Charleroi woman plots area history
Some people collect stamps.
Others search for old coins in hopes of striking it rich.
For Mindy Householder, such treasures can be found in area cemeteries. And her quest is far more than just a hobby.
“I have been searching entire cemeteries for about three years,” said Householder, a Charleroi resident and member of the Charleroi Area Historical Society. “I absolutely love old cemeteries. It's a great way to help others in their quest for the past.”
Nikki Sheppick, chairwoman of the historical society's board of directors, said Householder's enthusiasm for and dedication to seeking history at cemeteries is “invaluable to one of the basic tenets of our organization.”
“Mindy epitomizes the true meaning of volunteerism,” Sheppick said. “She is a great member of our organization and, more important, her tireless efforts are beneficial to similar groups and people throughout the area.”
Householder said her keen interest in old cemeteries such as the Frye Family Cemetery in Fallowfield Township began when she was asked by www.findagrave.com. a popular Internet genealogy service, to take pictures of headstones at cemeteries in the Mon Valley area.
“Then it evolved into entire cemeteries, not just the stones,” she recalled. “I have completed the Frye layout as well as Sacred Heart Cemetery in Carroll Township, Calvary Cemetery in Fallowfield Township, United Presbyterian Cemetery at Eighty-Four and several in Elliottsville. We also are working on Round Hill Cemetery in Elizabeth Township and the old Elizabeth Cemetery.”
She also has photographed cemeteries in the Gettysburg area and has taken pictures of and posted images from sites in other parts of Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee.
“It is extremely important that we document old cemeteries,” Householder said. “There is so much to learn about our history in these cemeteries. A lot of people get creeped out about going to cemeteries, but I love them. A lot of the headstones are fading or disintegrating, and that part of the history may eventually be gone. It's up to us to save what we can.”
Householder gets a “great sense of satisfaction” from these projects.
“It's especially nice when I complete a cemetery or post a picture of headstones with dates on Findagrave and then someone sends a note thanking me and explaining that they have been searching for the person buried there ‘forever,'” she said.
Researching cemeteries is not something that is taught in schools or colleges, but “maybe it should be,” Householder said.
“History is very much a part of educational curriculums, and cemeteries are part of that history,” she said. “I wish they did have classes about documenting cemeteries. I would take them all. I did go to college, and I am a huge genealogy afficionado. I have been working on family history for over 20 years, and I feel I have become very good at it.”
In addition to her volunteer efforts with the Charleroi Area Historical Society, Householder does similar work for her husband's family, The Boyd Clan (www.clanboyd.org).
“Other people also contact me about trying to get more information about their families through the cemeteries,” said Householder, who is often accompanied by her daughter on the research visits. “I try to help anyone who asks when I can. I firmly believe in the idea that if you do good for someone, others will return the favor to you.”
Ron Paglia is a freelance writer.