CAN-ONT-SIMCOE-L ArchivesArchiver > CAN-ONT-SIMCOE > 2008-02 > 1202572474
From: Pam Tessier <>
Subject: Re: [CAN-ONT-SIMCOE] Cemetery Records and value of this list.
Date: Sat, 09 Feb 2008 10:54:34 -0500
References: <!~!UENERkVCMDkAAQACAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAABgAAAAAAAAAGZa0+8s9QkuQWO4PvqBoAEKCAAAQAAAAveR29FfN5U+BxLgYGYAVlwEAAAAA@shaw.ca><BAYC1-PASMTP14FF7935F6BFC506EC417CEB380@CEZ.ICE><003d01c85eab$af491500$0c02a8c0@homecomputer> <BAYC1-PASMTP0541611FC86AFEA92BF126EB2F0@CEZ.ICE><firstname.lastname@example.org>
While we are discussing missing cemetery markers and records and since I
have recently been taken to task over the inscription on a marker on our
website’s database, it is a good time to remind people of a few things.
I will use our the RC cemetery in Penetanguishene as an example but bear
in mind most of what I write will apply to other early cemeteries as well.
Records are scanty or non-existent. The operation of cemeteries came
under provincial government regulations in the last century, not the
1800s, and record keeping was very good or very poor up to that time.
Far too often the custodian was hired because it required brawn to dig
graves. Brains and education were not required for a morbid job most
people would rather not have been involved with. If these men, often
illiterate, were also required to keep records, they were kept in their
heads and passed on to the next generation of gravediggers before they
died. Nothing went down on paper, but ask the fellow where so and so was
buried and he could point it out. This was sufficient - as long as he
Grave markers were expensive. Where it became complicated was when the
family chose not to mark the gravesite or, more often than not, just
could not afford a marker. Occasionally, if it came to food on the
table, then granny’s marker just had to wait – sometimes too long. No
marker is erected, the custodian dies and the result is the descendants,
like you and me, cannot locate the burial site. Or a marker made of wood
or soft stone deteriorates, falls to the ground and over the years
becomes covered with grass and weeds.
Cemeteries move. The St. Ann’s cemetery was moved from the hub of the
town to a location thought to be far enough removed to allow expansion
of the business area. In the 1880s when the move was being arranged,
newspaper notices appeared asking the families to come forward and claim
the tombstones so they could be put on the new graves down the street.
Needless to say, there were a hundred reasons why families ignored the
request and the new graves were without a marker but someone, years
later, had lovely old paving stones for their garden path. And did all
the bones get moved? Where they as thorough moving the bodies as they
could have been? Stories abound in small towns and I will not repeat
them but suffice it to say, your 5X gr-grandfather may not be where he
was originally interred.
Church burial records more often than not did not include burial
information. They are a religious record only and while they may mention
in which cemetery the body was placed, they do not record the exact
location. After all, that was the job of the custodian/grave digger, not
the priest. Cemetery boards collected monies for the upkeep of the grave
site but very often, and certainly in the case of St. Ann’s, nothing in
the records specifies who is buried in the plot. The person paying the
yearly charge may or may not have been related. I am sure there are
church cemeteries that operated differently, and bless their souls if
Locations of very early graves are sometimes impossible to locate.
Gidley’s Farm, for example, is difficult to locate today unless you are
prepared to spend hours in land records and know exactly which Gidley’s
Farm. And my guess is even then you won’t have an exact location.
Consecrated or holy ground needed only the priest’s or minister’s blessing.
Study the history of the cemetery. It will often give you an explanation
of why you can’t find their gravesite. Even if you can’t find the burial
location, one thing you can be very certain of is their fate.
And please don’t give me what-for because the transcribers did their
best to decipher a worn stone and got the spelling of your ancestor’s
name wrong! And yes, I know lots of interesting cemetery stories so not
much surprises me.
Some of the volunteers from the Museum were privileged to visit a
traditional Aboriginal burial site still in operation today. Their
ancestors are buried within a natural setting – trees, weeds, wild flowers.
My own gr-gr-grandfather (Ireland to Canada, 1829) rests in a cemetery
with over 100,000 grave sites. I watch where I walk when I visit -
somewhere in that cemetery he is buried.
I am content in the fact that although I can’t find his burial location,
he rests well and peacefully with nature.
|Re: [CAN-ONT-SIMCOE] Cemetery Records and value of this list. by Pam Tessier <>|