Most of the time when I’m designing for our publications I don’t have a literal connection to the people and places profiled in the articles. Do I find them fascinating, interesting, inspiring? Absolutely. I love being a part of the storytelling process. But I’ve often thought that it would be nice to occasionally have more of a connection.

Our current issue of American Spirit, the magazine Hammock publishes for the Daughters of the American Revolution, features an article on using cemetery icons as a genealogy research tool. Tasked with designing the layout, I decided to couple a work-related scouting trip with a personal genealogy interest. One Sunday afternoon, I accompanied my photographer husband as he loaded up his camera gear and our reluctant 7-year-old son and drove south to Franklin, Tenn. Our destination was the old Franklin City Cemetery and Rest Haven, a slightly newer cemetery adjacent to it. The city of Franklin was founded in 1799 and is named after Benjamin Franklin. It’s also my birthplace.

As the final resting place of four Revolutionary War patriots, the Franklin City Cemetery has an obvious tie-in for our DAR readers. Plus, I had a hunch we would find the icons needed for the article—and I wasn’t disappointed. Angels, wheat, willow trees, doves and other icons were all represented, and they helped illustrate our story of how these markers can give us clues to the lives of our ancestors.

As far as the personal genealogy connection, my great-great-great grandfather, Joseph Coleman, is buried in Rest Haven Cemetery. He was an early inhabitant of the area. In our two-hour scout through the cemetery, I finally found his headstone. I had hoped we might be able to use his marker in the layout, but it’s plain and hard to read, so it visually wasn’t a good fit for the article.

Nevertheless, our walk through the cemetery made me curious to learn more about this ancestor on my Dad’s side. My Mom is the real genealogist of the family, and she was able to share some of his story with me. I love imagining that Joseph Coleman might have crossed paths with those four Revolutionary War patriots buried in the City Cemetery.

Image research is something I do every for every issue of American Spirit, but this assignment was much more hands-on and personal. It made me feel connected.