Almost every time I visit Beaufort National Cemetery, preparations are underway for another interment, yet the grounds are quiet and sunlight dapples the markers. It’s a tranquil resting place, as it should be.
Last night, after I gathered the information I needed for photographing six gravesites to fulfill requests that had been submitted to Find A Grave, I spent a little while expanding my family tree on Ancestry.com. One of my newest additions to the tree was a second cousin, six times removed, named George Washington Albritton. He was born in Georgia in 1815. At the age of about 49 he had a wife and nine children when he enlisted in the 1st Regiment Georgia Infantry Reserves led by Colonel William R. Symons. He was captured in the battles around Atlanta near the end of the Civil War and died of pneumonia, probably at the U.S. General Hospital, on Hilton Head Island. Coincidentally, he’s also one of the more than 21,000 men, women, and children buried in Beaufort National Cemetery.
The National Cemetery Administration says:
The original interments in the cemetery were men who died in the nearby Union hospitals during the occupation and were initially buried in several places—among them East Florida and Hilton Head. About 2,800 remains were removed from cemeteries in Millen and Lawton, Georgia, and reinterred in the national cemetery; 117 Confederate soldiers are also interred here.
Two of my distant relatives are buried in a cemetery containing 21,000 graves. Calculating the statistical probability is beyond my capability, but my intuition makes me willing to bet. If you go to a similarly sized burial ground in the country of your birth, and if, like mine, most of your ancestors have lived in your part of the world for about four centuries, then there’s a good possibility you’ll find two or more cousins buried there. We are more closely connected than we realize.