Dear Ancestor


The following poem was sent to me by Peter Burrows of Annapolis, MD.  Unfortunately this poem has been used rather harshly by genealogists and others who have tried to change it to make it their own and then putting the author as ‘unknown’.  Peter sent this to me several years ago and I always intended it for my book.  Enjoy !


Dear Ancestor

Your tombstone stands among the rest
Neglected and alone
The name and date are chiseled out
On polished marble stone
It reaches out to all who care
It is too late to mourn

You did not know that I exist
You died and I was born
Yet each of us are cells of you
In flesh and blood and bone
Our blood contracts and beats a pulse
Entirely not our own

Dear Ancestor. the place you filled
One hundred years ago
Spreads out among the ones you left
Who would have loved you so
I wonder how you lived and loved
I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find this spot
And come to visit you.

(Peter writes)

"Lovely poem.  It was written in 1906 by Walter Butler Palmer (1868-1932). Walter Palmer was a family historian, breeder of trotting and show horses, and an accomplished poet.
He was born at Prairie Center, LaSalle Co. IL and
lived in that county for his entire life. 
During WWI he was in charge of
breeding horses for the U. S. Calvary and at that time
Capt. Palmer was stationed at Spartanburg, SC..
Much of his poetry was written about horses, but some about genealogy and his interest in family history.
The occasion of the poem which you sight was a
visit which he made in the summer of 1906 to the grave of his great
grandfather, Ephraim Palmer (1760-1852)
located at Kishwaukee Cemetery, Rockford, IL."

"Tragically, Walter Palmer was killed in a horse accident
on June 6, 1932 at Ottawa, IL. 
Fortunately he had written many hundreds of poems up to that
time, and most are preserved today in a small book of his poetry "Heart Throbs and Hoof Beats." which was published in the 1920's. Mr. Palmer, prior to 1932, had also completed an extensive family history of his long line of Butlers going back to Nicholas, and to Martha's Vineyard) and his Palmer
ancestors going back to our own Lieutenant William Palmer & Judith Feake of Plymouth Rock, Plymouth, Massachusetts."
My warmest regards to you Fern. Peter Burrows, Annapolis, MD

 Peter is a fellow genealogist, friend and Palmer cousin who has made more than one trip to the Naval Academy on my behalf.  Peter and I have also had many heated discussions in regard
to the infamous Lieutenant William Palmer whom we both descend from.  William's father was present at the very first Thanksgiving dinner at Plimouth/Plymouth Rock and it is a story I tell my two Grandsons every Thanksgiving.  So far they have been polite enough not to tell me that they have heard the story before. 
It makes for good eye rolling though.