I visited a friend in New York State over the weekend and had the pleasure of introducing him to findagrave.com. We visited a number of old cemeteries, both small and mid-sized, and he experienced the thrill of fulfilling a photo request.
I found that cemeteries dot the landscape with surprising frequency for such a rural area. We were able to make a dent in a number of photo requests and increased the overall percentage of stones photographed for a number of locations. Even better, I think my friend may have caught the findagrave bug!
One of my favorite stones was this bronze marker indicating the relationship between everyone in a large family plot. If only everyone had these!
Many findagrave.com members have heard that a new version of the website was forthcoming. The beta version has arrived and members have been testing it out and sending in feedback about the site. I had taken a cursory look a few weeks ago, but I came across a recent Facebook post bemoaning the design of the new site complete with plenty of gang-on comments complaining about the design and features and I had to take a second, more in-depth look.
I’ve talked before about how to research burials at Fernwood Cemetery in Lansdowne, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. One of the things I always stress to people researching burials there is to take the time to contact the cemetery office—via phone or mail—to inquire about burials and to hopefully receive valuable genealogical information.
The office staff is very helpful and will give you the location of a burial within the cemetery (section and plot) and will provide a cemetery and section map via mail. If you ask nicely, they will likely also send you a photocopy of the burial ledger which indicates:
- The first and last name of each individual buried in the plot, with middle initial if known
- Age at death
- Burial date
- Location of the grave within the plot
- Name of the lot owner
- And sometimes, extra details such as whether there is a stone, size or shape of the lot, etc.
The image above is a cropped version of one of these burial ledger sheets. You can often discover new ancestors—or at least new mysteries to research—by obtaining these records. Many cemeteries will provide this information, sometimes for free and sometimes for a small fee, if you’re willing to make the call or spend the spare change on a stamp.
At the end of September I spent a week in Vermont. Before the trip, I took a look at local cemeteries on Findagrave.com and picked a few to visit in between days spent mountain biking and enjoying the local scenery.
My first visit was to Woodmont Cemetery in East Burke, VT. I spent an hour or two there taking photos and getting a feel for the place and then returned again a few days later to finish as much as I could. When I started the cemetery was 54% photographed. After uploading all of my photos including new memorials the final tally was 74% photographed.
I spent one afternoon at Hillside Cemetery in West Burke, VT. This lovely cemetery was smaller than Woodmont and is uniquely situated at the top of a steep road on a high plateau. Although close to the road it felt completely isolated. The starting number was 54% photographed, ending number is currently 70% although I still have many photos to upload.
My final cemetery excursion was to Saint Elizabeth Cemetery in Lyndonville, VT. I rarely visit catholic cemeteries, but this one was small and I didn’t have much time so I figured I could make a decent dent. The starting number was 14% photographed and the ending number was 37% photographed.
I’ve talked about Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia before. I don’t have any of my own ancestors buried here, but the cemetery still draws me in. It spans a few hundred acres, straddling Philadelphia and Delaware Counties via Cobbs Creek Parkway. There are 1,000s and 1,000s of people buried here, poor and rich, unknown and famous. Many, many veterans–including those from the Civil War–are buried at Mount Moriah as well.
The cemetery was abandoned in 2011, leaving countless families wondering what would become of their loved one’s final resting place. It’s amazing to step from urban Southwest Philly, past the gates, and into this oasis of rolling hills and often jungle-like overgrowth of vines, trees, rose bushes, and invasive knotweed. It quickly becomes hard to believe you are standing within a huge East Coast city. It’s beautiful, but it was neglected for many decades before being abandoned.
There is a dedicated group of volunteers fighting to take back the cemetery. They are working hard to show the cemetery the respect it deserves–to give all the people interred here the respect of a well kept burial site.
So often genealogists are excited to find an ancestor’s burial spot…we make requests on findagrave, visit the cemeteries when we can, and keep searching. We hope for burial records, plot cards, and visible headstones with vital information. What do we give back?
You can help save Mount Moriah Cemetery. Even if a donation to this particular project doesn’t excite you, I urge you to take a look at the organizations working in your area to preserve history and pitch in what you can. I can guarantee you, even $5 will help these organizations.
Ok, so this isn’t technically a tombstone, but there are stones hidden beyond this piece of railing!
Taken October 28, 2013 at Mount Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA.
I’m not related or otherwise researching George W. Hawkins, just thought this was an interesting monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery.