|Katherine Stauffer Lammay & Grandkids at Allegheny Cemetery|
It was quite common around the turn of the century for your ancestors to spend their Sundays in a cemetery, even making a picnic out of the day, especially for working class people who lived in cities. No, they were not morbid. Cemeteries were many times the only open “green” spaces that these families had easy access to by local transportation such as streetcars. They could enjoy a day in the “park” and pay their respects to deceased loved ones at the same time. Many cemeteries were actually developed with this purpose in mind. One of the first “rural cemeteries” as they were called was Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA. You can check out their website, Allegheny Cemetery History, they have wonderful photos and a very interesting history. They also have an online database with all the people buried there.
Okay, history lesson over and back to MY family outing. We planned a trip to Calvary because it had been ages since my husband visited the graves of his grandparents and some great aunts. Plus I have started researching his family since his mother is getting up in years and thought now is a good time to gather his family information. I was surprised when two of his sisters and his mother wanted to come along but was quite glad that they did.
We picked the worst day weather wise. As soon as we reached the cemetery it began to rain. Not just rain mind you, but pour. Bless my mother-in-law's heart, she pushed on climbing muddy hills to show us where the graves were located. This was no easy feat for her. She is 80, uses a walker and oxygen. Now only a hard core genealogy and cemetery obsessed nut like myself can understand why it is perfectly acceptable to drag her mother-in-law, walker sinking into the mud with an oxygen tank hoisted over my shoulder to get family information!
|Old Mumford Grave Stone at Calvary Cemetery|
I learned even more, interesting little facts, when we all went out to lunch after the cemetery. Turns out my sister-in-law has developed an interest in genealogy and being the oldest remembers things that even my mother-in-law has either forgotten or become confused about.
So what genealogy tips did I learn from my day at Calvary?
1. It is helpful to take older family members with you if at all possible to cemeteries. I believe the trip helped to refresh my mother-in-law's memory, plus she truly enjoyed the day out. For whatever reason it never occurred to her to tell me her grandparents were buried there, I actually believe she forgot. But when she saw the old tome stone (writing is now worn off) she said "Oh yea, that's the grandparents".
2. It helps to interview family as a group. It turns into a conversation, not an "interview" with each family member adding their perspective and jogging each others memory.
3. Finally, I think the cemetery staff was more helpful because we converged on them as a group (or maybe they thought we were going to buy some more plots LOL). Now I don't recommend ganging up on the staff at any cemetery, but hey, whatever helps. The staff actually thought we were from out of town. I mean why else would we all be there (especially my mother-in-law) on a Saturday in the pouring rain? Obviously they were not genealogists!