Sunday, February 4, 2007

Dumb Luck

Adventures in Genealogy: Dumb Luck
Rednecks, Divining Rods and Cemeteries

Our mutual hobby (Obsession) is fueled by intense research, whether its running the Court Houses, haunting the libraries, staring at Fiche (Grin) or Cemetery hoppin. We have discussed at least in passing all of these but this month I wanna tell yall about the thing every amateur genealogist lives for, PURE DUMB LUCK.

Over the Memorial Day weekend I took a trip down to Van Zandt County to do a little Cemetery hoppin. I stopped at the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society Library and picked up a copy of their cemetery guide. (Graveyards of Van Zandt County, TX Volume A, Southeast Section (I20 to TX19)

Now some of yall may have guessed I aint a Professional or even a very conventional Genealogist. I tend to try things "normal" people would dismiss as crazy. Which explains why I took a Divining Rod to the cemetery. A well- respected AOL Gen Room Chat host from Oklahoma, that is a good friend of mine, sent me an email describing their use in locating unmarked graves. So there I was in a small East Texas cemetery near the Van Zandt - Henderson County line with my book, Divining Rod, Graph Paper, Pencils and 3 cameras making notes, taking photo's and wandering from grave to grave. I noticed a couple of other people when I got there, I waved at them and basically forgot about them.

I was examing the headstone of a James Marion Hocutt (a distant cousin) taking photo's and wondering what his relationship was to the other Hocutt's in this cemetery when I heard a voice behind me. "Boy, what you doing to my Daddy's Grave?"

I turned around and saw a 6ft tall Good Ole Boy wearing a baseball cap that said "Hocutt Cement" frowning at me. I very quickly explained my name was Hocutt and I was doing a family tree for our family.

He looked at me and shouted over his shoulder "Honey, this little guy says he is a Hocutt and he's doing a family tree. Aint that a kick in the head?" I ended up going over to their house and discussing their branch of the family over BBQ ribs and home made Cole Slaw.

Once again we come to the end of one of our Adventures with a few lessons learned. (1) Do your research, know who you are looking for in the Cemetery (2) Keep an open mind don't dismiss a research method just because it sounds crazy and (3) Some times you just get lucky.

NOTE: I sorta blended two trips together for this one. The first happened at the New Hope Cemetery in Wood County Texas. We were looking for my wife’s ancestors and ran into one of her cousins in the cemetery. The second happened in the Cemetery I described. I met a cousin of mine later that day that turned out to be descended from the people in the cemetery. A branch of my family I had never met before.

2007 Update

The Van Zandt County Genealogical Society continues to be one of the best small town societies that I have ever encountered. You can visit the website at

Their extensive list of genealogical publications is available at, while pulling the URL for the page this morning I noticed they are now offering some of the books on CDs. If you have family in Van Zandt County I highly recommend you use this wonderfull site to further your research

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