Saturday, December 9, 2023

I Found Sarah Kirk’s Missing Footstone

I found my fifth great-grandmother Sarah (Bonar) Kirk’s missing footstone!

While researching Sarah and her husband Thomas Kirk’s genealogy in the 1990s, Donald and Theresa Kirk (4th cousins twice removed) traveled to Licking County, Ohio and photographed their graves in the Beard-Green Cemetery. At that time, both Thomas and Sarah’s headstones were already cracked in half. Thomas’ headstone had metal brackets clamping the two pieces together. Unfortunately, the upper portion of Sarah’s headstone - with her biographical information - was missing. 

Thomas and Sarah (Bonar) Kirk's graves with their original stones broken in half.
Author pictured in 2023.

Thomas Kirk's original headstone intact. 
Photographed by Donald and Theresa Kirk in the 1990s.

The upper piece of Sarah's headstone must have been missing for a long time because she wasn’t recorded in the two censuses of cemetery burials conducted in 1940 and again in 1970. Sarah, who died in 1835, was now buried in a nearly unmarked grave following decades of exposure to the elements.

Sarah’s grave would have been anonymous except for one clue. Donald and Theresa also photographed her original footstone. Her initials “S.K.” were carved in the stone and provided the only evidence that it was Sarah who was buried beside Thomas.  

Sarah (Bonar) Kirk's footstone pictured in the 1990s by Donald and Theresa Kirk.

When I made my first trip to the Beard-Green Cemetery in July 2017, I discovered that the upper portion of Thomas’ headstone and Sarah's footstone were now both missing. I searched for them without success.

During a subsequent visit to the cemetery in July 2020, I found the tip of a buried stone alongside the headstone for their son Vachel. Firmly embedded in the ground, I was unable to excavate it. I assumed I had discovered Sarah’s missing footstone. 

Vachel Kirk's original headstone with a stone buried alongside.

In spring 2021, I worked with a local monument company to place a new headstone for Vachel and asked that they dig up what I figured was Sarah’s long lost footstone. They were able to pull it out. Unfortunately, the stone was broken and no longer included the portion with initials. I thought we’d lost more of Sarah’s history.

The unearthed footstone (from alongside Vachel's headstone) was broken and didn't include the portion with initials. At first, I assumed it was Sarah (Bonar) Kirk's footstone.

That assumption was undone this past June. I made a speedy road trip to Licking County and stopped at Beard-Green to clean up the Kirk graves and place new flowers. While tidying around Vachel’s grave, I noticed the telltale signs of a stone buried behind his original headstone. 

In June 2023, I noticed a new stone emerging from behind Vachel's headstone.

I’ve been over that patch of ground countless times during my four previous visits and I've never seen any signs of a buried marker. Perhaps the landscaping crew had recently uncovered some topsoil that revealed a portion of the stone. I was able to unearth the rest of it and immediately spotted the initials “S.K.” 

I was stunned! I quickly realized that I had found Sarah’s footstone that was last seen in the 1990s. The 188-year-old stone was buried in the exact area where Donald and Theresa had photographed it 30 years ago.

I uncovered the stone that turned out to be Sarah (Bonar) Kirk's original footstone with her initials "S.K."

If that was Sarah’s footstone, it immediately raised the question of whose footstone I found in July 2020. Because of its location near the Kirk graves and that it’s made from the same type of stone and is approximately the same width as Sarah’s, I presume it’s Thomas’ original footstone. 

Sarah's newly discovered footstone (left) leaves me speculating that the other footstone belongs to Thomas Kirk.

I plan to work with a monument company to discuss preservation options and whether the markers can be safely reset. If you have experience with footstone restorations or recommendations, please share in the comments.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing. This is all such wonderful news! Congratulations!

  2. How exciting! I am thrilled that you found S.K. It’s a feeling that is like no other. John Beard is my 5th great-grand uncle. I’m working on my 2nd application for the Daughters of the American Revolution. I have been adding various Kirks as floating profiles to Ancestry until I can connect them to Margaret Kirk, John Beard’s wife.

    1. Hello cousin! You'll have to keep posted on your research as you make your way back to John and Margaret (Kirk) Beard.