Grave Matters

As I’ve noted before, I have an affinity for cemeteries and graves, particularly medieval and 17th/18th century burial grounds.  Our recent trip to New England was a gold mine for the latter.  The first one I ran across was the Central Burying Ground on the Boston Common, across the street from our hotel.  Unfortunately it was gated and locked, but it really exhibits what I like about 18th century cemeteries – a randomness…not the uniform rows of later grave yards.  Of course, that same randomness plays havoc with us genealogists, so it’s a trade off.

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Central Burying Ground – Boston Common

The following day, we did a genealogy research trip around the Boston area looking for my Franklin, Smith and Ayers ancestors.  I didn’t find anything new but did happen upon some interesting graves.  The first stop was Hingham, Massachusetts where my 8th great grandmother, Sarah Smith was born in 1646.  I was hoping to find some Smiths there, particularly my 9th great grandparents, John Smith and Sarah Woodward.  No such luck, but the Hingham Cemetery is fantastic, even more so on the crisp fall day we were there.  Here are some examples:


Gravestone in the Hingham, MA Cemetery


Gravestone of Mary Lincoln, Hingham, MA Cemetery

These two stones show outstanding examples of the death’s head motif.  A death’s head, often with wings and/or crossed bones, was a stylized skull – one of the more prominent  gravestone icons to be seen in late 17th, early 18th stones.


Gravestone of Thomas and Sarah Gill, Hingham MA Cemetery

After Hingham, we drove the short distance to Hull.  This was slightly out of order, chronologically.  Sarah Smith married Jonathan Franklin, my 8th great grandfather in Boston about 1686.  They stayed in Boston for a time and then repaired to Haverhill on the New Hampshire border.  Jonathan was killed by Indians in 1693 in Haverhill.  Sarah then married John Fields and with her children, including my 7th great grandfather, David Franklin, moved to Hull where David learned the trade of a seaman.

After Hull, we schlepped up to Haverhill.  I really wanted to find the Pentucket Cemetery, but it was a lost cause, sending the GPS in the rent-a-car into apoplectic fits.  There are alot of Ayer(s) there; my 7th great grandmother, wife of David Franklin, was Elizabeth Ayers.

Anyroad, we were back in Boston three days later as part of our tour on the Queen Mary 2.  That day, we spent some time in Boston’s Granary Burying Grounds.  Several famous folks are buried there; Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin’s parents, etc.  These are some of my favorite examples from there.

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Gravestone of Elizabeth Hurd, Granary Burying Ground, Boston

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Gravestone of Nathan Hurd, Granary Burying Ground, Boston

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Gravestone, Granary Burying Ground, Boston

(The preceding three seem to have ‘death’s head’ down a little too grimly…)

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Gravestone of Hannah Franklin, Granary Burying Ground, Boston

And while probably not true, the local legend is that this is the grave of Mother Goose.

Mother Goose

Gravestone of Mary Goose, Granary Burying Grounds, Boston

Cemeteries Are Fun!

So I’m a rabid genealogist and cemeteries are like my second home.  I think this has become a trend in recent years – seems to be growing exponentially.  Tracing the different fads and fashions in headstones through history is fascinating.

We’re going to Boston in October and I’m really hoping to go to the Eliot Burial Ground in Roxbury.  One of my favorite headstones is there – Theodora Parke, sister-in-law of my eighth great grand-uncle.  It’s so ‘Beetlejuice.’

Gravestone of Theoda Parke

My favorite cemetery in Central Texas is the Pin Oak Cemetery outside Muldoon in Fayette County.  It’s also known as the Old Blackjack Springs Cemetery.  It’s one of the oldest in Fayette County; at least half the folks buried their are my kin in some way or another.  It’s about two miles off County Road 609, at the end of a cow path.  The first time I was there was in 1975, when I was 11.  My mother was driving my father’s brand new Dodge Charger and we were all convinced the rocks and ruts would take out the muffler.  My great grandmother used to say when she was a girl, they’d ride out there on horse back for a picnic and a chance to commune ‘folks gone, but not forgotten.’  I can certainly see why.SI Exif

Some of the graves there are in elaborate gated areas and above-ground ‘tombs,’ like this one for Dr. Kenzie Routh, my 1st cousin, five times removed –

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And some are just concrete slabs, like this one for Enoch Jesse McNatt, my second great grand uncle –

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But I think my favorite grave there belongs to ‘Ocean Wave Hamilton.’  I look at that marker and the questions are just endless…

ocean wave hamilton