an old grave stone

This isn’t my relative’s grave stone, but someone else’s family member from long ago.

I haven’t had time alone in London yet. This was the first time I managed the tube (subway) myself. For the last month or so, known people have constantly surrounded me while I’ve been traveling. Company is good, but for one day I wanted my own adventure. I took a train to find something important to my family and me. Although it wasn’t an adventure that would end as I wanted.

Ancestry has always been an interest of mine. My dad and several other distant relatives have traced our ancestry back to England in the 1100s. So with my wandering soul and bright backpack, I set off to find a gravestone of a family member in the English village of Headcorn.

There was some pressing reason this was important for me to find. I wanted to find a concrete way to reflect on my ancestry and try to learn a full story of where I come from.

Taking the train to Headcorn, I find I’m still completely stunned by the beauty of England’s countryside. When I get off the train  at my destination, I can’t believe how quaint and adorable the old buildings and atmosphere of the city were. As I walk the street next to buildings from the 1800’s, I wonder if my family members had ever walked these exact streets. I can’t hold back my anticipation as I easily find the cemetery.

Once inside, I realized the difficulty of finding a head stone from the 1700s. Most of the stones I could read were from the 1900s and even they were nearly illegible. So many of the stones had been stripped of their engravings, hidden behind vines and even buried by the ground.

An old English cemetery

The cemetery was quite crowded with headstones and monuments.

After napping in a park and wandering through the city, I felt rejuvenated. I came to the conclusion that even gravestones left to commemorate and remember those who have been lost will waste away. No material will last forever but maybe what is lost long ago stays alive in less concrete ways. I had a strange feeling of my ancestors being a part of me.

My one-day of traveling alone didn’t bring closure with my finding the gravestone but it was a great way to see an old charming English village outside of London.

–Danielle Peecher