Preserving History in Philadelphia

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.

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Mount Moriah Cemetery & Catherine Ware

This past weekend I attended a restoration event at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia. Before work began for the day, one of the board members took me to visit Catherine Ware’s monument on the Yeadon (Delaware County) side of the cemetery.

Catherine Ware's Monument

Catherine Ware’s Monument

The plot is so overgrown that only the top half of this huge monument is visible right now. All that overgrowth is at least 5 or 6 feet high.

For comparison, consider the photo I originally posted of Ann W. Rulon standing in front of this monument. Better yet, here’s a photo of the Ware plot with the whole thing cleared. According to the Friends of Mount Moriah, this overgrowth only occurred in a few short months as the plot was cleared in the spring.

The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery are doing incredible work trying to preserve the history of this cemetery in Philadelphia. The all volunteer group are trying to win the battle against invasive plants and overgrowth.

You can learn more about the history of the cemetery and what led to the formation of the Friends of Mount Moriah on their website.

If you live in the Philadelphia area, come on out for a restoration event and help us reclaim this beautiful space! Whether near or far, I encourage everyone to consider a donation to the group. Even $5.00 puts some gas in the mowers!

Saving Family Treasures

Has genealogy research ever made you cry? In the 10 years or so I’ve been researching, there’s one experience that brought tears to my eyes, this photo album:

One thing I always asked with my husband’s parents about was photos – specifically whether or not they had any. They were able to give me some pictures, but didn’t seem to have anything old. Nothing black and white. Nothing with grandparents and beyond.

When we were cleaning out their house in preparation for a move, I uncovered a musty, ripped paper shopping bag underneath a pile of junk. Stuffed inside was a photo bonanza – this falling apart photo album of the Marnie/Rulon families (pictured) and stacks of loose black and white photos.

In the garage. In a bag. Underneath a pile of junk. I sat down in the middle of the garage and wept while looking at the photos.

I’m still trying to figure out who is who. Much of it is guess work based on the people I can identify.

Have you had this kind of experience during your own research?