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Biloxi woman solves decades-old mystery about family burial plot

The headstone of William Robert Coleman was finally found in a long-forgotten cemetery in...
The headstone of William Robert Coleman was finally found in a long-forgotten cemetery in Simpson County after a nearly 20-year search by his great-great-great granddaughter Cathleen Smith of Biloxi.(wlox)
Published: Mar. 20, 2022 at 10:21 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Cathleen Smith of Biloxi has been doing genealogical research for her family and others for 30 years.

She’s helped adoptees find their birth families. She’s helped prove Revolutionary War linage.

“It’s so rewarding and exciting to be able to learn about your ancestors and who they were, where they come from and where you come from is a big part of that,” Smith said.

There’s one question she has been trying to answer about her own family for close to 20 years. Where was her great-great-great-grandfather, William Robert Coleman, buried?

Smith knew a little of him on paper, but for her, there’s nothing like a physical burial plot to fill a void.

“It’s a personal experience,” she said. “It helps you feel more connected to that ancestor, to that family member.”

Smith knew her relative died somewhere in Simpson County.

Within the last week, she found exactly where, thanks to Andy McMillon, an accomplished cemetery hunter, who happens to live in Simpson County.

Last week, McMillon discovered a lost cemetery on private land, named Husbands Cemetery, deep in the woods.

“The last time the cemetery was seen by anybody that documented it was in 1972, I believe,” he said.

Among the photos he took of the headstones and uploaded to www.findagrave.com was that of William Robert Coleman.

Even though the marker was broken and the name wasn’t shown, Smith immediately knew it was his.

“His date of birth and date of death are clearly engraved in the bottom half of the stone,” she said. “And as soon as I saw it, I knew who it was because he died on my birthday. I was just so happy, very touched. I got choked up.”

That’s exactly why McMillon wants to re-discover abandoned cemeteries like this one.

“When these people died, somebody that cared about them, somebody that loved them put them someplace where they would always be remembered,” he said. “And then the communities moved away from them, and when the communities moved, then those people were lost to time.”

Smith said a big lesson for everyone can learn through this story is to never give up and added she is planning to go visit that grave site as soon as possible.

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