It’s been a while since I shared a post about my family research, and although this cemetery visit was a couple of months ago I’ve been meaning to sit down and write about it since March! I went to Daylesford for the Labor Day long weekend this year. About half an hour from Daylesford is a small town named Learmonth where I believed one of my ancestors, John Rankin, to be buried. I had already seen two photos of the grave on the Australian Cemeteries website, but as you can see from this photo it wasn’t possible to make out the full text on the headstone. The information recorded on the Australian Cemeteries listing was only partial, and it seemed very likely this was my John Rankin, but I couldn’t be sure from what was available online.
Being so close it was a great opportunity to stop in and visit the cemetery and visit his grave in person.
We arrived at the cemetery not knowing exactly where the grave was located but having a rough idea what it looked like from the photo above. Fortunately, although the site of the cemetery is reasonably large, there isn’t an impossible number of graves there so we were able to walk through the rows scanning for a grave which looked similar to the grave photographed online. We knew we were looking for a double plot which was missing its iron fencing, and the tombstone itself had broken and would by lying on the ground.
After about 20 minutes of searching the cemetery I found it, buried on the edge of the Church of England section. Someone had tended to the grave since it had been photographed on Australian Cemeteries, as the broken pieces of the gravestone had been moved and pieced together. Still difficult to read, we were able to discern the letters and read the message below:
To the memory of
Late of Ballachulish Argyleshire
Died July 8th 1877
Aged 51 years
I already knew from John’s son’s marriage certificate that his wife’s name was Sarah Fraser, and from his daughter’s birth certificate I knew the family had lived in Learmonth. I had found an entry for a death in the Victorian Registry (#1877/8529) for a John Rankin, spouse to Sarah Fraser, who died at the age of 52 and was from “Aygyleshire [sic]”. This seemed a likely match, but then seeing the tombstone in the Learmonth cemetery, where I know the family lived, and with dates and details matching this death record, I’m now certain this is his death record.
Having confirmed his date of death, I’ve since been able to locate an entry with the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) containing his will and probate. I was interested to learn he owned, with the help of a bank, two farms which were to be sold upon his death and used to set up a trust to support his wife and educate his children. Now I’m trying to work out when his wife and family moved from Learmonth to Melbourne, and find out what happened to his wife Sarah, who isn’t buried with him despite the double plot. The search continues!