Saturday, October 25, 2014

HOW TO DISSECT A CEMETERY











have numerous ancestors buried in Green Lawn Cemetery, New Hartford, Oneida County, New York, so I decided to study my family burials in this cemetery in greater depth. I hoped to discover people I might have missed, other individuals who married into the family, etc. The following is a list of the steps I took and some suggestions for future research.

STEP 1 – MAKE A CHART

I started with a chart that looked like this: 



STEP 2 – TRANSCRIBE INFORMATION FROM PHOTOGRAPHS OF GRAVESTONES

I have been to this cemetery many times and have taken photographs of every person I think could be remotely related to me.  From the photographs, I entered information into the chart. I listed the deceased individuals in order of death. The earliest deaths were listed first. As I proceeded, I added footnotes documenting where I located the information.

If you don’t have photographs of gravestones for your ancestors in a particular cemetery, jump to Step 3.

STEP 3 – GO TO FINDAGRAVE AND LOCATE THE CEMETERY. THEN DO A SEARCH FOR SURNAMES OF INTEREST

I then went to Find A Grave (www.findagrave.com) and selected Cemetery Search. I clicked the drop down box and selected New York, then Oneida County and then Search. From the resulting list I chose Green Lawn Cemetery.  Once I found that, I entered one of my surnames and received a list of all the people with that surname buried in that cemetery. I then compared the results with my chart.  You can also check out Billion Graves (http://billiongraves.com) and add their information, if it differs.  

STEP 4 – GO TO INTERMENT.NET AND ADD ADDITIONAL INFORMATION SUCH AS SECTION NUMBER AND RELATIONSHIPS

I then went to Interment.net (http://www.interment.net/data/us/ny/oneida/greenlawn/index.htm). Here I found information items such as the section in which someone was buried and sometimes notes about their family. I entered this information into my chart. As a general rule, families are buried together unless the purchased cemetery lot runs out of room. In that case, additional family members may be buried in the same cemetery in a newer section. By looking at the section numbers, you may be able to guess possible family relationships.

STEP 5 – GO TO OLD FULTON NY POSTCARDS, CHRONICLING  AMERICA OR ANY OF THE MANY HISTORIC NEWSPAPER WEBSITES

At this point my chart was several pages long. My next step was to see if I could find newspaper articles about the deaths of the people on my chart.  The death dates were all conveniently in order.  As I discovered death notices or obituaries, I entered the information onto my chart, again being sure to footnote my sources. 



STEP 6 – CHECK DEATHINDEXES.COM

I then went to the Online Searchable Death Indexes & Records available at http://www.deathindexes.com. New information was added to my chart. 

STEP 7—VISIT LEGACY.COM

I then searched Legacy.com (www.legacy.com) for the individuals who had died in the recent past. There is even a guest book where loved ones can add comments.  If you are lucky, you will find a photograph.




I now have a wonderful chart of my Marsh, Cutler and Park ancestors as well as collateral relatives (Cullen, Garnsey and Kaelin) in that cemetery. As I find more information, I can add to this master list. By getting organized, I surprised myself. I found new people to add to my tree, and I was able to add details to existing individuals.

Once you have your basic chart filled in with the above “free” information, you can then supplement the data in countless ways. The chart can be expanded with more columns or you can simply add additional information into the miscellaneous category. You could even attach a map of the cemetery.

Here are some ways to add more information to your chart:

  • Obtain death certificates.
  • Visit the cemetery and note the condition/type of stone, neighboring stones, etc.
  • Contact the cemetery sexton.
  • See if you can find church records for death information. Check FamilySearch.org.
  • Search the Social Security Death Index, which is located on Ancestry.com, GenealogyBank.com, FamilySearch.org, Stevemorse.org and elsewhere.
  • If you have a subscription to Ancestry.com, do searches in the “Death, Burial, Cemetery & Obituaries” database.
  • Explore the Family History Catalog (https://familysearch.org/catalog-search) for cemeteries in your place of interest. If you find something promising, order the microfilm. Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution often compiled cemetery records, and those records were frequently filmed.  You may find information in their records that is no longer available. With time, gravestones sometimes sink into the earth or disappear entirely. Cemeteries can be vandalized and gravestones can be destroyed.
  • Check out The USGenWeb Project (http://usgenweb.org) to see if they have cemetery records for your area of interest.
  • Contact local historical and genealogical societies. They often have files on the various cemeteries in their area.
  • Contact libraries near the cemetery to see if they have cemetery books.
  • Contact local funeral homes to see if they allow access to records of persons buried in that cemetery.
  • And don’t forget home sources, such as Bibles, funeral cards, scrapbook entries, etc.

This would be a fun project for you to do over the long winter.  And once you finish one cemetery, there are many more to go!



ILLUSTRATIONS BY:

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, 1200 Ornamental Letters, 2007.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, Trees & Leaves, 2004.

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