Old and/or abandoned cemeteries

I am interested in my family history but it’s my youngest sister who has done the most work, organizing documents, pictures, and other materials on some of our different family lines.

This past weekend, when she and my BIL went northeast on an eclipse trip, we left a day early to look up gravesites for some ancestors. The first stop was in Springfield Illinois cemetery, the same one where Lincoln is buried. It’s huge, and typically of such large sites there are newer parts and much older sections. Sis was looking in an older section, for a two greats grandparent. It’s kind of sad. The grass is cut and all but in such an old area many stones were unreadable, or tipped over and broken. The person being sought was not found.

So on to Decatur, and while this place was much smaller we still didn’t find who we were looking for. Again many stones were in a decrepit state, but more were clearer.

On Monday morning we had arrived in Indiana and thanks to GPS a tiny little place way out in the country was located. It was about the size of a nice front yard. Officially it had the name of the ancestor we were looking for, a four greats grandfather. But this place was the saddest of all. It was totally abandoned. There probably hadn’t been a burial there in a hundred years. The short slate rock walls were tumbled in places, and only a few of the larger markers were legible. Many were tilted or broken. But we finally found this one gentleman we were searching for, although his wife, who was supposed to be there too, we did not see. His stone was tilted some but was leaning up against the short wall and so had not been broken, We left some flowers, probably the first tim in a hundred and fifty years to grave had been decorated.

I’ve been in a number of old cemeteries and like reading the wording of things on the grave, but this place had something we hadn’t seen before. On two or three larger markers that could be read, the wife, if it was a couples stone, was referred to as the man’s “consort” Has anyone else ever seen that?

The final place was almost as sad as the one above, but it was not so isolated. So out of four searches only one was successful, but at least we had that one.

Yesterday I went out to a cemetery here in Topeka that is the first cemetery registed in the city. It is huge too, although maybe not as large as Springfield was. There is a couple there who are three greats grandparents of mine. The husband was the son of that four greats guy we did find. Now I want to read up on cleaning stones. Theirs is worn and somewhat mossy, but thankfully intact.

When I die I will be interred in a small country cemetery in a county west of here. There are a good number of family members there, but none with my name, as they are all in family lines on my mother’s side. But the couple I will be beside are great grandparents, descendants of the father and son I mentioned above.

Does anyone else find old cemeteries interesting? I like the different styles of stones, and the engravings fascinating. A lamb on top of a stone usually indicates the grave of a child… The place I am going is still active, although burials started there in the 1870’s

What do you think of cemeteries and visiting graves?

I enjoy doing so. I am into genealogy and that has led me to visit some very remote gravesites in places like Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. I’ve collected a lot of pics and a few gravestone rubbings as a result. I also use findagrave.com to locate and virtually visit cemeteries I haven’t gotten to in person yet.

Before Google, I found it useful to visit local funeral homes; they could give me directions to where all the cemeteries in the area were.

The cemetery nearest to my home has two sets of my 3xg grandparents, one set of 2xg grandparents, and my parents in it. The Mrs. and I have our plots waiting for us there.

I’ve mentioned this here before, but some of my ancestors were buried in their family graveyard on their farm, only to have the city of Greenville, SC grow up around it. If you zoom in on that satellite image, the patch of trees immediately below the question mark icon is the location of the graveyard.

I enjoy visiting old cemeteries. There are plenty of really old ones here in Massachusetts, and a lot of really tiny ones stuck betwen house, or next to the highways.

There’s a very old cemetery behind what used to be the public library in my home town in NJ (now a history museum), with some classic carvings. Apparently they had cleaned it out shortly before my time, but by the time I was usiung the library it had overgrown again. A fascinating place to visit.

A few years ago they used ground-penetrating sonar to examine the cemetery grounds, and found a very large number of unmarked graves – the ground was packed tight withrials you never would have guessed were there. They later went on to another cemetery in town and examined one corner with no markers where they thought a lot of victims of the 1918 flue epidemic had been buried. It turned out to be coirrect – lots of unmarked burial concentrated in a small region.

So not all the burials may be marked, and some markers may be moved (as H.P. Lovecraft has a character remark in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Something to remember if you go in for a bit of necromancy.

The first wedding I officiated was in an inactive/historic cemetery, on Halloween, with all participants in costume. The bride and groom arrived in a (rented) hearse. It was ~30 years ago and the couple is still happily married.

After pronouncing the couple husband and wife I signed their marriage certificate. A reporter got a picture of me, a vampire, signing the document on a headstone.

Using that website I have seen a picture of the farthest back ancestor the family knows about. The guy and his wife came to this side of the Atlantic in 1722, when he was forty-one. They had eight kids, seven of which had kids and they spread out all over. One grandson had the distinction of getting courtmartialed during the Revolutionary War, but his sentence was commuted because there was such a great need for soldiers. He’s my many greats grandfather. During a show on PBS I saw a woman who has that family name and contacted her by email at the university where she is a professor. It’s her husband’s name and he is into family history. Turns out he is descended from another son of that initial couple, we worked it out that we are seventh cousins once removed. And yet another son had a descendant who was prominent in national and state government in the latter 1880’s. We would be third cousions five times removed.

40 years ago, these four blocks bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Napoleon & 25th were a wooded area with plenty of dirt trails. I went biking on the trails one dry afternoon – being in a New Orleans suburb, it got swampy after rain – and found a lone burial site.

No idea whose or what happened to it after being developed.

I find cemeteries fascinating for reasons I can’t really explain. I think it’s because cemeteries are the last connections we have to our friends and family that have passed and its a sign, usually, of our humanity that we the living try to show respect by keeping and maintaining cemeteries. Again, usually.

My wife has an aunt that is buried in an unmarked grave. Her daughter did not have the money to buy even a small, simple headstone so she simply never received one. I think my wife’s grandmother is also in an unmarked grave for similar reasons. I find this deeply disrespectful as it wasn’t what they wanted or asked for. My grandparents, OTOH, had their ashes spread on a very remote piece of private land on the west flank of Mt. Hood that is not publicly accessible. I’ll never be able to visit that location again. However, that’s ok as it’s what they wanted.

My mother’s ashes will be spread this summer on the bank of the river on which she lived for 36 years. When my dad passes he will join her. My wife and I will at the end of this month visit some places on the coast where we’ve talked about having our ashes spread, namely the cliffs of Shore Acres or the south side of Cape Blanco. We’ll make a decision afterward.

The oldest cemeteries we have here locally date only to the 1870’s. There are a few that have illegible headstones or are overgrown and in disrepair but most are well-kept and treated with respect. I visit them with some regularity although I have no family on my side buried anywhere locally – the closest is in Salem, a long-distant grandmother. The rest of my family are buried in Montana. My wife has a lot of family buried locally but her family doesn’t place much emphasis on burials or cemeteries or respect for the dead (which explains why they don’t care about the two unmarked graves I noted above) so we don’t visit her ancestors. It’s actually kind of sad.

My maternal grandparents are buried in a private cemetery in Montana that was once family property but now is owned by someone who will not allow access or further internments. It’s caused a lot of bitterness in the family but there isn’t much we can do about it. I visited that cemetery a lot as a child but now only have my memories to cherish. My mom wanted to have her ashes spread there but that is now not an option.

There’s a grave in the cemetery where I will go that had a broken stone but somebody propped it up and cemented it together. This young woman died at 21 and there is nobody else in the cemetery with her surname. My guess is she was a young wife. There is a carving of clasped hands and the inscription reads, Amanda, you have gone frome me but are not forgotten. So I bet a young husband lost her, thought he would grieve always, but of course he remarried and is located elsewhere now. Each year when we visit I put a flower on her grave. I will be in the same spot, the only person with my surname in the cemetery. I already have my stone up, and on the back I had three surnames carved, for the families there I am related to.

This is the situation with the lone family member I have buried (that I know of) here in Oregon. She was born in Scotland and immigrated with her husband. She died in 1865 at age 37, along with her infant son. Perhaps they both died in childbirth? I don’t know. But the husband remarried and they had kids and started the present family line. I don’t know where he’s buried or indeed what happened to much of that family line. My grandmother did not get along with her siblings so I don’t know much about them.

I find old cemeteries fascinating as well, for their historic value as well as for the visceral reminder that none of us will escape the grave.

Years ago I went camping in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s the most visited National Park, and the easily accessible areas of it were insanely crowded. But we spent several days in the Cataloochee Valley section of the park, which is only reachable by a narrow winding gravel road with no guardrail and steep dropoffs, so it’s much less visited. In that valley is an old town that was abandoned when the locals were relocated after the area became a National Park. There are several houses, an old church and a barn that we explored, with no one else around. Also, up on at least two different hills on the outskirts of the old town, we found small graveyards. Very moving and spooky, finding gravestones in this forlorn, abandoned area, under trees thick enough to make it dark and shadowy even on a sunny day.

Much more recently, my wife and I did a walking tour with another couple of Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit; not at all abandoned but certainly old. The tour guide shared a history of the old-line families that helped build the city of Detroit well before it became the Motor City, which are now not much more than mostly forgotten carved names on mausoleums. There are a number of graves of another well-to-do Ford family that were part of the growth of Detroit in the 1800s, not related to Henry Ford. It was also the site of The Battle of Bloody Run, when the British occupied Detroit. British soldiers tried to ambush Chief Pontiac and his army, but they were ready and a local creek ran red with the blood of British soldiers. The guide had a nice creepy little story about taking a break between tours near the creek, and thought she heard the ghosts of the British soldiers talking to her when no visitors were around.

I love them. Out here in the woods of Arkansas there are very many small cemeteries.

Most are extended family or old church side grave yards.

I have a cemetery myself. Room to Let, so to say…if you’re in need. Just let me know. I’ll mark you out a spot. :smirk:

My gf and a coworker went to London for a week. They spent their time there visiting pubs and graveyards. Had a great time. Don’t tell her, but I kinda wish I went (I prefer Caribbean beach vacations).

Oakland and Westview cemeteries in Atlanta both have a number of beautiful old graves.

Gilbert Cemetery is in an I-75 cloverleaf. (though it may not actually contain the graves)

A mausoleum exists in a walmart parking lot.

And there are two at Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

I drive past a number of small cemeteries around town when I’m running errands and such. These are the ones that fascinate me.

I was also always fascinated by the Brainerd Mission Cemetery in Chattanooga, now maintained by the National Park Service

If you’re looking for beautiful cemeteries with graves of interesting people, two I recommend are Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge MA and Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester NY.

Mt. Auburn has Louis Agassiz, Charles Bulfinch, Edwin Booth, John Ciardi, Mary Baker Eddy, Fannie Farmer, Buckminster Fuller, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Winslow Homer, Henry Cabot Lodge (junior and senior), Francis Parkman, B.F. Skinner, and a host of others

My. Hope in Rochester is really located on a hill. It’s got Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb (as in Bausch & Lomb), the cremated remains of George Eastman (founder of Kodak), anbd a host of local celebrities.

Homepage - Laurel Hill Cemetery (laurelhillphl.com)

laurel hill is in that cemetery crowd. gorgeous cemetery with calder sculptures and tiffany windows.

Green-Wood – National Historic Landmark in Brooklyn, NY

there was an sdmb event that took a tour of greenwood then had lunch.

I’m not that interested in cemeteries. I’m not particularly religious or spiritual or anything that would make me ask for anyone to keep my body parts around for any length of time and the idea has just always seemed odd to me. I have no drive to “visit” anyone’s graves.

My instructions amount to “donate what you can to whoever wants it, and burn the rest or otherwise discard as you see fit”.

There are beautifully laid out cemeteries that make lovely parks … except for all the graves. I’d just rather they were parks instead! I’ve visited a few at various times and lived across from one years ago, which gave us a lovely view of a “park”. I can appreciate that others like them and feel a sense of connection but I simply don’t.

I’m also not very interested in genealogy. History in general is cool; I like learning about various individuals and their stories, but I tend to feel the same learning about anyone with a good story than about someone “related” to me several generations ago.

Ah, but I learn a lot of history by studying genealogy. Like the courtmartialed ancestor, and WHY he was courtmartialed. As it happens he was rabidly Protestant and when Lafayette brought in French soldiers he didn’t want to fight with them, being as they were Catholic. And I was impelled to look up more about Andersonville, as a two greats grandfather was a POW there. And I have read the family letters my ex’s family wrote back and forth, with them making comments they hoped their pay was late again, so they’d have an excuse to desert. They were Confederates.

For what it’s worth, sometimes if you can’t read a gravestone directly, you can still read a crayon rubbing of it.

My Father’s sister spent several years researching our family. This was decades before the internet.

She spent vacations traveling to small town libraries (their newspaper archive) and cemeteries.

She mentioned dates on headstones can be unreliable. The birth date is what a family member or friend thought was correct. It’s important to get the person’s birth certificate for accuracy.

Cemeteries are a great starting point for genealogy.