NSDAR to Place Markers on Revolutionary War Veteran Graves in the Vaughan Hill Cemetery, Wood River Twp, Madison Co., Illinois

vaughanhillcemetery1It is planned that the NSDAR will honor two Revolutionary War soldiers by marking gravesites at the Vaughn Hill Cemetery in Wood River Twp, Madison Co., Illinois.

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution will place commemorative markers in the cemetery for the unmarked graves of two soldiers, Pvt. Anthony Alexander Harrison of Virginia and Pvt. John Cornelison of North Carolina.

Stones will also be placed on those of the wives of soldiers John Ratton and Martin Pruitt.

Wood River declared the cemetery an historic site in 2004. One of the oldest cemeteries in the Illinois, a number of the area’s first settlers are buried in the historic Vaughan Hill Cemetery, which lies along Vaughn Road/Illinois Route 111.

Early pioneers buried in the cemetery include those by the name of Vaughn, Haller, Starkey, Jones, Kendall, Berry and Lawrence. The oldest gravesite in the cemetery dates is that of Sarah Pruitt, dating to 1806. The victims from the Wood River Massacre are also buried there in a common grave.

According to information from the Madison County Genealogical Society, there are about 125 burial sites in the cemetery. However, it is reported that volunteers have plotted as many as 158 graves.

Read more about it in the February 5, 2009 edition of the Telegraph.

Photographs of Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestones 1711-2003

Lakeville MA Cemetery InscriptionsUrn and Willow Publishing has announced the release of a new DVD publication: “Photographs of Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestones 1711-2003,” by Jean A. Douillette. The pictorial companion to the recent book “Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions 1711-2003,” contains excess of 6,000 photographs. Every gravestone present in the 31 known cemeteries of Lakeville in 2003 is included on the DVD. Also, one or more photographs for every gravestone mentioned in the book is found on the DVD.

Lakeville resident, Jean A Douillette, started taking photographs of the gravestones in 2002 when she obtained a digital camera. Her book. “Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions 1711-2003,” published in 2007, was favorably reviewed by the American Library Association in the July 2008 edition of their Booklist magazine. That says something. Not all books get reviewed in Booklist.

The book and DVD may be purchased online at www.urnandwillow.com.dvd-cover

There’s a very good article about the book and DVD in the February 5, 2009 edition of the Boston Globe. Click here to read it at their site.

The Branham Family Cemetery in Tyler, Texas to be Rescued

Branham Family Cemetery - Photo by Jaime R CarreoAn old cemetery next to the St. Louis Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas will most likely be declared abandoned and taken over by the city.

Gravestones for Walter H. Branham and M.H. Terry, who died in 1953 and 1957, have been found – and who knows how many stones may be buried under the sod. The only identifying marker is an iron archway with the name “Branham Family Cemetery” across the top. It is said that dozens of tombstones were once scattered across the graveyard.

The city wants to declare the entire parcel of land at the corner of Highway 155 and Goss Street as abandoned, and with the help of the church next door, attempt to give those buried there a bit of dignity. If the council approves the resolution to take the property, Tyler will enter a memorandum of understanding with St. Louis Baptist Church for maintenance and repair of the cemetery. Church members are planning to construct a fence around the graveyard to protect it.

According to Sam Kidd, president of the East Texas Genealogical Society, about 240 cemeteries, many old family cemeteries, have been found in Smith County.

Read the article by Malena Ogles in the January 28, 2009 edition of Tylerpaper.com.

Bulldozer Destroys Graves of Political Prisoners in Tehran’s Khavaran Cemetery

January 20 – Iranian authorities have destroyed parts of Tehran’s Khavaran cemetery which contain mass unmarked Tehran's Khavaran cemeterygraves of political prisoners executed in 1988. The son of one of the victims tells Radio Farda: “They cannot annihilate all proof of a political massacre. We – the families of the victims – are its living proof.

From the January 23, 2009 edition of Radio Free Europe.

If you can read Persian, you’ll find this much longer article interesting. But if not, it looks like chicken scratching…

Unmarked Graves in the Wake County Home Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina

Thousands of cemeteries nationwide have paupers graves where no headstone is found. And with the older cemeteries, there are often no records. It’s possible to at least partially reconstruct who might be buried in any particular cemetery using death certificates, funeral home records, and even newspaper notices. However, this is a very difficult task, as most of these documents, if indexed at all, aren’t indexed by burial place. Following is a teaser from a very interesting article in the January 21, 2009 edition of the News & Observer.

Sarah Burton, 35, place of birth and family unknown, died of the disease pellagra in 1914 in Raleigh, and wasWake County Home Cemetery - photo by Shawn Rocco buried in the Wake County Home Cemetery.

Hundreds of other people without money or relations were buried in the same spot, a cemetery near Five Points that the county operated for more than 60 years before closing it in 1979.

Read the full article by Thomas Goldsmith.

Suit Filed Over “Wrongful Burial”

It seems that the City of Lake Alfred, Florida may have sold a grave plot to two different parties. Someone got buried in the grave – and the other party is suing, claiming the grave is theirs. The oddest thing mentioned in an article about it was the claim that one party’s deed was “too old.” There also seems to be a dispute as to whether the original purchaser of the plot actually bought two graves, and not four, as claimed.

Which brings up the reason I’m writing this blog. This kind of thing happens all the time. Only it’s usually done because of an error on the part of the grounds folks who just happen to open the wrong grave.

About a decade ago, my brother and I decided that it was time to purchase graves at the Orting (Washington) City Cemetery. Our parents were growing old – and we knew it would not be long before graves were needed. So we went to the city and bought graves for our family. Time went by, and our father passed away. Dad was buried in the Orting Cemetery, and we even had a graveside service, with a pretty-good crowd of people attending. What we didn’t know was that Dad was being buried a full row off of where the graves were to be. So – a week or so later, Dad got moved.

My brother-in-law, Ralph Hubbard, passed away in the 1990s after a long battle with multiple myloma. My sister purchased plots near their home in Clark County, Washington, and Ralph was buried there. A while later, my nephew noted that someone was buried in the space purchased and reserved for his mother. After a bit of a fuss on the part of our family, the newly buried was moved to another location.

So – what I’m saying is that folks being buried in the wrong place in the local cemetery is common. Having to file suit to get the situation dealt with seems a bit much. Following is an excerpt from the Lake Alfred article that prompted my memories – and writing this blog.

LAKE ALFRED | A lawsuit over ownership of a burial plot at the city’s Oak Grove Cemetery seeks a court order forcing the exhumation of the body of a woman buried there and more than $15,000 in damages for the Lake Alfred woman who claims it was illegally taken from her.

In dispute is whether the plot now occupied by June Whatley Braddy, the mother of Winter Haven News Chief Managing Editor Joe Braddy, is indeed her “final” resting place…

Lawyers representing Hope C. Martin filed the lawsuit Dec. 29, 2008, in the Circuit Court in Bartow…

The suit claims her late husband, James W. Martin, purchased four plots at the city-owned Oak Grove in March 1956 for the burial of the couple’s daughter, Judy Martin, and as the future burial site for the couple and their son, Billy Martin. James Martin was buried there in 1993.

Joe Braddy purchased the plot intended for Billy Martin on Oct. 30, 2007, and later buried his mother there, the lawsuit claims.

Read the full article from the January 5, 2009 edition of The Ledger.

New York’s Bayside Cemetery Going “Back to Nature”

Bayside Cemetery, Ozone Park Queens, which contains the mortal remains of nearly 35,000 deceased Jews may be setting new heights for a cemetery in distress. The place is a mess.


John Tucker, of Sudbury, has grandparents buried there, and was so upset that he’s filed suit. John has a blog and he’s also made up a website where the lawsuit is documented. And there are pictures… as well as a slideshow. You might want to check it out. Click on the links.

I was alerted to the situation by a January 9, 2009 article in the Hartford Courant in which Mr. Tucker is interviewed. It’s a very good article and worth reading.

HIPPA Laws Frustrate Cemetery Research

There’s been a battle going on for some time now over making the names of those buried in the Hastings Regional Center Cemetery (Adams County, Nebraska) available to the public. Nine hundred fifty-seven people are buried in the hospital cemetery. These burials occurred between 1888 to 1959, but records date only to 1909. Graves are marked, but the small gravestones only have patient numbers on them.


It seems that the Federal 1996 HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) law trumps everything on this one. Although I’m sure these dead folks won’t be purchasing or transferring their insurance anytime soon, their medical record privacy is insured. In this case, we don’t even know who the folks are. Now that’s private.

The Adams County Historical Society filed a lawsuit in the Summer of 2007 attempting to get the records made public. The Historical Society lost. District Judge Terri Harder cited HIPAA almost exclusively in her ruling. She said the law establishes a minimum level of protection for “individually identifiable health information” based on past, present or future physical or mental health condition. (I’d say that their physical condition at the moment is poor, at the very least.)

The historical society appealed the ruling, and now the decision lies with the Nebraska Supreme Court. Several media organizations have recently filed a “friend of the court” brief supporting The Adams County Historical Society lawsuit.

The society rightfully argues that the patients should not be forgotten and there is no evidence that they wanted their bodies buried in unmarked graves. I’m in full agreement.

For more information, see: “HIPAA bars release of hospital burial records, Neb. judge rules,” in the Feb. 18, 2008 post at firstamendmentcenter.org.


“Media groups want Neb. cemetery records released”, an AP article in the January 8, 2009 Charleston Gazette.

55,000 Massachusetts Burial Records Now Online

For the first time, anyone can perform Jewish Massachusetts genealogical searches online. So, if someone is looking for late Uncle Ben on their mother’s side of the family, chances are they can locate his burial records at any one of the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts’ 100+ cemeteries. Just go to www.jcam.org, click on “Services,” then click “Genealogy Search,” enter the name (or just the first four letters of the last name) and Voila! With just the click of a button, the burial location, name of cemetery and directions are displayed on the screen!

People are fascinated with their family histories making genealogy one of the fastest growing popular research endeavors. Now the Jewish community has access to JCAM’s 55,000 online burial database to fill in the blanks on family trees or simply for visitation purposes. This is another way of reconnecting Jewish families with their past and perpetuating the continuity of Jewish cemeteries well into the future.

Visit the website and try the genealogical search link. You may just find someone you’ve been looking for!

Contact Stanley Kaplan, Executive Director of the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts at 617-244-6509 or for more information on the work of JCAM, or visit their website at www.jcam.org.

Canton, Illinois’ Greenwood Cemetery Gets New Maps and History

An amazing number of cemetery and funeral home records have never been computerized in any way. How often have you pored over a cemetery map that was nearly 100 years old, faded, and tattered at the edges? And that was the only map available? Are there records of this nature where you live? How about volunteering to create digital representations of them?

Greenwood Cemetery in Canton [Illinois] has delivered a computerized hard copy history and map system to Parlin-Ingersoll Library to help people locate grave sites.

This system can be used in conjunction with the publications of the Fulton County Historical and Genealogical Society.

From the time the original 112 cemetery plots were laid out, 167 years ago, four city engineers had created separate grids within the property limits. Early maps were printed on cloth, cardboard, or paper. Daily burial entries were made by the sexton. These became the permanent record of burial activity.
The current board, appointed in 2002, immediately recognized that if the system was not entered into digital storage within the next few years, the disintegrating paper pages of the daily entries would no longer be readable. The maps were fading. Photocopies could not bring back the detail needed to find site locations.

In 2002, the process began of creating computer graphics for the 122 acres of ground that is today represented on 23 maps and five charts. Two instruction pages explain how to use the records. The burial records are in the process of being entered on a master data base. In 1895, a fire destroyed all cemetery records. Fulton County Historical and Genealogical Society headstone inscriptions allow most of the lost records to be restored.

From the May 15, 2006 edition of the Canton Daily Ledger.

Clark County, Washington Cemeteries Online

Clark County, Washington, Genealogical Society volunteers are assembling photos and information for an online directory to all known cemeteries, large and small, within county borders.

In addition to burial records (showing information such as dates of birth of death, family relationships and funeral homes), Web sites for each cemetery will include addresses, driving directions, obituaries when available and maps of the grounds. Perhaps most ambitious of all, society members and others plan to photograph each stone and grave at all but the largest cemeteries. See: www.rootsweb.com/~waclacem/

Chicago’s Jewish Graceland

Why would anyone be interested in a cemetery whose first burial was in 1851 and where there have not been many recent burials? For Jewish genealogists, Jewish Graceland is a treasure of our heritage. It documents members of the earliest Jewish community that helped build Chicago.

To preserve this heritage and the lives of these pioneers, the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois (JGSI) has recently completed an inventory of all of the burials here and is in the process of making them available via the Internet to the worldwide Jewish community. This service is being made possible via the website: www.jewishgen.org/.

The Hebrew Benevolent Society was founded in 1851. Its founders included David Witkowsky, an early president of Congregation B’nai Sholom (the second oldest synagogue in Chicago, now a part of K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Congregation). One of the society’s main purposes was to create a Jewish burial ground. There already was a similar group, the Jewish Burial Ground Society, which operated a cemetery in what is now Lincoln Park. This Lincoln Park cemetery, which was the first Jewish cemetery, soon had to be moved to another site because of its proximity to Lake Michigan. Jewish Graceland would become the second Jewish cemetery in Chicago.

From the Jewish United Fund website.