Submitted Goodman and Neal's book is set for publication in October 2019, and will be available in limited quantities.


Goodman and Neal's book is set for publication in October 2019, and will be available in limited quantities.

Lafayette-born Connie Goodman is a third-generation funeral director, an upbringing she credits for one of her favorite hobbies ... cemetery hunting.

Goodman and her friend Crystal Neal recently completed a 10-year journey across every corner of Monroe County, Kentucky, to track down forgotten cemeteries and update existing information for their upcoming book release, "Monroe County Kentucky Cemeteries: Bicentennial Edition." The book is slated for an October 2019 release.

"I've met many interesting and colorful characters and been in a lot of rough territory," Goodman said. "Monroe County is full of rivers, springs, creeks and caves, and since it's between the Barren and Cumberland Rivers, territory is diverse."

Locals were often the key to finding cemetery locations, though the pair could just as often be found searching through woods, brush and brambles for headstones.

"We hit every nook and cranny," Goodman said. "There was a man right on the Allen/Monroe/Clay County line who drove me around and showed me different cemeteries. We rode in an old-style pickup truck and he had tobacco in his mouth. He was the sweetest old fellow, like a grandpa. When you engage people, you learn a lot about where they grew up."

Neal was focused mostly on driving from place to place and typed the entire book, while Goodman spent her time talking to residents and exploring some of the more dangerous areas.

"Once I got hung up in a briar patch," Goodman said. "Every part of me was stuck. I couldn't get loose, and I was afraid there'd be a snake in there. It's like boot camp. I had to kind of crawl where some smaller animals had been, and finally, I just had to pull myself loose and wound up with scratches all over my body."

Goodman also developed alpha-gal allergy after being bitten by a tick during the search, which prevents her from eating red meat or bovine-based products.

"It's been an adjustment, because I'm used to old country cooking," Goodman said. "That's been especially hard around Memorial Day, because everyone's grilling out, and you want to eat a hamburger and baked beans."

Despite these challenges, the pair was determined to finish the book in time for Monroe County's bicentennial in 2020.

"We started going through all the death certificates in the county, which go back to 1911," Goodman said. "You can only get (ones from more than 50 years ago). Since there were people in cemeteries that didn't have a tombstone … we had to find death certificates for them and cross-reference to see if they were in that cemetery."

One of the locations that stood out the most to Goodman was Gamaliel Cemetery, located on the county line near Red Boiling Springs.

"There's a row of seven crypts like a stairwell," Goodman said. "They used to bury people and put those on top to keep varmints out, and it was really cool to see."

Over the course of a decade, Goodman and Neal made several of those memories and were excited when they finally finished the project.

"It was surreal that we'd done it," Goodman said, "Five hundred pages, and we'd done it. The publisher was ecstatic, and I think a lot of people have been impressed that two ladies our age were able to get out and do all that."

Looking back, Goodman's favorite part of the journey was the sense of exploration and finding hidden memories.

"You know something is there, but when you find it you get a rush, like discovering buried treasure," Goodman said. "One time we walked every inch of this wood and couldn't find the cemetery (that was supposed to be there). I stumbled on a stone and realized we were standing in the middle of it, and that was exciting."