Sunday, October 11, 2015

Leave no Stone Unturned by Diane Reid

         Godfrey Memorial Library is an amazing place.  In the more than fifteen years I have been volunteering as a docent and researcher, I have met and been able to help genealogists from all across the United States, and in a few instances, those from other countries. Some people have lots of information about the ancestor they are researching, some have nothing more than a name, a general birth year, and, if we’re lucky, a town.  We are able to find information most of the time using the many resources available to us here at the Godfrey.   

Then there are the people that no one appears to be searching for.   They are the persons who died and are buried in cemeteries across the United States, most with no stone to mark their grave, buried in what used to be called “pauper’s graves”.  Most towns have lots for the burial of those without family or funds, and some churches have lots for that purpose also.

Indian Hill Cemetery in Middletown has both.  A beautiful cemetery opened in 1850,  Indian Hill Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 9,000 souls.  There is a large city lot, and a lot owned by the local Episcopal Church.   These lots contain very few stones to mark the final resting places for those buried here.  I have been researching those buried in the church lots to identify them and document something about their lives.  I hope to see a marker erected on the lots listing the names of those who rest among strangers.

The resources at the Godfrey have been of tremendous help in discovering the resting places of those who would otherwise be lost to history.   The Ed Laput Cemetery Cemetery Project has recorded names and dates from 950 Connecticut cemeteries and 37 in other states, along with photos of the sites if available.  This collection is just part of Godfrey's online materials available to members.

In addition, Godfrey has copies of the records of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity, and the vital records of Middletown and the Sexton Returns from 1892 to 1900. Add to this the Middletown City Directories, the Penny Press newspaper from 1884 to 1921, and the Indian Hill Cemetery burial records, and I have been able to locate information on close to fifty persons buried in the church lot since 1851.

As an example, the sixth and seventh burials in the church lot were the 800th and 852nd at Indian Hill.  They were of Elizabeth Martin and her son William Andrew Martin, who died six months apart in 1876. The Indian Hill Cemetery Internment Book says Elizabeth  was 35 years old when she died of pneumonia.  The Middletown Vital Records give her birthplace as Wilmington North Carolina and stated that she  was married to Henry John Martin, a stone worker.  The church records list two children, John Henry, b.2 Apr 1871, baptized the 12th of that month, and William Andrew b. 15 Jul 1875, and baptized 15 Aug 1875.  William died in  Sep 20, 1876 six months following his mother’s passing and was buried with his mother in the same grave.   In 1880, John Henry was living in the Hartford Orphan Home.  Neither Henry John nor his son John Henry were located in the 1900 census.

This is just one example of the many resources we have available to help you discover information about your ancestors.  To learn more, come in or go to our website.