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Old farm cemetery--history?
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Tina-NY    Posted 05-22-2003 at 10:59:59       [Reply]  [No Email]
We are in the process of buying an old 100 acre farm and it has an old family cemetery on it up above the house. We spent a couple hours trying to figure out how many graves there were and names but didnt have much luck on identifing many names on most of the graves. We were able to count what we think are 34 actual plots, some marked and some not with the youngest one marked as being a 15 month old boy on up to a man that was in his late 70s. I have a few names and a few dates but thats about all we could make out on the ones that actualy had been written on. I want know the names and ages of the folks in those plots we cant figure out so we can have a big stone or plaqu of somekind made to put up there. Would you think that the town hall might have records dating back over a 140 years? I would think that death records were recorded back then also but not as well as today so I know it might be hard to get much info. Any ideas what I can do to get this information. The current owner doesnt have much info since he said there was only maybe a 1/2 dozen plots and there is definately over 30. I totaly fell in love with the spot the cemetery sits and I would like to clean it up, put in some flowers and a bench so we could go sit and enjoy the peace that seems to be there, no Im not a supersticious(sp?) person LOL. I also want to get the stones set better on most of the plots since they are either burried or knocked around, I dont think it matters if they end up in the wrong plot since most arent marked. Thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions.

Cathy In Oregon    Posted 05-23-2003 at 13:40:11       [Reply]  [Send Email]
How fun to have your own mystery to investigate! This may turn out to be a wonderful legacy for your farm. I am a bit envious. You have to keep us posted!

Tina-NY    Posted 05-23-2003 at 04:45:08       [Reply]  [No Email]
Thanks everyone for all the wonderful info and advice. I didnt mean to sound as if I was going to move any stones around or anything, just reset the ones that are fallen over or knocked out of the holes. Most of the plots have regular field rocks at the head and one at the foot but some have nothing there, its very obvious there is a plot there so those are the ones I want to mark like the rest with stones. I will check into everything legal before I reset or add any stones thou to be sure I dont get into any hot water about it. From what we were told the cemetery is a part of the property itself but it is supposed to be up-kept by the deseased family, if theres any left we dont know. There was a newer big stone added for the original husband and wife probably 40 or 50 yrs back but other then that it hasnt been touched much at all. I do have 2 names one being the original farm owner from back about 1840 something so hopefully with that name I might get lucky, I do know they were dutch. There are 2 possibly 3 last names in the cemetery so I would guess its the original family and probably the other names were brough into the family thru marriage, Im guessing but it looks that way I think. Well thanks everyone for all the wonderful info and advice, at least I have some ideas to get started with now....

Longmill    Posted 05-23-2003 at 04:16:06       [Reply]  [No Email]
Lots of good advice below. To add a bit...

Make sure you do a through deed search on the property you're buying. The land that contains the cemetery may not be included with the property that surrounds it. For example, it may not be a "family" cemetery. A church may have stood there, lo many, many years ago. An acre or two of land may have been given to that church.

Visit the local newspaper offices to check on how far back their archives go. Armed with birth and death dates from some of those stones, research the newspaper articles around those dates. If you're lucky, you may find references to the cemetery in death notices. Birth notices, may give you further information about other family members who were later buried there.

In addition, you may find articles and even pictures relating to your farm. Family reunions, prize winning crops, barn raisings, and corn huskings are some events that may have been newsworthy, at the time.

Talk to owners of other family farms in your area. Especially those that have been held by the same family for a number of generations. Older family members may know that "great uncle Frank" was buried in that cemetery.

Visit local churches and funeral homes. Look for ones that were established within or before the timeframe of the dates you were able to find. Each may have some records that will aid in your search.

Spend some time at the county government offices. If the records haven't been destroyed by fire or other disaster, you may find much of what you need there.

Since you have some names and dates, use the Internet. Today, there are many databases on line with information that can aid in your efforts. Use your favorite search engine and combinations of keywords to focus your search. If you're very lucky, someone may have already done a family tree that contains info on one or more of the people buried in your cemetery. Your county and state may have public records, on-line, as well.

After you find out the 'rules and regulations' that apply to your cemetery, talk to your local newspaper. Explain to them what you are trying to do. A favorable article on your efforts, may bring forth resources that wouldn't be available from any other method. It can help quell some of the potential problems, as mentioned by another poster.

In closing, I'd like to give you a pat on the back for the respect you're giving the people buried there. Good luck with your efforts. And, please do keep us posted on your progress.


suska    Posted 05-23-2003 at 03:34:29       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Check with your county Historical Society & Genealogy Society. They may have a record of the cemetery. Also, check courthouse records to find out past ownership of the property. With 30 graves the past owners may have lived there a long time. If you know their surname you can probably find info on them at the above mentioned societies or at the library local room. I'd like to ad that the decendants of those buried there may be looking for that same cemetery. Also, take a look at the topo map for that area. Most of these maps show cemeteries. Happy Hunting!

Tom A    Posted 05-23-2003 at 02:44:32       [Reply]  [No Email]
Checking the local law is probably prudent, although in cases like that I frequently go with the "it is easier to get forgiveness than permission" point of view.

What you want to do sounds honorable and is the right thing to do. We cleaned up an abandoned cemetary here as part of a Scout project some years back. It made the local paper--a lot of folks didn't even know there was a cemetary there. Anyway, as a result of what we did, the place was "adopted" by a nearby church and now gets regular attention, and a large monument with the last living member of the old church that had been there attended (she's in her 90s.).

Good luck, and stay in touch!


John Boy    Posted 05-22-2003 at 23:21:34       [Reply]  [No Email]
i know of a cemetery or two like you speak of...i have no arguments with what you want to do but some people do...i guess sometimes its better to leave well enough alone....A fella around here did something like your talking about all the old ladys in town made alot of trouble about it...i would say clean it up and make it nice but before you do much more then that make sure no one is going to fuss about it and that you can do it by law....There is some stupid laws out there so might want to check with a lawyer or something first to make sure everything is fine....that way no one can come at you with some lawsuit saying you disturbed So and So's Grave....Otherwise i would say go for it...i hate to see it sit and go to heck....i know of one in the area so overgrown with weeds and brush you cant even get to the graves!!

Have fun with the new place!!!

Alvin NE WI    Posted 05-22-2003 at 20:03:07       [Reply]  [No Email]
Go to the local court house where death records are kept with the few names you have and start with that. Might br able to come up with something. There might be something in the local township records also.

buck    Posted 05-22-2003 at 14:58:17       [Reply]  [No Email]

Having no disrespect for your intentions but speeking from experience ( we have a family cemetery) I would find out exactly what the laws of your state are regarding this cemetery. As someone stated, there are no no's and it seems as though no matter how good your intentions are there are those who will take exception. I would suggest that you have all requirements and exceptions pointing out existing laws specifically listed in your deed. Bottom line is that I would attempt to have the present owner retain ownership and maintenance responsibility.

dave m    Posted 05-22-2003 at 14:30:58       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Strange,I have just come back from one of our local cemeteries here in upstate ny,where I just reset a marker for a revolutionary war soldier.There are said to be more revolutionary soldiers buried here than any other public cemetery in upstate ny.We are only 30 mi from the Sartaoga battlefield and local history has it that many of the dead were brought here on carts to be buried.I have done a lot of repair work in these old cemeteries and could maybe help you in your search and how best to go about it.All of the suggestions have been good.The one thing that is a no no is to start moving the stones around to try and put them back together.It is true that markers that are lying face down are often like new when turned over.The wonderful acid rain has not been able to get to the face.Please feel free to send me an e-mail and let me know where you are in ny and I will try and help in any way I can. dave

Dan    Posted 05-22-2003 at 13:16:42       [Reply]  [No Email]
Are there any local churches in the area. They may have some type of written record, just a thought.

rhouston    Posted 05-22-2003 at 12:01:55       [Reply]  [No Email]
There was a lady in Randolph N.Y who wrote a book about old cemeterys around southern N.Y. I don't remember her name. My Mother contributed to the book and has a copy. Next time I'm there I will check for her name. She may have additional resources for you to try. You wouldn't believe what can happen to a cemetery. One local cemetery is now under a parking lot, the bodies were not moved. Oak Hill Cemetery was moved and is now Oak Hill Park in Olean.

Kat in NJ    Posted 05-22-2003 at 11:51:23       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Tina, check with both the local and county historical societies as these groups often have documentation on area families. As for identifying overlooked graves, one of our local historical societies successfully did this a few months ago using an x-ray device which scanned the ground. They were able to locate the graves of several family members whose locations had been unmarked. This may be more involved that you want to get, but I just wanted to mention it so you know it can be done!

Kat in NJ

TimV    Posted 05-22-2003 at 11:36:42       [Reply]  [No Email]
Where in NY are you? I could give you some info and/or sources for historical information in Northern NY, but I don't know much about the rest of the state.

Pitch    Posted 05-22-2003 at 11:29:07       [Reply]  [No Email]
When your sale is final you should get an "Abstact of Deed" from your attorney the abstact should list all the boundries and the people the lots were deeded to over the years. Match the dates on the tombstone with the dates on your abstract and you should come close to figuring out the family name. It was most common 150 years ago for a farm to stay in the same family for at least a couple of generations.Another thing look for the oldest nearby church but remember folks usually walked or took a buggy so I would say a ten mile radius would be plenty far ask the church deacon if there are any records that far back. If you are in the Northeast the tombstones are commonly marble because it was easy to carve. Unfortunatly it also eroded fairly fast as compared to other materials, if you can find a flat stone lying face down it may be more legible than others as the soil protected it from the elements. Just a suggestion if you do find the information you are looking for copy it and put it in a "time capsule" along with a good size hunk of metal so it can be found with a "Metal Detector". I would use a 2 foot piece of schedule 40 PVC and glue the threaded caps on for a water tight seal. You can then use a woodburning iron to lightly etch pertinet information on the out side of it. Bury it no more than a foot deep at the gate or base of the largest marker. With that someone 150 years from now will have the info that you won't be able to give them.

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