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 photograph has been one of my favorites for some time now. Left to right we have: Mary W. (Rulon) Marnie, William Rulon Marnie, and Edwin T. Marnie. William was born in 1909, so this photo was taken within a few years.
One of the things I love about this photo is that Mary Marnie is smiling. There are a handful of photos of her, but very few where she’s smiling. I always think she looks so serious, but in this case she looks content.
The other thing I love is the detail visible in their clothing, from Mary’s lacy, ruffled sleeves and jewelry to Edwin’s pinstripe suit, shirt collar, and shoes.
Details that give insight into what someone’s life was actually like is perhaps the most important part of research to me. Vital statistics are great, but the details provide the color.
I’m not related or otherwise researching George W. Hawkins, just thought this was an interesting monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery.
City Directories are the “phone books” of old and there are many freely available online or via subscription sites like ancestry.com. A city directory most often contains residents listed in alpha order, with their occupation and address.
It’s easy to take the basic information and construct a timeline. I made this quick one in Powerpoint. Perhaps the most interesting thing for me was discovering that Rebecca Marnie briefly moved from Philadelphia to Camden. The timeline is also helping to make some assumptions about when she died, but now I have a new location to search as well.
Do you use City Directories in your research?
Want to know the best way to locate your ancestor at Fernwood Cemetery in Lansdowne, PA? Call the cemetery office at 610-623-0333 or send them a letter via snail mail at: 6501 Baltimore Avenue, Lansdowne, PA 19050. Getting a response via snail mail can take some time, but if you don’t have long distance or live outside the U.S. it will only cost you a stamp or two.
This seems like pretty simple advice, particularly for those researching their families, but you’d be surprised at the number of folks on Fernwood’s FindaGrave.com page that don’t take this one small step.
As a photo volunteer, the quickest way to get my attention is by providing section and plot information with your request. Why? It’s a large cemetery, there’s always at least 200 photo requests waiting, the office is only open for part of the day on Saturday and is closed on Sunday (the two days I’m most likely to be fulfilling requests), and I don’t want to push my luck with the nice folks in the office by asking for 10 lookups. If I happen to be at Fernwood on a Saturday during office hours I might pop in to ask for 1 or 2 lookups—that is if there isn’t a funeral that day and the staff isn’t otherwise busy.
You’ll be rewarded for your efforts, dear researcher, I promise! Fernwood Cemetery will send you a photocopy of the burial ledger for the entire plot related to the person you’re asking about. Consider the goldmine of information that could await you! Each entry includes the person’s name, approximate age at death, and burial date. Especially helpful if there’s no stone at the plot—which is the case for the Frickers, below:
Fricker – Section 50, Lot 613
Happenstance. I connected with someone on Facebook who is researching the Rulon family in NJ and PA. Not the same direct family group as me, but she sent along a few newspaper clippings that relate to my research of the William Batten Rulon and Ann Wagner Ottey Rulon family.
One piece was an obituary from 1907 for Catherine Ware that indicated her funeral services would be at the home of her niece, Mrs. William B. Rulon of 1516 South 8th Street (Philadelphia).