What a great presentation by Tom Keels last night. He spoke for about an hour, and I felt my brain filling up with all sorts of helpful information while I busily scribbled notes.
One thing I learned that seems unique to Philadelphia (or perhaps big city graveyards)--it's a pretty safe bet that if your ancestors were buried within the original city limits, they've been moved around! So many downtown graves have been relocated, sometimes to other counties. So if you're looking for such a grave, you might have your work cut out for you.
And then of course there are the folks who weren’t fortunate to even have a grave marker. I think of all the people buried in Washington Square that were buried in mass graves. Criminals, the poor, Catholics, African Americans...anyone who might have been considered "lesser than" or didn't have the money to pay for interment got buried in unmarked graves. Of course, from what Tom says, it sounds like our ancestors had less of a preoccupation with having a final, permanent resting place, but even so, it's sad that so many people don't have any sort of marker to show that they were here. (Or, they rather unceremoniously ended up dumped in a trench in Bucks County, or with a headstone that became part of the foundation for the Betsy Ross Bridge or helped assist with flood control in the Schuylkill. But to hear more about those stories, you should go hear Tom the next time he speaks.)
I feel strongly that I would like this blog to provide information about Philadelphia graveyards, but I'd also like it to be a catalyst for preservation, both of the graveyards themselves and the cemetery records. To that end, I hope to either try and arrange a tombstone transcription project (possibly of the Woodlands or Mt. Vernon cemeteries, or maybe some smaller ones not identified yet), or to help assist the friends of Mt. Moriah in their efforts to improve the cemetery's upkeep. More about that in later posts.
In the meantime, if you'd be interested in any of those projects, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!