Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Research

Asking some genealogists to name their favorite cemetery is sort of like asking a parent to name their favorite child. Yet that’s exactly what I did to some of the people I work with. (No, I wasn’t trying to put them on the spot!) I’m fairly obsessed with cemeteries and was curious as to some of their favorites. Here’s what they told me.

Anne Gillespie Mitchell has a fondness for Stonewall Jackson Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia. It’s easy to understand why. She has five generations of ancestors buried there. “My great-grandparents had a house that was right next to the property for years and my grandfather played there. And then there’s the historical significance since Stonewall himself is buried there.”

Calvary Cemetery. Photo by Lou Szucs.

Calvary Cemetery. Photo by Lou Szucs.

Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, New York is Lou Szucs’ favorite. She told me that there have been more than 3 million burials there since the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York opened it in 1848 and is said to have more interments there than any other cemetery in the United States. Some of Lou’s earliest immigrant ancestors are buried there.  (There’s also the added bonus of the view of Manhattan.)

Paul Rawlins’ favorite is Lewiston City Cemetery in Lewiston, Utah. “I have three generations of family there, and my parents already have their headstone in place (no rush, Mom and Dad). But I think the real connection with the place was forged with the living people I spent time with there—my grandmother, aunts, uncle, parents and brothers—every year growing up. It feels like a sort of family home.” (Paul has written before about his family traditions and remembrances in this cemetery.)

Another New York favorite is Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn, which is Juliana Szucs Smith’s favorite. “We got our first view of Thomas Howley’s headstone on Find A Grave. The small simple stone had his name, date of death and an important detail—Fireman, USS Ft. Jackson. That clue led me to a 123-page Civil War pension application that I found on Fold3.com. He had enlisted using his mother’s maiden name, so he didn’t appear in searches of pension indexes. When we were in New York a few years ago, we got to visit the cemetery in person. We have a ton of family there so it was great to revisit gravesites we hadn’t been to in years, and for the first time see Thomas’ stone in person.”

howley-burial

My favorite? I can’t narrow it to a single cemetery, so I’m going to take artistic license with my part of this article and name a few of them.

Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis is large (the third-largest non-government cemetery in the U.S.). It is the final resting place for everyone from presidents (Benjamin Harrison) to notorious felons (John Dillinger). The rich (Eli Lilly of Lilly Pharmaceuticals) and the poor (countless “unnamed” graves) are all buried here. (If you go, be sure to visit James Whitcomb Riley’s grave at the top of Crown Hill. The view of the Indianapolis skyline is incredible from there.)

I’ve been to countless cemeteries, including dozens of military cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery, which is an incredibly moving place. But even after seeing all of those, I was not prepared for what I felt at the American Cemetery at Normandy. I had the privilege of visiting there in June, just a few days after the 70th anniversary of D-Day. As I walked up the path to the cemetery, I thought I was ready to see it. But seeing row after row after row of markers – and realizing that they died in short time of each other – was nearly overwhelming. (Note: You can find records of those buried at Normandy and other American military cemeteries overseas in the new collection U.S., Headstone and Interment Records for U.S. Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942-1949.)

American Cemetery at Normandy. Photo by Amy Crow, June 2014.

American Cemetery at Normandy. Photo by Amy Crow, June 2014.

Olivet Cemetery, Perry County, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow.

Olivet Cemetery, Perry County, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow.

 

But for all of the grand cemeteries I’ve visited and liked – and I’ve liked them all! – perhaps my favorite cemetery is Olivet Cemetery in Perry County, Ohio. It’s a small cemetery in the rolling hills of southeastern Ohio and is where three generations of my ancestors are buried. Walking there in the quiet countryside, I can almost hear my ancestors.

What are some of your favorite cemeteries?

 

About Amy Johnson Crow

Amy Johnson Crow is a Community Manager for Ancestry.com. She's a Certified Genealogist and an active lecturer and author. Her roots run deep in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. She earned her Masters degree in Library and Information Science at Kent State University. Amy loves to help people discover the joys of learning about their ancestors and she thinks that there are few things better than a day in a cemetery. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and No Story Too Small.

35 Comments

Lois 

I love Resting Green Cemetery in Ironton, Wi and Cottage Cemetery, Cottage, NY. They are two very different places, one sunny, one somber. Both very special.

August 19, 2014 at 3:59 pm
Caralibra 

Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, GA. Just biked there last weekend, beautiful as always. http://www.bonaventurehistorical.org/

August 19, 2014 at 4:13 pm
J Martin Bailey 

Thank you for this article and the “favorites.” Of all the cemeteries that we’ve visited, I like two in Wisconsin, both in the open country. Many of my ancestors are in the Bear Valley Cemetery, as is the historic Brown Church, in Richland County. I also like the Freethinkers Cemetery, near Baraboo, Wisconsin.

August 19, 2014 at 4:46 pm
David Doeltz 

San Francisco National Cemetery on the grounds of the Presidio of San Francisco. It is no longer used for burials so very quiet and shaded by old cypress trees. I overlooks the Golden Gate and one can imagine the view before that orange bridge was built. A cousin is buried here. He was only 20 years old when he was killed at the battle of Chateau Thierry acting as a naval medic/pharmacist mate to a Marine unit.

August 19, 2014 at 4:49 pm
Linda Self 

Mt. Olivet Cemtery in Hugo, Oklahoma, has tombstones shaped like big top tents and elephants. Several circuses have over-wintered in Hugo for years and many of the circus performers are buried there. It’s a small town and a small cemetery, but unusual.

August 19, 2014 at 9:04 pm
Karen 

Thanks for this post, Amy! Although I could name some more, my favorite cemetary is the one near my home, called Waldfriedhof, Duisburg, Germany. For pictures see link below. Thousands of beeches spend shadow and you can have beautiful walks passing colorful rhododenron.

Link: http://www.google.de/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.friedhof-ansichten.de%2Fwp-content%2Fgallery%2FDuisburg-Waldfriedhof%2FDuisburg-Waldfriedhof_18.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.friedhof-ansichten.de%2Farchives%2F1714&h=600&w=800&tbnid=7RuVbR_q2Ay-kM%3A&zoom=1&docid=iGTJmYqoRlaMAM&ei=EPv2U9ziF8mn0QXm-4CgDg&tbm=isch&client=firefox-a&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=1968&page=1&start=0&ndsp=26&ved=0CDoQrQMwCA

August 22, 2014 at 2:13 am
Martha Wright 

I can’t believe that no one mentioned the cemetery in Boston where Paul Revere is buried. So very cool. “Here lies the bode of…” complete with skulls and crossbones. So old and overgrown. You can feel the spirits everywhere. I love cemeteries!

August 23, 2014 at 8:07 am
Eric Wulf 

Cave Hill in Louisville, KY and Arlington National across the river from DC.

August 23, 2014 at 3:41 pm
Barbara Gressel 

I Haven’t been there yet, but my ancestors are buried in the Summerstown, Glengarry, Ontario, Canada Cemetery. It is next to the Salem United Church in Summerstown, Ontario.

August 23, 2014 at 4:03 pm
Lynda Finch 

Historic Union Cemetery, Bakersfield, California
This cemetery has many of the families who settled Bakersfield. They have guided tours by docents.

August 23, 2014 at 4:31 pm
Jackie 

St. Louis Cemetery New Orleans, LA

August 23, 2014 at 4:56 pm
Gwenda Elin Gustafson Malnati 

My favorite cemetery is The Wequetequock Burial Ground in Stonington, New London, Connecticut. This cemetery is located on the eastern side of (Wickety-quock) Cove off of Route # 1 and is surrounded by old stone walls. It is the oldest cemetery in Stonington and is in very good condition. The early founding families of Stonington are buried in this cemetery. A large 4 sided monument was erected in the cemetery in memory of William Chesebrough, Thomas Minor, Walter Palmer, and Thomas Stanton, the first four settlers of the town of Stonington on August 31, 1899. Each of the four sides has a description of one of the men. My three director ancestors William Palmer, his daughter Grace Palmer Minor, and Thomas Minor are all buried under very rare wolf stones from the late 1600′s. The ancient gravestones are well preserved and display early colonial grave designs that are fairly rare. There is a sense of history, peace and a connection to my ancestors that I have never gotten as well anywhere else except on the top of Mount Greylock in North Adams, Berkshire, Massachusetts.

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August 23, 2014 at 5:15 pm
Ruth 

Père-Lachaise in Paris, France. My daughter and I spent half a day there, seven years ago. There are so many famous people buried there. The tombstones are mostly old and amazing. Walking this cemetery is an awesome experience and makes a lovely afternoon activity. Check it out on their website where you can ‘walk’ the cemetery.

August 23, 2014 at 5:39 pm
Connie Shortel 

Beverly Cemetry in Beverly, West Virginia

August 23, 2014 at 6:36 pm
Ginger Smith 

Elkhart Cemetery in Elkhart Illinois. It’s a small quiet cemetery in a small town but it’s on a hill and has a small chapel. It’s a beautiful place to rest for both for those who are still living, as well as those who have gone before. Several generations of my family are buried there and my cousin and I played there as children. We always imagined having our weddings in the chapel. That’s saying a lot for a cemetery! And, no, neither of us made it happen. Probably for the best!

August 23, 2014 at 7:39 pm
Denise Cutajar 

I enjoyed visiting the cemetery at Port Douglas in Far North Queensland. The cause of death descriptions on the headstones are fascinating. Probably would not be allowed today.

August 23, 2014 at 8:18 pm
Denise Cutajar 

Another special Cemetery is Botany Cemetery in Sydney. Special because Mum and Dad are there, but also because they are facing the airport take-off runway. Dad, an American worked for PANAM Airways and he and I shared a fascination for planes.

August 23, 2014 at 8:22 pm
Vince Wolski 

St.Stanislaw Cemetery, Buffalo New York, very old and fullof history

August 23, 2014 at 10:24 pm
Nancy 

The most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever been to is Mountain View in Oakland, CA. The most sobering is Arlington, VA. But my personal favorite – because of the number of my ancestors and their kin whose final resting place it is – is the Akins Cemetery in Akins, Oklahoma.

August 23, 2014 at 10:51 pm
Jim 

Even though it is mentioned, I have to add my vote for Calvary Cemetery Woodside New, York. Many of my ancestors are there and I have visited it quite a few times. Additionally, Green-Wood Cemetery of Brooklyn, New York is also pretty neat. I made it there for one of the Memorial Day concerts.

August 24, 2014 at 5:34 am
Pat 

My favorite is “Old Saint Luke’s” in Isle of Wight Co. Va. It is very old but there is also a new section that is still used today.

August 24, 2014 at 9:00 am
Cindy Meier 

As a volunteer for the Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation my favorite cemeteries are Cedar Grove Cemetery and Elmwood Cemetery across the street from each other in Norfolk, VA. Elmwood Cemetery was dedicated in 1853 as an extension of Cedar Grove Cemetery which was established in 1825 as Norfolk’s first architecturally planned and landscaped municipal cemetery. Cemeteries like Elmwood became known as Victorian Rural Park Cemeteries. During recent volunteer work I discovered that 5 generations of Ethan Allen are buried in Elmwood and Jean Ernest Odend’hal who came to America in 1824 as Secretary to Gen. Marquis De Lafayette is buried in Cedar Grove. Odend’hal’s son married Sarah Lee Allen of the Allen family.

August 24, 2014 at 9:25 am
Jerry McGarty 

Old Saint Raymond’s Cemetery, Bronx, NY

August 24, 2014 at 10:18 am
Jerry McGarty 

Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Valhalla, NY

August 24, 2014 at 10:19 am
Thomas Ray 

If Anyone Is Faniliar With The ANTIOCH CEMETRY In ALAMO, TN. Please Contact Me. I’m Researching The
“BRASFIELD” Name. Thank You

August 24, 2014 at 10:20 am
Nadia Orton 

Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex, Portsmouth, VA. I have three generations of family buried there, and have enjoyed studying the lives of the over seventy- seven U. S. Colored Troops interred at the site.

August 24, 2014 at 11:05 am
Connie Lindberg 

Forest home in Milwaukee. gorgeous statuary and monuments. amazing art. all the beer barons have huge family crypts and plots. Heads of Harley Davidson and other kings of industry, famous actors etc. Gorgeous place. http://www.foresthomecemetery.com/ I also love Trinity churchyard in NY

August 24, 2014 at 12:05 pm
Katie Soukup 

I was in Vienna last year so of course, as a musician, I had to go to the impressive Central Friedhof (Cemetery) to see the graves of so many famous musicians including Beethoven, Brahms, and Schoenberg. But even more moving was the St. Mark Cemetery outside town where they believe Mozart is buried. A small quiet site that brought me to tears.

August 24, 2014 at 1:14 pm
Marilyn 

Westminster Cemetery in Bala Cynwod, Pa and Holy Sepulchre in Montgomery County, Pa. Last, but, not least, Key West Cemetery in Key West, Florida.

August 24, 2014 at 2:22 pm
karen gram 

Nundah Historical Cemetery Queensland Australia. Closed Cemetery.

August 24, 2014 at 2:37 pm
Sandi K 

My favorite is where my parents are buried. Ferndale Cemetery in Johnstown, New York.

August 24, 2014 at 3:58 pm
Brenda Taylor-Silva 

Evergreen Cemetery, Sabula, Iowa it is where my grandparents, great grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and several cousins are buried.

August 24, 2014 at 10:00 pm
Patricia Jones Settle 

I agree with Eric Wulf that Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville is the most beautiful of all, especially in the spring when all the flowering trees are in bloom.

August 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm
Linda Sexton Nusbaum 

The beauty and sadness of the Andersonville National Cemetery will always be with be.

August 25, 2014 at 4:33 pm
Steven Langhorst 

Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, MO. It is beautiful and full of history. Self guided tours are great. But the guided tours are wonderful and the docents are excellent. It is also an Arboretum. A nice place to walk or bike.

August 29, 2014 at 8:33 am

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