I love cemeteries. If I see a cemetery, I have to take a walk through it, reading the gravestone inscriptions and enjoying the peace. Cemeteries are where I gather my thoughts away from the living.
The dead do not judge.
Cemeteries Are Important To Family Historians
Family historians should spend a lot of time in cemeteries. Gravestones are markers of our family journey, and they are the closest we will get to those who came before us. A cemetery is an important source for researching a family’s past.
They can solve family riddles, create new ones and offer new lines of research. I have experienced all three during the journey into my family history. There are two important cemeteries in my family history: St Joseph’s Cemetery in Airdrie and St Peter’s Cemetery ( Dalbeth ) Glasgow.
St Joseph’s Cemetery
St Joseph’s Cemetery first opened in 1860 and a number of key relatives rest there. Over the years I drove past the Cemetery on Dykehead Road and never gave the place a thought. But, research is enlightening and it is now in my regular family cemetery visit list.
Two key ancestors buried in St Joseph’s Cemetery are my 2nd Great Grandparents Patrick Sherry (1834-1902) and Alice Drummond (1837-1923)
They rest in an unmarked grave on the old Railway Plots. The lair number is 713.
Their daughter Helen (1871 -1934) had a few children who died young and they rest with their Grandparents.
Patrick and Alice’s son Michael Sherry died in a railway accident at Barblues, Airdrie in 1890 and buried four lairs from them in 717.
My Grandfather Thomas Sherry’s eldest sister Rose Ann (1881-1882) rests in this area too. There are more relatives buried in St Joseph’s Cemetery but for the sake of brevity, I won’t list them in this post.
Entering the cemetery from Dykehead Road, getting down to the railway plots is tricky. You walk down a steep and uneven hill. The railway plots contain unmarked graves and collapsed headstones.
Approach with a degree of caution. And wear suitable footwear.
To my dismay, some people who have no reflection when they look in a mirror have vandalized graves with graffiti.
I took these photos of the railway plots in 2013. You are welcome to use them for your records if you credit the photographer!
It is my intention to lay a grave marker on my 2nd Grandparent’s grave for future descendants and other family historians.
I discovered the family burial links to St Joseph’s Cemetery with help from Chris McKay. Chris undertook a project to transcribe St Joseph’s lair books. He is the main resource for those researching family burials at St Joseph’s Cemetery.
Now, let’s visit St Peter’s Dalbeth.
St Peter’s Cemetery, Dalbeth
My brother recalls a Sunday in 1977 when our Dad took him to St Peter’s Cemetery, Dalbeth. They walked the cemetery pathway, Dad said ” Our ancestors are buried in here. Always remember that.”
Dad walked to my Grandfather Thomas Sherry’s resting place, knelt down and said a silent prayer. He rose, and took my brother around the cemetery, stopping in each section and reading headstone inscriptions.
My brother recalls Dad looking frustrated as if he could not find what he came looking for. They went home. Dad didn’t find whatever he was looking for in St Peter’s.
During my visits to St Peter’s Cemetery with Dad, he only went to his father’s grave.
Walking Amongst Ancestors
Opened in 1863, there are so many of my relatives buried in St Peters Cemetery, Dalbeth. Buried in common ground, unmarked graves, lairs with beautiful headstones and well-tended graves. Sherry ancestors, Coyle ancestors, O’Donnell ancestors, Montague ancestors. I could go on.
I have visited the cemetery since childhood and attended my first funeral there at the age of seven. St Peter’s Dalbeth follows my life’s course.
For most of my life, St Peter’s Cemetery has been the source of grief, joy, and surprise. It will remain to do so for a long time to come.
Occasionally my walks around cemeteries, and in particular St Peter’s Cemetary, Dalbeth, the dead have led a path to the living.
I found flowers and wreaths on some of my older ancestor’s final resting places. Unfortunately, none of them contained a note. I assume the visitors are unknown relatives.
Perhaps I should leave a note? But how would other relatives who are not family historians react? Would they feel that leaving contact details is disrespectful?
I am still considering this option to reach out.
The Focal Point
I don’t always think about miserable topics such as death – honestly! But sometimes during my cemetery walks, I wonder If my final journey will lead down the path of a cemetery. Or on the conveyor belt of a crematorium.
My Dad once said that cremation is too final and burial is a better focal point so that future generations can gather to pay their respects. I never gave it much thought until my research led me to gravestone hunting.
The older I become the more I agree with Dad. I think cremation would be too final. But I probably won’t have the final decision on my final journey.
Many family members who lie at peace in cemeteries endured economic and social hardships that are hard to fully comprehend. My ancestors were lucky to escape the drudgery of the 19th Century.
With that in mind, I walk through cemeteries and if I find an ancestor’s final resting place. I pay my respects and thank them for getting the family to where we are today.