate Conception cemetery which was considerably larger. My husband took the low side of the road, and I took the high side. A refreshing rain began to drizzle as we searched our respective sides of the road. As the sun peered through the clouds, it revealed the older graves at the back end of the cemetery. With a 1930 death date it was more likely that my great-grandma would be buried there in the “old section” of the “new” cemetery, so my husband and I joined forces.
At this point the sun was in full force, and it beat down upon us. Sweat rolled off our brows and bodies as we walked along the rows with no success. I often passed the grave of another Croatian woman named Anna, and I was drawn to it. “You aren’t my Anna,” I thought to myself. “Why do I keep coming back to you?” After two hours of hunting in the rain and the sun, my husband once again asked me, “What year did she die?” “1930,” I repeated myself — again. Soon I heard his voice calling from behind a large bush. “I found her. Here she is!” he hollered. I couldn’t believe it. After all this searching, he found her. He pointed to a cross shaped stone covered with curls of peeling white paint. The back of the stone faced us. The bush was growing right on top of her! No wonder we didn’t see it.
My highly analytic husband had noticed a pattern in the order of the death dates on the headstones which led him to the bush. Most graves in this section were individual markers, and it appeared that the deceased were generally buried along the rows in a chronological order of their death date. Older stones are toward the top of the hill in the back, with newer stones closer to the road. Anna’s grave was along side others who had died in 1930. Knowing this should make it easier for others who want to find their loved one on this end of the cemetery.
After paying my respects to Grandma, I walked to the front of the bush situated atop her grave and stopped for a moment. There on the other side of the massive shrub, I looked down at the grave of the other Croatian Anna. I thanked her and snapped a photo of her headstone. I vowed to connect her to my family tree someday. She led me to grandma’s hiding place. But, I wouldn’t look beyond the bush.
Note: The photo at the top of the page shows the bush on grandma’s grave to the right of the 3 crosses at the center of the picture.
© 2013 Patricia J. Angus
Links: Cemetery Tombstone Inscriptions and/or Contributed Records Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (and surrounding areas) http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~njm1/tombs.htm
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