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Archive for the ‘cemeteries’ Category

Recently, I visited the Special Collections unit of the Carothers Library at the University of Rhode Island.  URI is situated in the picturesque village of Kingston, Rhode Island.  Like many east coast state universities, the campus is somewhat large and spread out.  Before you ask, let me say, yes, as on all college campuses, parking is a problem.  Going in June helped.

I called Special Collections in advance, as requested for summer visitors on the website.  They were very nice.  I felt badly that I arrived a bit later than my appointment time.  See the book shop notes at the bottom of this post. Next time, library first, book shop second.

I pulled up to the university Visitors Center and walked in.  They issued me a temporary parking pass and gave me a map so I could find the parking lot.  The lot was not all that close to the library, so there was a bit of walking to do after I parked.

Near the entrance of the Robert L. Carothers Library.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The Robert L. Carothers Library. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Special Collections

The reading room for Special Collections was located on the second floor.  I went in and introduced myself.  The librarian asked me a few more questions about the records I wanted to look at, then went and retrieved the archival boxes.

My mission was to seek records for the Grace Church Cemetery in Providence (PV005 in the Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Commission website). URI holds the archives of various Episcopal Churches of Rhode Island. According to their online catalog, there were records of Grace Church, as well as records specific to the Grace Church Cemetery, which is located just south of downtown Providence on Broad Street. These records are in the archives; none are online.

Grace Episcopal Church

I have noticed over the years that I have several ancestors buried in the Grace Church Cemetery, Providence:

  • my g-grandfather Miles E Baldwin Sr (1863-1926)
  • my ggg-grandmother Margaret (Lawrence) Murdock (1837-1921)
  • my gggg-grandparents James (1807-1882) and Ann (Shortridge) Lawrence (1810-1897)

as well as various sons and daughters of those ancestors.  I learned of this through death records.

If anyone were to read my blog often, they might realize this is one of the first times I’ve written about my ancestors having a connection to a church.  Prior to about 1900, I almost never find them getting married at a church, or appearing in any church activities.  If they did, it tended to be Methodist, Congregational, or Baptist, with a few Quakers in the distant past.  But Episcopalian?  The only one I can think of was my grandfather’s Aunt Jenny, who was, according to her obituary, a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Providence.

Grace Episcopal Church, still a landmark in downtown Providence.

Grace Episcopal Church, still a landmark on Mathewson Street in downtown Providence.

So I sat at the library and thought through the idea of the Episcopal Church.  It occurred to me that I might expect English immigrants to be affiliated with an Episcopal Church.  Aunt Jenny and my great grandfather, Miles E Baldwin Sr., were half siblings, and their mother was born in Surrey, England and came to the U.S. around 1843.  James and Ann (Shortridge) Lawrence were immigrants from two different places in England around 1833, and Margaret Lawrence was their daughter.  I went so far as to check out the church rolls and sacrament documentation in the special collections (in addition to the cemetery records) but no luck.  Probably, they were loyal to the church and turned there for burial, but apparently were not regular members. Possibly, a real church wedding or funeral was too costly.

There were numerous old parish registers for the Grace Church.

There were numerous old parish registers for the Grace Church.

Grace Church Cemetery records

The Grace Church Cemetery records were in boxes 45, 46 and 47 of Group #144, Series IV.  In the end I looked at all three boxes, and several mini-boxes of cards.  In Rhode Island, one gets used to a “cemetery” being a small group of ancient stones enclosed by rusting ironwork behind an old barn.  Records of any sort (other than later gravestone readings) are quite a luxury.  I haven’t gotten used to them, so I made sure I looked at everything.

The first item in the cemetery records is a compiled index (Group #144, Series IV, Box 45, folder 1).  All of the materials were appropriately archived.

The first item in the cemetery records is a compiled index (Group #144, Series IV, Box 45, folder 1). All of the materials were appropriately cataloged and archived.

I found what I was looking for, and I found a little more.  These are the family members that I found:

  • Lot #88
    • my g-grandfather Miles E Baldwin Sr (1863-1926)
    • Jennie Baldwin, dated 8 April 1908 (Lot 721) (29 November 1926 removed to Lot 88)
  • Lot #250
    • my ggggg-grandmother Margaret (Balmer) Shortridge (1781-1873)
    • possibly, my ggggg-grandfather John Shortridge (1786 – ?)
    • my gggg-grandfather James Lawrence (1807-1882)
    • my gggg-grandmother Annie (Shortridge) Lawrence (1810-1897)
    • four children of James and Annie Lawrence:
      • my ggg-grandmother Margaret (Lawrence) Murdock Knight (1837-1921)
      • John H Lawrence (1840-1862)
      • William J. Lawrence (1845-1865)
      • Elizabeth Jane (Lawrence) Scott (1849-1937) and her husband John Thayer Scott (1846-1921) and some of their children
The Plot Diagram for Lot 250.  This is the only reference I've ever seen to the death of John Shortridge, my gggg-grandfather.  Of course, it has a question mark.  The mystery continues.

The Plot Diagram for Lot 250. This is the only reference I’ve ever seen to the death of John Shortridge, my gggg-grandfather. Of course, it has a question mark. The mystery continues.

  • Lot 378
    • Hazel M Baldwin (1910-1931) – daughter of Miles, above
    • Jennie K. Robblee (1864-1944) – sister of Miles’ second wife Mabel Robblee
  • Lot 547
    • Mary (Shortridge) Bamford (1806-1883), daughter of John and Margaret Shortridge
    • her husband William Bamford and some of their children
  • Lot 215
    • Margaret (Shortridge) Hardman (1816-1892), daughter of John and Margaret Shortridge
    • her husband William Hardman and two of their children

I used the typed index (Box 45), the card index boxes (Box 47), “plot listings” showing – I think – ownership (Box 47) and the plot diagrams (Box 46).  In a few cases I learned a little more at the R.I. Historic Cemeteries Commission website.

Some of the cards were confusing - I know William Lawrence died in 1865 of Typhoid Fever.  Was he also a soldier?

Some of the cards were confusing – I know William Lawrence died in 1865 of Typhoid Fever. Was he also a soldier?

A few surprises

I found some surprising things while researching this cemetery.

  • Jennie Baldwin in lot #88 – that is from the cemetery index in Box 45, folder 1, evidently taken from the plot diagram.  R.I. Historical Cemeteries Commission adds an entry in lot #88 for Myrtle Baldwin – that makes a lot more sense.  Miles and his daughter Myrtle are in one grave – the rest of #88 are strangers.  “Jennie Baldwin” is jotted sloppily next to Miles’ name on the plot diagram.  I suspect my Aunt Jenny paid for her brother’s burial, and the girl’s grave was moved at that time, and maybe the clerk got the names mixed up.  There is no Jennie Baldwin.  I think.
  • John Shortridge is mentioned in the plot diagram with a question mark.  I’ve never found any trace of him after the family’s 1832 arrival in New York, when he was 46 years old.  Sure wish I knew what this meant.  I don’t think anyone would buy a burial plot for someone who disappeared – he must have died.  Strange.
  • John Lawrence was killed at the Battle of Antietam.  I had lost track of John Lawrence, now I see why.  Researching this topic is going to be my next task. [Update – see further info on my subsequent blog post, A Death at Antietam]
  • John’s brother William Lawrence, who died of Typhoid Fever in 1865, may also have served in the Civil War.  Need to research.
  • Possibly, the two Civil War letters that are currently lost in my family were written by one of these two.  As I think about a mother saving such letters and passing them down to the child she lived with at the time of her death, I can see how these might have ended up with my grandmother.  Something to think about.

I had a good visit at the Carothers Library special collections unit, and pretty much just did what I came to do.  I can think of a few other topics to look up there, and that may happen another time. Some of my local genealogy friends say the library itself is a reasonable research spot; I didn’t look at the regular collections.  All in all, I got some valuable information and was able to share it with a cousin that I met through DNA testing.

The Grace Church Cemetery

I was able to copy the cemetery map at the archives.  It is below. Click here for a copy that can be clicked to enlarge.

Map of Grace Church Cemetery from Box 47.  Will open larger.

Map of Grace Church Cemetery from Box 47.

The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Commission website provides some details of many of the graves.  Using the “Search Web Database” link, I searched for various last names in this cemetery, PV005, over the years.  Now, in hindsight, I see that the information was really quite helpful.  The lot number is given, and other information, and John Sterling himself updated the listings in 2000.  Can’t get much better than that.

A bit broken and battered, Grace Church Cemetery stands at the intersection of Broad Street and

A bit broken and battered, Grace Church Cemetery stands at the intersection of Broad Street and Elmwood Ave, Providence.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The problem with Grace Church Cemetery is the location; it’s in a downtrodden neighborhood just south of downtown Providence and is a little the worse for wear.  In fairness, the neighborhood was nothing fancy when my ancestors were buried there.  I took some pictures for this post, but I expect to find my ancestors’ graves in the future, after I finish compiling what I know.

Another view of Grace Church Cemetery.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Another view of Grace Church Cemetery, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

A little detour

Across route 138 from the campus, I saw a used book shop as I was driving to the library and I had to stop.  It was Allison B. Goodsell, Rare Books, also called the Kingston Hill Store.  The shop had a great Rhode Island history collection, a small genealogy section, and, in back, some complete old sets of Rhode Island compiled books – Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, Early Records of the Town of Providence, etc. – the kind of thing I have used on Google Books or Internet Archive.

Part of the Rhode Island history books.

Part of the Rhode Island history books.

They even had two copies of Austin’s Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island.  And many other treasures. This may be my new favorite used book store in Rhode Island.  I bought a book that will be featured on the blog at a later date.

Kingston Hill Store, Rte. 138, Kingston, Rhode Island.

Kingston Hill Store, Rte. 138, Kingston, Rhode Island.

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I visited the North Burial Ground in Providence this week for the first time.  This large municipal cemetery holds over 35,000 markers (1) and over 100,000 interments (4).  It was begun by the city in 1700 and remains active today, with new burials occurring regularly.  It was originally positioned north of the Providence settlement, but over the centuries Providence and Pawtucket grew around it and it is now located at the intersections of North Main Street and Branch Avenue, with I-95 running along one side.

The southern entrance shows the cemetery office just inside the gates.

The southern entrance with the cemetery office just inside the gates.

Prior to the creation of the cemetery, and during its early years, residents of Providence buried their loved ones in family plots on their own property, since there was no central church and accompanying graveyard.  Gradually, many of those small cemeteries were relocated to the North Burial Ground (4).  By the mid-1800’s there was a desire to make the appearance more rustic and scenic, and extensive landscaping and improvements were undertaken (4).  In the 20th century the cemetery continued to grow but struggled with some deterioration and vandalism.  Today, the cemetery remains a unique and authentic memorial to Providence, past and present.

The downtown Providence skyline, barely visible on the horizon from the center of the cemetery, gives an almost exaggerated idea of the distance.

The downtown Providence skyline, barely visible on the horizon from the center of the cemetery, gives an exaggerated idea of the distance.

Visiting

Those who frequent Rhode Island’s many historic cemeteries will appreciate being able to walk into a cemetery office and get some help finding a grave – a rare opportunity in Rhode Island.

Entrance to the office

Entrance to the office

While it is likely that I have some early ancestors there, I only knew about one grave for sure that I was seeking.  It was the grave of my great-great aunt, Sarah E. Lamphere Capwell (1843-1905).  She was the sister of my gg-grandmother, Emma Lamphere Darling.

I walked into the office (open hours are listed here) with some information in hand that I had found on The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Transcription Project website (7) about Sarah’s burial.  The staff in the office were patient and cheerful as I stumbled around a little checking the year of burial; it turns out that date is the crucial starting point.  I did know the section (section BE), but they wanted to find the plot record and let me see that.

The book containing the ownership and record of burials for the plot.

The book containing the ownership and burials for the plot I was seeking.

The cemetery records

The record book was extremely helpful.  It showed the layout for the 10 graves in the plot, and gave some information for each one.

The Capwell plot in Section 17, Lot no. 2563.  On the map, the section is called BE.

The Capwell plot in Section 17, Lot no. 2563. On the map, the section is called BE.

The “Proprietor” was Nancy M. Capwell.  Sarah appears to be the first buried, in grave #1. Sarah was married to Burrington Anthony Capwell, who was the son of Nancy Maria (Wesson) Capwell and Joseph Alexander Capwell (a butcher), who were buried next in #2 and #3.  In the 1900 census Nancy Maria reported that she was the mother of 10 children, 4 living, so possibly the five names recorded in the plot record could have been for their children.  The staff explained to me that the scanty records of those names – Sarah, Maria, Caroline, Clark and Lillian – could indicate that they were re-interred from another location.  The last three names – Burrington himself, Sarah’s son Charles, and Charles’ wife, Margaret, complete the plot record.  Since Margaret was actually #11, she apparently shares a grave with her husband.

All interments for the Capwell plot

All interments for the Capwell plot.  The list of names included ages and dates of burial for some of the interred.

The staff pointed out several helpful pieces of information on the sheet.  Names are listed and numbered, and the diagram of the plot shows the appropriate number in each spot.  So you know where each person was buried. The rectangles and lines drawn at the foot of some graves usually represent markers.

The diagram of graves also shows some information about the location

The diagram of graves also shows some information about the location

Underneath the chart is an indication of the location of the plot within the section, indicated by feet from from the nearest roads – “61 ft E of Central —  79 ft S of Prospect area”.

Finding the grave

Staff were ready to accompany me but I was willing to drive over and try to find the grave myself. They gave me a map, and highlighted it with my route.   Section BE was large.  If it weren’t for the specific notations on the page I think I would have had a big problem finding it.  But I counted out the feet and found the spot.

A tiny portion of my map.  You can see where staff pointed out the number of feet from each street.

A tiny portion of my map. You can see where staff pointed out the number of feet from each street.

The map is not online, it is pretty much expected that you will go to the cemetery during open hours Monday through Friday and get specific directions, or be escorted, to the plot you are looking for in the huge cemetery.  Staff are busy, of course, but good at getting visitors the information they need.

Sarah E. Lampher Wife of B. A. Capwell Died Mar 14, 1905 Aged 59 Years

Sarah E. Lampher Wife of B. A. Capwell Died Mar 14, 1905 Aged 59 Years

I found Sarah’s grave among the Capwells.  The plot map and seeing these graves “put to rest” any idea I might have had of finding connections to Sarah’s Lamphere family, for instance, a sibling buried near her.

Sarah is in the second row, at the end.  Her husband Burrington should be immediately in front of her, but he has no marker.  Oddly, his parents have a double marker which says "Mother" and "Father" with dates, but no names at all.  Perhaps there had been plans for one more, grander monument.

The ten graves. Sarah is in the second row, at the end. Her husband Burrington should be immediately in front of her, but he has no marker. His parents have a double marker which says “Mother” and “Father” with dates, but no names at all. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized the short railing (in front) said “Capwell” at ground level. 

Research

The record books in the cemetery office apparently go back to about 1848 (3).  To find earlier information, most people consult John E. Sterling’s North Burial Ground, Providence, Rhode Island : Old Section, 1700-1848 (9).  That book is out of print, so the people at Gaspee Virtual Archives (3) have provided some information about where to find a copy.  There is, of course, a copy available in the cemetery office.

A Firefighters memorial to "Men Killed in the Line of Duty", beginning in 1828.

A Firefighters memorial to “Men Killed in the Line of Duty”, beginning in 1828.

The cemetery is filled with interesting memorials added over the years – a Firefighters memorial, an Elks section, various veterans memorials, to name just a few.

The Elks memorial

The Elks memorial

I’m sure I will be revisiting this huge cemetery in the future, since I suspect I have ancestors among the oldest burials.

Sources for further information

  1. The city of Providence webpage for the Old North Burial Ground
  2. List of names frequently found in the cemetery from The Bucklin Society website
  3. Instructions for finding graves at the cemetery, from the Gaspee Virtual Archives website
  4. National Register of Historic Places nomination form (1977; Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission)
  5. Two volumes of North Burial Ground notes (mostly legacies), from the Early Records of the Town of Providence:  volume 18 and volume 19.
  6. Some old inscriptions are recorded in The Narragansett Historical Register with the title ” The Story of the Tablets” by James L. Sherman  See volume 4 (p. 70, 116, 178, 283) and  volume 5 p. (67, 166, 268).  Find links to all volumes here.
  7. The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Transcription Project.  This large index can be downloaded in small pdf sections.  It includes entries statewide.
  8. FindAGrave section for the North Burial Ground.
  9. North Burial Ground, Providence, Rhode Island : Old Section, 1700-1848 by John E Sterling.  Greenville, RI : Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 2000. This book is out of print.  See the WorldCat record here, and another list of repositories that hold the book here.

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2014-04-11 12.36.05

 

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Recently, on a trip to the Providence Public Library, I found obituaries for Russell and Hannah Lamphere from the Providence Journal.  I was surprised to see that they were buried in their home town of Norwich, Connecticut.  Later, online, I found a list of all those buried in cemeteries that (now) belong to the town of Norwich.  The 976 page pdf of the list (available as a link here) contained Russell and Hannah’s names, and pointed to Section 6, Plot 9 at the Yantic Cemetery, Norwich.

At the Cemetery

This is taken from the cemetery map at the entrance to Yantic Cemetery:

Section 6, Lot 9

The plot has several markers visible, and most likely more burials in the rest of the space.

The area of Plot 9

I have now been there twice.  There are two small markers which may or may not designate where Russell and Hannah are buried; one has initials, the other is more worn.

One of the small markers may have the initials “L R”

The rounded marker in the back is for James D. Lamphere who I believe is Russell’s brother.

James D. Lanphere

“In memory of my husband, James D. Lanphere, born Oct. 14, 1829, died January 27, 1887.  Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.”  James left a widow, Mary, and a stepdaughter.

The first (tilted) marker up front is for Russell’s sister Lydia (Lamphere) Palmer, who died fairly young.

Lydia Lamphere Palmer

“Lydia, wife of Henry Palmer, died in Greenville, Nov. 19 1852, aged 45.  —   Mother.”

This brings us to the fifth marker.  It’s a mystery, but since Russell’s wife and mother are still among my mystery women, any information is useful.

The photography lesson

The first time I saw the marker, I took pictures that I couldn’t decipher.

hard to read my first set of pictures

I consulted genealogy friends on Facebook.  Turns out this is a controversial topic, and I got lots of conflicting advice.  When I went today, two of the suggestions worked great.

  • Wet the marker (I had a bottle of water in the car leftover from a recent trip)
  • Photograph in bright sunlight (the sun was going in and out of the clouds, so I waited for it to be right)

This was the result:

Margaret (Gaslin) Bassett

“Margaret Gaslin  widow of Barnabas Bassett  DIED  March 7, 1854 aged 76”

The difference is incredible. Both in person and in photographs, it became much easier to read.

So that was a lot of work just to figure out that the marker belonged to the next plot (#10), the Bassett plot. Which leads me to believe the other tiny, unmarked gravestone may belong to the Bassetts.  Leaving just 3 markers in the Lamphere plot.

Although there are no additional markers, the master list also included in that plot Harry H. Hill and Frank A. Hill.  Those are not names I recognize.

Original Cemetery Records

I also stopped at the Norwich Town Hall to look, once again, for a death record for Russell Lamphere’s mother, Lydia Miner, in 1849 (the death record I have is from The Norwich Aurora).  I didn’t find one.

But I did notice, among some miscellaneous volumes in the records room, an original sales/burial book from Yantic Cemetery detailing some later-sold sections with numbers in the mid-100’s.  My section was 6.  I looked everywhere, and asked if there were earlier volumes, but the clerk could not find any.

What’s Next

  • I will investigate the Hills a little more thoroughly, but there’s always the possibility they were sold spots in the plot but are not related to my family.
  • The original Yantic Cemetery sales records may be somewhere, like a local historical society.  I’ll keep looking.
  • The map says “R and W Lamphere” but I can’t account for a “W Lamphere”.
  • I do not know where Russell’s parents, Russell and Lydia, are buried.  Need to keep exploring that.
  • As I somehow expected, Russell’s loyal associate, Congressman John Turner Waite, who submitted a War Reparations bill for Russell three times in the 1880’s, is also buried in Yantic Cemetery.  I am thinking of approaching the New London Historical Society for more information about him.

John Turner Wait

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