Elgin, Cullen and Keith Cemetery


Saturday morning Lindsay and I loaded up the boot of the car with our overnight bags to head northeast to Elgin, where his cousin img_6103Keith and his wife, Helen, live.  They had invited us to attend a genealogical and family history group to discuss searching for one’s ancestors and particularly what to do when one runs into a “brick wall” and can’t seem to get any further with an ancestor.

We had a lovely drive and stopped along the way for a cup of coffee at a nice little shop called McVeigh’s.  Although the pastries and desserts were ever so tempting, we managed to get away without adding any more calories!  That was not an easy task!

We met Keith and Helen at the Elgin library after we enjoyed our picnic lunch near the pond in the park.




Afterwards, we all drove out to another scenic seaport village called Cullen, where Keith and Helen have just recently purchased a “caravan” to spend the summer months in when they move to Edinburgh.

What a view they have, ‘eh? It was a delightful little town at the seaside.  Let’s take a quick look around…img_6129-edited


I love the little pathways up the hill between the buildings; makes me want to explore!

Below is the “mercat cross” in the town square.  Each town usually has one to signify it is permissible to sell items such as produce or other goods in the “market square.”



Such a pretty door and steps with flowers!img_6142-edited

Wouldn’t you just love to be sitting on this bench taking in the view with an ice cream cone on a nice warm summer’s evening overlooking the beach and the harbor?



This is what the harbor would have looked like when the herring boats were very active.


A close-up view of the fisherman’s village…img_6151-edited When we returned to Keith and Helen’s beautiful home in Elgin, I was honored to have Keith show me his new Coat of Arms from the Lord Lyon, AND his new sword which was specially designed by Keith with his family ancestors carved on the blade and various symbols from his Coat of Arms, such as the crest, and motto on the hilt.  It was absolutely stunning.  He doesn’t look a bit proud, does he?



This morning we headed back to Keith cemetery to do some more probing and digging to search for buried headstones there.





We soon were given tools and set to work… first job to sweep off a stone and cut the edges to keep the grass from growing over it and burying it.



Next job – cut some turf away from something buried.  The thing that was buried only turned out to be some “kerbing” from a family plot.  That soon got re-buried and we moved on to the next spot…..img_6262-edited

I was given the turf cutter and got some serious action.  We all had fingers crossed that we would find a buried headstone.img_6172-edited

Aha!  We seem to maybe find something significant!  Look what else we found when we lifted the first square of turf – an old coin!img_6177-edited

After removing a few more feet of turf we could verify  we definitely had a buried stone! This is indeed getting VERY interesting and oh-so-much fun!



…..the more we dig and reveal what is under the grass; the more it gets intriguing!



img_6181-editedBelow is the fully revealed headstone. It turned out that this headstone was for a “John Murdoch – a minister for many years in the villages of Ruthven and Fochabers and he was buried in 1850 at the age of 83”


In the photo below you can see how the turf is laid out on a tarp in the EXACT order it is taken out. After the stone is cleaned, photographed and measured, the turf is then replaced in it’s original position and packed down into place the same day it is removed.img_6189




Before it is buried again, it is cleaned very well,  and then “floured” – to make the eroded lettering stand out better for transcribing purposes.  Then it is cleaned again and covered over once again.

The work the Moray Burial Ground Research Group (MBGRG) does to record and publish all of the old churchyards and cemeteries is totally amazing.  It’s a LOT of work and they are an extremely dedicated group of volunteers.

I joined their group as an international member just so I could make a donation and support them in some small way.  It was an honor to work with them on two separate weekends while on vacation to help them out any way I possibly could.

I encourage you to do the same.  They have people from all over the world who access their records through their website as they search for their own ancestors.  If you are also so inclined, I personally invite you to lend a bit of support to their efforts as well by visiting their website and making a “wee donation.”  Go to:  Moray Burial Grounds Research Group and tell them that “Claudia sent you!”


Above is a headstone near the surface that was cleaned, trimmed around the edges and transcribed just less than a month ago and look how quickly the grass and weeds are taking purchase in the cracks.  It probably won’t be long before this headstone begins to disappear from the surface.

Below is a close up of the old coin we found in with the buried stone.  Keith is going to take it home and clean it up a bit.  He thinks it could be an old “half-penny” from approximately the mid 1800s.img_6268-edited

img_6271-editedWe had a wonderful day full of intriguing discoveries.  I am certainly one happy camper, and look forward to returning once again to volunteering once again and helping out the MBGRG!  What an absolutely fantastic experience and one that I will never forget!

Tomorrow morning I will be renting another car because  I am headed south and west to the coastal town of Ayr on the southwestern coast of Scotland for one night before I get on the ferry to visit my Frew friends in Northern Ireland!  Many more adventures awaiting!  I am so excited!!!!

Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

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