I like to get an early start when I visit cemeteries in the summer as it gets HOT during the day.
My first stop of my recent research trip was Green Hill Cemetery in Waynesboro, PA. Opened in the late 1800's, by 1923 it had accepted re-internments from Union Cemetery when the church who owned Union sold the property and the new owners didn't want the bodies.
What saddens me about that decision is the property was sold from one church to another. Union meant what it said - it was the "Union" of all of the burials of the 3 churches in the town - at that time it was Evangelical Lutheran, German Baptist and Presbyterian. From histories of the area I read on GoogleBooks, I learned that in the mid 1800's there was only one church in town and that all 3 denominations used it on a rotating basis. Due to structural problems and it needing repairs, one of the churches decided to rebuild on their own. The other two continued together. By the 1920's, the two combined churches had split and the property was sold to the church who had first separated. How weird is that?! That church's former parishioners had been buried in that space for years but the church didn't want the bodies of the other denominations so part of the real estate deal was to have the seller get all the bodies moved. (I've seen this happen so many times - I'm glad I selected a City Cemetery for my own final resting place. I want a public referendum for a change!)
The selling church tried, but as was the case with the families I was researching, no local family members would have seen the newspaper notice that they needed to claim the bodies. Any body not claimed was dug up and re-interred at Green Hill in a combined location. The stones were placed on a hill, laying flat, supposedly in the same order in which they were originally placed. They are in horrible condition!
I met with the Cemetery Director and he provided me a map of the location where the old stones were kept. My dilemma was twofold. I had the names from church records that two family members were buried at Union but on Find-A-Grave, Billion Graves and the cemetery itself (I had called twice before) only one of the family members names were recorded as re-interred there.
Since I was using these people in my Kinship Determination Paper for my Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), I'm hesitant to use the real names I was researching so I'll be using some assumed names to make this understandable.
Adam Apple was in the church records as buried next to his grandson, Bart Bear. Find-A-Grave has a photo on the memorial for Bart Bear but no mention of Adam Apple. Neither are on Billion Graves. The cemetery records have only Bart Bear listed. I was told twice by cemetery personnel that they believe their database is complete as it was based on the original Union Cemetery records they had received from the church. Those records were supposedly housed in the Alexander Hamilton Free Library and the cemetery had a copy of those records since 1923.
To complicate the story, Bart Bear had a sister, Barbara Bear. The only way I knew about Barbara was from a family genealogy text that had gotten the info from a sibling of Bart and Barbara. Barbara supposedly had died as an infant, in between census years. The text has no year of birth or death. The church has no record of her. Neither does the online resources or the cemetery. Where was she buried and when?
Bart and Barbara's paternal grandfather - I'm calling him Alex Bear, and his wife Amanda Bear, are also missing from every source I've consulted. Alex's will was indexed but is missing so all I know is that it was probated in 1874 in Franklin County. I suspect he died towards the end of 1874 as the probate was in late November but I don't know that for sure. He may have been buried in Union as they still accepted internments at that time.
My mission was to answer the following:
- Why was Adam Apple not listed in the cemetery records but was in the church records?
- Why was Barbara Bear not listed in the cemetery records or church records?
- Was Alex and Amanda Bear buried in Union or Green Hill?
- BONUS QUESTION: Was Adam Apple's wife (name unknown) buried next to Adam?
I also wanted to see Bart Bear's tombstone.
When I met with the Cemetery Director I explained why this information was important to me. I also explained that I had visited the Alexander Hamilton Free Public Library the evening before and they couldn't find any records for Union Cemetery. Of course, the Cemetery Director was basing his information on what he had been told as he wasn't even born when the reinternments occurred. He did admit that he had original records from Union Cemetery but due to their delicate nature, they were not be copied. I understand and asked if I could simply view them. This took quite some negotiation. I was given all the standard reasons I could not see them - the transcriptions that were placed on the cemetery database were complete, the paper the original was on was so thin it was too delicate to handle, the writing was very difficult to read and I wouldn't be able to read it, and he wasn't supposed to share the information as it contained family information for others that had not given permission to view the records.
Of course, I had an answer for each point. I acknowledged that whoever transcribed from the original most likely did their best but that it was always advisable to have someone check your work as humans inadvertently make mistakes. I would not handle the paper - he could and it could be placed on the desk with the minimum amount of handling. I have taken classes in reading old handwriting and told him one of my most recent client transcriptions was extremely difficult as the writer had turned the paper 90 degrees and written in cursive from the middle of the 1800's, on a boat, during the Civil War, over what had previously been written. Not only had I transcribed it successfully the article was published in the Florida Genealogist in June and I could show him a sample of that work.
The sticking point became the appropriateness of my viewing the records of other internments. My rebuttal was that the gravestones had been photographed and were online. I brought up Find-A-Grave on my phone and showed him Bart Bear's information. I reminded him that the Union reintenrments consisted of families that had NO KNOWN LIVING RELATIVES in 1923 and that HIPPA and confidentiality were not the law at the time the bodies were moved. He reluctantly agreed.
Bringing back a small business envelope he removed several folded pages. I was so disappointed. All were written in the same handwriting - this was not original records. This was a derivative from another source, uncited. Geez. Now I understood why Adam Apple wasn't in the cemetery records. Whoever copied the current cemetery record from the original most likely had overlooked him and who knows how many others, probably Barbara Bear, too. I explained that to the Director. He had no idea where the original records were housed. He assumed, if the library did not have them, that the church did. REMEMBER: When researching, staff you will meet with may not have the knowledge of records that genealogists do. They don't understand the difference between original and derivative. Educate briefly while you're there - it'll save time for another researcher who comes along later.
Personally, I believe that the church has the originals somewhere in their archives and that the current office staff has no knowledge of that. If the cemetery book was donated to the Alexander Hamilton Library it most likely would have been listed as one of their holdings, which it is not. Now that library was not organized so the possibility remains that they do have holdings that aren't catalogued. I know they don't know the valuable resources that they have as I had planned to see at the Library of Congress a rare book written by one of the individuals I was researching and it was just sitting in the stacks - same edition - like it was just a regular old book for check out. I didn't say anything as I figured it's safer on the shelf than letting the staff know and having someone pilfer it and sell it on Ebay. (I'm not saying the library staff has no scruples, I just don't want that scenario to occur. Someone had already ripped out indexes of several books that were in the stacks so I think it's better to keep my lips sealed). But, back to the cemetery...
Interestingly, next to Bart Bear on the "original" derivative cemetery records it was clearly written as "unknown." I first suspected that the unknown individual may have been Adam Apple as that would confirm the church records that stated Adam was buried next to Bart. I gave the Cemetery Director a copy of the church records I had received (which he didn't have - go figure!) and wrote a note on it that I believed that space had been Adam's.
The records did not list the other individuals I was seeking. They could have been accidentally omitted or they may never have been buried there. Who knows?! I was on to visiting the gravesite.
Next time, I'll blog more about being in the cemetery.