Saturday, April 6, 2013

Headstone Hunting

After a successful visit to the New York City Municipal Archives and uncovering my 4th great-grandmother's maiden name, I thought I'd try my hand at finding her burial location. I know Ellen Sweeney-Hughes is buried with her husband, Terrence Hughes, and several other family members at Calvary Cemetery. 

Calvary, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is the largest cemetery in New York City. It is the final resting place for over 3 million New Yorkers. It is divided into 4 sections, the oldest being "Old Calvary" which was opened in 1848 and is the cemetery where my Hughes relatives are interred.

Now, if you have read some of my posts you may have heard me rant about how rare it is to find a relative with a headstone. I come from a poor, working-class stock. Headstones are expensive. And let's just face the facts, we're either broke or cheap. Cheap out of necessity - - but nonetheless cheap.

This morning I traveled to Calvary with hope in my heart though. With my head held high I drove into the pack cemetery with camera in pocket. 

The Hughes Family is buried in Section 3, Range 1, Plot A, Graves 1 through 4.

Now what does that tell you? That sounds to me as if they are going to be right up front in Section 3. They might very well be the front absolute first spot in a corner of Section 3.

This quality is also quite common among my relatives' plot locations; they are often right near the curb. Not only are we poor, I guess we know we're lazy...or maybe just super tired from all that working to maintain poor. ("Give us your tired, your poor"...no wonder my people came to America). Ain't no one gonna come visit your grave if we have to trample all over the cemetery to find you. However, that is exactly what I did. 

Despite being pretty sure the plot would be in the first, foremost corner of the section I walked up and down those ranges. I also drove around and around that section trying to read the few headstones which had cemetery location numbers chiseled into them. 

Well guess what, people. I did not find a headstone for my Hughes family. Surprise, surprise, surprise. The very corner of Section 3 has 4 small square tiles that are flush with the ground; that mark the perimeter of Graves 1-4. And that is it! No marking of the corner stones, no names, no dates, you can hardly even see them. I didn't even bother to photograph them.

According to my Cousin Roseann and some of my own substantiating research we know that corner to be the resting place of:
  1. Terrence Hughes, my 4th great-grandfather on my father's most maternal line; died 22 September 1873.
  2. Ellen Sweeney-Hughes, my 4th great-grandmother, bearer of my father's mitochondrial DNA who died 12 March 1884 at the age of 81. 
  3. Edward Hughes, their son who died 24 March 1874 at the age of 25.
  4. Patrick Henry Hughes, another son and purchaser of the plot who died 25 June 1883 at the age of 40.
  5. Anna Hughes-Gray, my 3rd great-grandmother who sometimes appears as Anna M., Mary Ann, or Mary A., died 17 April 1904.
  6. Thomas Gray, my 3rd great-grandfather, who died at the age of 55 on 30 March 1899.
  7. Mary Gray, also known as Mamie was a daughter of Anna and Thomas Gray. She died 24 May 1929 at the age of 55.
  8. Margaret Gray-Fitzpatrick, another daughter of Anna and Thomas Gray who died 24 June 1968 at the age of 91 .
  9. Michael Fitzpatrick,  Margaret's husband, died 25 Jan 1956 at the age of  81.    
  10. Elizabeth V. Gray,  another daughter of Anna and Thomas Gray, who died 2 June 1970 at the age of 90.

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