I know a fair handful of people who, in various traditions, work with the forgotten dead. With gravesites that have been abandoned or poorly tended, left unvisited. With dead for whom no offerings are made, and no stories told.
This is important work. Many of these spirits are hurting and hungry, and they need the help of living spirit workers in many ways. But I wonder, sometimes, is what we do enough?
Perhaps we’ll clean up their gravesite, lovingly tend it, leave offerings to them. Perhaps our service to them will last our entire lives. Perhaps we’ll even pass it on to others, when we ourselves pass on.
But what if we could do more? What if we could help them connect with their families again?
Recently, as part of my spirit work, I’ve been reaching out to some of my own forgotten dead through genealogy research. It’s been a very interesting process. I’ve found ancestors I’ve never known about, some who lived and died long ago and far away in countries I have never seen, others who barely lived at all and were buried less than an hour’s drive from my own home town. Names which had been lost to time, not even preserved in the stories of my family. Now I know them, I know their names and where they are buried and at least a portion of their stories. They are mine, and I am theirs, and I have done what I can to preserve their memory for others. They are unforgotten.
Here is what I propose. If you are going to be spending time in a cemetery as a spirit worker, making offerings or pacts or gathering dirt or other materia, take a little time to do something more. Take photographs of the tombstones, record their locations, then share that data on sites like http://www.findagrave.com or http://billiongraves.com or http://usgwtombstones.org. Also, consider joining groups like Honor Fairfax Cemeteries which work to preserve, maintain, and document historic cemeteries.
And, even at home, get involved with sites like familysearch.org or ancestry.com and document your own family history as far back as possible, and in as much detail as possible – you and your immediate family may know these names and dates and stories, but other branches of your family may not, and it may be forgotten in the generations to come. And if you’re good at such research, consider helping others with their own research so they too can find their forgotten dead. So the dead can be, at last, unforgotten.