There are many aspects of life in which one person’s actions can have an impact on strangers they will never meet. Genealogy is no exception. Moses Sweeney was my 6th-great-grandfather and the most distant relative whose grave I have seen in person. He was born in May 1734 in Antrim, (now Northern) Ireland. He migrated to America, apparently served in the Revolutionary War, and married Elizabeth Johnson about 1759 in Virginia. At some point he operated a mill on the Slate River in what is now Buckingham County, Virginia. In March 1787 Moses and his household moved from Virginia to Lincoln County, Kentucky. Moses died in the Hanging Fork Area of Lincoln County in June 1813.
This might have been the extent of my knowledge if it weren’t for two random acts. J. Harvey Sweeney, Jr., also a descendant of Moses Sweeney, painstakingly compiled the records of numerous other descendants into a 1224-page PDF file. After I purchased my own copy of the file on CD, I learned about the second random act. In 2003 Ben Johnson Sweeney of Liberty County, Kentucky, fulfilled the requirements for the rank of Eagle Scout by working to restore Moses Sweeney’s gravesite. As part of this project, a new fence was built to surround the gravesite in the middle of a field of tall Kentucky bluegrass.
In 2009, as part of our annual Illinois pilgrimage, my parents and I took a side trip to Liberty County. Following J. Harvey Sweeney’s description and maps, we found the road along which Moses’s house once stood and where he had been buried. And Ben Johnson Sweeney’s white picket fence was unmistakable; without that, we would never have found the tombstone itself. To J. Harvey and Ben, I am grateful.