Sunday, April 29, 2018


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Cemetery

We all end up there at the end of our lives. It may be a large metropolitan cemetery with multiple gates or a family cemetery on the family farm, or even the cemetery that is part of a churchyard. All of these are represented in my extended family.

My mother’s family has a large plot in Mount Carmel Cemetery in the Chicago suburbs. The plot holds 12 graves and was first used in 1905 for the burial of Leo Connery, my mother’s brother who died at the age of 7.  I believe that there are currently three vacant graves left in the plot. Other than Connery’s there are two Hogans buried there, Louise who died in 1919 and Margaret who died in 1909. They are the daughters of my grandmother Alice Fleming Connery’s sister Eliza who married John Hogan in Ireland. Because of the wide acceptance of cremation, my parents share one of the graves. Since the graves are 32 inches wide and presumably 6 feet long, the family plot can be estimated to be 15 feet by 12 feet. There is a central monument facing east to the graves.[i]

Burbach family plot in Calvary Cemetery,, Milwaukee, WI.
My paternal grandmother’s family also has a family plot in Calvary Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. According to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, there are 64 people with the last name of Burbach In Calvary Cemetery. The earliest burial that could belong to our known family is of a George who was born and died on 9 October 1857.  This fits with the fact that my great-grandfather Georg and his young family settled in Milwaukee in 1856. I plan to contact the cemetery to see who paid for this burial since there were two unrelated Burbach families in Milwaukee at this time.

Sr Antonius Church Cemetery Oberselters, Hesse-Nassau, Germany.
In 2004, my husband and I traveled to Germany and were able to visit the village where the Burbach family lived for over one hundred years. At the cemetery attached to the church in the village, we were lucky to find that the family name is still represented in the Cemetery. This was a surprise since in Europe it is common that a grave is only there for about 25 years before it is replaced by another grave. [ii] 

We also traveled to Villmar, Germany where George Burbach married Catharina Caspari and found the family name on a memorial dedicated to the soldiers of WWI at the cemetery of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul.


My husband’s families were farmers in a small town in southern Illinois. Both sides of his family used the same cemetery in Jasper County. This was convenient when we went to visit the graves of his grandparents since his great and great-great-grandparents are all in the same cemetery. His third and fourth great-grandparents are in the same county but a different cemetery.

 
     [iii]
Folk singer Burl Ives (Holly Jolly Christmas) is also buried there. But primarily it is the final resting place for the Ferguson and Sempsrott families. This small rural cemetery is very well cared for.

Small private family cemeteries are still in use in more rural areas but unfortunately, they often are lost to view and those buried there are soon forgotten. Such is the story of Phoebe Hill Barrow Ferguson who died sometime between 1810 and 1825 probably in Kentucky. There is no known date of death or place of burial for her. She was probably buried near the land her husband worked as the family traveled from South Carolina to Indiana. 

These small family cemeteries are still allowed in some areas today. My sister and her husband recently created one on their ranch in Colorado. All that is needed is a fenced piece of land. Their cemetery has a beautiful view of the mountains and Aspens.


[i] Cemetery information received from cousin Alice Sterling in the form of a sketch of the plot with the graves labeled and identified. This sketch is in possession of the author.
[ii] Photo of Anna Burbach’s grave taken in 2004 by the author.
[iii] Photos of Mound Cemetery taken in 2003 by the author.