FAMILY TIES

Bill would expand preservation of veteran burial grounds

Posted Feb. 24, 2013, at 12:34 p.m.

The official title of LD 274 is An Act to Preserve and Protect Ancient Burial Grounds and Burial Grounds in Which Veterans Are Buried. A public hearing on the bill will be held before the Legislature’s Committee on State and Local Government at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, in Room 214 of the Cross Building in Augusta.

Isn’t there already a law about that? As many genealogists know — and probably every Maine town and city manager and member of the council or Board of Selectmen — there certainly is. The current law directs municipalities to maintain burying grounds that contain burial places and markers for Revolutionary War veterans and other war veterans, and also the markers and monuments.

LD 274 would expand the law to include public burying grounds where any U.S. veteran is buried or has a burial marker, whether that person served during wartime or not.

The bill also would allow municipalities to designate the responsibility for maintaining burial grounds and markers to a “caretaker.”

Whether this is likely to be a controversial bill — one that draws much public comment — I have no idea, but I would make a few points.

I think it benefits each of us to attend a governmental session on both the local and state levels as a civic activity and as a learning experience. If you have an opinion on the issue, go prepared to share your thoughts, preferably clearly and briefly.

If you cannot attend the hearing, you may submit written testimony to Committee Clerk Natasha Irving at natasha.irving@legislature.maine.gov, or mail Committee on State and Local Government, c/o Legislative Information, 100 State House Station, Augusta 04333.

In the past year or so, I’ve heard a lot of negative comment from genealogists about the Legislature’s voting to restrict access to vital records that previously had been open to the public, even some information which already is public on microfilm, etc. The vote happened because the genealogical community wasn’t aware it was coming.

So if there’s something you care about, such as burial places and markers and burial grounds honoring those who have served our country, say so.

On the other side of the coin, when it’s time for your city council or board of selectmen or Maine Legislature (or U.S. Congress) to put together a budget, speak your piece then, too. And have some compassion for those willing to make the tough decisions.

I learned about this hearing from Helen Shaw, a certified genealogist from Rockport who is the legislative liaison for the Maine Old Cemetery Association.

(I also learned about it by reading the notices of hearings on the classified pages of the Bangor Daily News on Saturdays. There are so many hearings scheduled each week, it’s not possible to report on all of them, so it behooves those of us who live in Maine to keep up with what’s going on.)

Back to the Maine Old Cemetery Association. MOCA is credited with recording inscriptions from more than 1 million gravestones in Maine so far, a task which is doubly important as we realize that many gravestones deteriorate over time or even go missing from the resting places of those who built the foundations of our families, our towns and states and certainly our country.

Members and friends of MOCA also help to preserve cemeteries, and to clean and repair gravestones.

Less known is MOCA’s advocacy work as members speak up to make sure that legislators keep in mind the importance of honoring those buried.

“We need as many people as possible to attend the hearing and give testimony on their experience with Ancient Burying Grounds. Please pass this information on to others who support this effort to better protect the graves of all of Maine’s early settlers,” Shaw wrote.

There also is another bill of interest that will be in hearing on Feb. 27. LD 174, which would prohibit the placing of campaign signs within 25 feet of cemeteries and burial places, will be heard before the Committee on Veterans and Legislative Affairs at 10 a.m. in Room 437 at the State House.

Shaw recommends that those planning to give testimony at a hearing bring 25 copies of their comments to distribute to committee members. I would add that reporters also appreciate having a copy of comments.

The Ste. Agathe Historical Society has some nifty items for sale. Here are just a few. The first three are items I purchased years ago because my husband’s grandparents, Belone and Edith (Chasse) Chamberland, raised their family on a farm there.

• “Le Centenaire de St. Agatha Maine,” $25.

• “Marriages of Ste-Agathe 1889-1989,” $10.

• “Ste-Agathe Cemetery Records 1889-1989,” $10.

• “Ste-Agathe Cemetery Records Part II 1990-2006,” $10.

• “Land In Between,” by Beatrice Craig, $30.

• “Fusion of the Acadian and Canadian Races in Madawaska,” English translation, by J. Blesso, $5.

• “History of Ste. Agathe Parish 1889-1989,” $10.

• 2013 Calendar, $10.

To order by mail, include $4.95 mailing costs for first item purchased, $1 for each additional item. Send check to Ste. Agathe Historical Society, P.O. Box 237, St. Agatha 04772.

Membership dues, which include the annual newsletter, are $10 a year, or $100 for a lifetime membership.

The newest edition of the newsletter celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Hebert Farm in Cross Lake, the family of Adelard and Yvonne (Legasse) Hebert. A very interesting article was written by Bernadette Hebert Posnick, the 17th child of Adelard and Yvonne.

Also in this issue are “St. Agatha Plans for the World Acadian Congress 2014” by Richard Lyness and photos from the “Tintamarre,” the Acadian tradition of marching through the community making noise with improvised instruments to celebrate National Acadian Day on Aug. 15.

One popular attraction of the society in 2012 was “Textile Thursdays,” when people came to watch artisans making items. The society is open 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, mid-June to mid-September, at the Preservation Center on Main Street.

The society has a website at steagathehistoricalsociety.com.

For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email familyti@bangordailynews.com.

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