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.
One of the cemeteries I visited while in Vermont this past September was Lakeside. The cemetery is situated on the downward slope of a hill that looks out over a beautiful lake. It seemed many of the oldest burials were at the top closest to the road, with newer sections laid out below.
Before I began photographing, the findagrave.com stats were:
After I finished uploading all of the photos, the stats were:
While I didn’t end up adding too many new memorials—thanks to other volunteers who had already created many of them—I’m pleased to have increased the total photographed memorials from 10% to 30%. Not bad for a few hours of work!
Earlier this year, my husband and I visited a cemetery in Northeast Philadelphia so I could fulfill some findagrave.com photo requests. It was a beautiful, mid-sized cemetery that is still in active use. The place was filled with more azaleas than I’ve ever seen in one place—it was absolutely beautiful.
As we left, we drove past the entrance to another NE Philly cemetery called Greenwood. I didn’t know much about it, so I spent some time researching and then planned a visit with a friend to check it out.
Greenwood, also known as Knights of Pythias, opened in 1869. In more recent years, the cemetery became quite overgrown—a plight many of Philadelphia’s historic cemeteries have faced. Despite this, burials were still happening and the cemetery was bought in the early 2000s by a company wishing to build a crematorium on the grounds. A Friends group of concerned citizens was formed around this time.
Fast forwarding to 2008, a majority share of the cemetery was bought by a holding company of the hospital which is situated past the back end of the property. This entity has worked to restore the cemetery—removing trash and debris, righting fallen headstones, refinishing metal markers, etc. However, they also relocated well over 2,000 burials from the back of the cemetery to the front in a mass grave. There is now a large memorial featuring granite slabs carved with the names of those moved.
Most of the names are preserved, but most of the original headstones are gone. There are some lined up behind the memorial and still others left lined up in the overgrowth at the back of the cemetery. For genealogists and others seeking information on their ancestors, the lack of stones is a detriment—gone are full birth dates, place of birth or death, and familial connections. I understand what a burden it can be to try and care for a cemetery that has been neglected, but I still fill the sting for those with family buried here.
There are still many stones covered with bamboo, small trees, and vines. Perhaps a second visit in winter is in order.
This week I visited Lyndon Center Cemetery in Lyndon, Vermont. From findagrave.com, I knew there were at least several thousand burials here (likely more).
I made a quick visit to get an idea of the scope and figure out how much I might be able to photograph on subsequent visits. I brought my dog with me as the cemetery rules allow leashed dogs. I struggled to take many pictures with an excited dog in tow, but I took a few snaps that gave the general lay of the land.
Lydon Center Cemetery begins at the bottom of a hill and gently slopes upward before reaching a small plateau. From there, the cemetery landscape rises at a sharper angle, with small terraced plots. I have no idea how they keep it mowed, but it’s a beautiful place.
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.
For those that are attempting to photograph an entire cemetery, how do you keep track of what you’ve completed?
I have been working section by section to photograph all of Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill, PA. It often takes multiple visits to complete a single section and I know where I’ve left off by sight and the name on the stone of the row I need to start.
When I had completed enough that I wanted to track my overall progress, I took a copy of the cemetery map and shaded in the areas that I’ve completed. Does anyone have better methods?