I’ve got cemeteries on my mind since tomorrow I’ll be heading to the cemetery office to view the cemetery record book. Cemeteries are an amazing resource for genealogists and historians. Many headstones list an incredible amount of information about the person. There are those that list only the name and death date. However many others, especially those dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, also list the birth year and the age at death by year, month and day. This allows the genealogist to determine the exact birth date using one of many handy calculators found online. I’ve seen many stones that list a woman’s maiden name, followed by “wife of”. If one has been unable to track a woman ancestor due to marriage, this is a great way to find out what happened to her. Another obvious plus is that families were buried in plots. Once a family plot is located at the cemetery, be sure to record the names around the plot. Many times, a husband is buried near his in-laws. Just because the name is different, don’t assume that there is no relationship.
Another wealth of information is to be found in the cemetery record books themselves. Certainly, the amount of information found directly correlates to the person who input the information, as well as the information they were asked to record. The Pittsford Cemetery record book dates back to 1838 and the inception of the cemetery. To me, it is the Holy Grail in my quest to research my Civil War boys. Some of the cemetery secretaries were a little more lackadaisical in the recordkeeping than others. But, at the least, the book contains the names of the deceased, dates of interment (or death dates instead), and plot number. The really good recordkeepers listed causes of death, disposition of the body (full burial vs ashes), and even military information such as regiment names.
Two of my civil war boys, Henry and John Walbeck, have been terribly difficult to track. The inscriptions on their headstones have weathered so they are barely legible. I couldn’t tell their ages at death, so it was impossible to figure out their birth years. Unfortunately, the cemetery book had little information on Henry and John – not even their death dates. BUT, it did have a note that said “sons of Fred R. and Sophia Wallenbergh”. Wow! Now I had some other information to track; a new name to find on census records. I learned that the Walbecks were born in Germany, but came to the United States. They apparently Americanized their name to Walbeck. I also found two other Walbecks, who I soon learned were siblings to Henry and John.
We will discuss more cemetery research in the future, as it is an especially important tool for historians.