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Cemetery records can be very helpful. Tombstone inscriptions from many cemeteries have been copied and indexed. The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Museum have a good collection of these epitaph transcriptions. A list of these holdings can be found in Robert F. Fellows’ Researching Your Ancestors in New Brunswick, pages 236–49 (Family History Library book 971.5 D27f; fiche 6051366).

Contents

Online Collections

Cemeteries

There are some very old graveyards and burial sites in New Brunswick[1]. Alas, some, like Mirimichi’s oldest burial ground at Wilson’s Point, have been vandalized and stones removed [2]. As well, many gravestones in south eastern counties were made from the local “brownstone” that does not weather well. It tends to split off in layers so where once there was a readable inscription, after a century and a bit the whole carved surface has flaked off and vanished. This is why the cemetery transcripts done at the beginning of the 20th century are so very important, and even those being done today will record information that may have disappeared in another generation. This is also why researchers are looking for burial records as well as actual gravestones.

Some Terminology

Epitaph
A tomb inscription, words written in memory of one who has died.
Memorial
Words intending to commemorate a person.
Tombstone
A stone standing or laid over a grave, usually with an epitaph.
Transcribe
Make a copy of, especially in writing.
Burial or Cemetery records
Information maintained by a cemetery or graveyard on who was buried, where and when.

Transcripts and Burial Records

It is important to distinguish between transcripts of inscriptions on gravestones and burial records. In the chill of autumn, the wet of spring or the heat of summer, dedicated genealogists get down on their knees and push aside prickly shrubs, pull up grass, and scrape away moss or even earth, to decipher and transcribe the inscriptions on gravestones.[3]

Burial records may be just as hard to decipher, but they are kept by the people who run cemeteries, and who write down the names and vital facts about everyone who is buried, usually in a book or books. These records can be important because they record burials that may not have been put on the stone, or what has disappeared from the stone or the long-decayed wooden marker.

Be careful to check exactly what type of cemetery record you are using, sometimes there are both transcripts and burial records, and some editors combine the two. Generations has been publishing many different cemetery records.

Gerald Bell’s work in deciphering microfilm F1101, the “Kingston Peninsula Anglican Burials 1816-1857” is printed in Generations, starting with the Fall 2001 issue, while Marion Dunphy’s work with the records of “Greenwood Cemetery, 1869-1919” (Saint John West, Sand Cove Rd.) has been running since, Vol. 23, No. 1., Spring 2001. While Mr. Bell explains that his work is with burial records as opposed to tombstone data, Ms. Dunphy, who also deciphered burial records, has used Burial Permits, tombstones, Funeral Home records and newspaper obituaries to try to reconstruct the years 1897-1910 that were lost in a fire.

Moncton’s large Elmwood Cemetery is one of the lucky ones, in 497 pages, “all known records” have been published by Ken Kanner (see Generations Information Sheets), so presumably both epitaphs and burial records have been used.

Cemetery Transcripts

Many cemetery transcripts exist for both large and small graveyards, but they are not easy to find. Here are a few places I have found them:

As you look through LAC’s Checklist of Parish Registers 1986 for New Brunswick, you will see “L[eonard]. Allison’s Cemetery Recordings, Kings Co.” available on microfilm from LAC.

The names and dates of burial, taken from the gravestones in the old cemetery beside the Free Meeting House in Moncton, were printed in the Moncton Transcript, 3 September 1921, copied and published in the Southeastern Branch Newsletter, Vol. 6, No. 4, March 15, 1986, page 9 with the note “Some of these stones are no longer in existence today.” The newspaper source is probably easier to access but the Newsletter may be at the Moncton Public Library. An earlier Newsletter notes that several Kent County cemeteries have been transcribed and are available in the Moncton Library in the Southeastern Branch files, where there are doubtless records of many other small graveyards including many in Albert County, done by Pierce and Dawn Kinnie. In August, 1980, the Newsletter lists 42 Westmorland County cemeteries in and around Moncton, that are indexed in the card file index at the Lutz Mountain Meeting House Museum. The same issue prints lists of 26 cemetery transcripts by Douglas B. Ayre, and 18 by James Snowdon, of graveyards around the Dorchester and Memramcook River area and down to the Nova Scotia border, available at Mount Allison’s Bell Library and also in the Westmorland Historical Society Archives there. Bob Fellows Researching Your Ancestors, pages 82-83, also lists transcripts of memorials in Westmorland County, both Protestant and Catholic, in the Bell Library, at Mount Allison, but the lists differ from those in the Newsletter.

From time to time Generations (see for example Fall 2000) prints transcripts of one or two epitaphs, transcribed by Douglas Ayer, from small cemeteries in Chignecto, sometimes with an indication of where they fit into the above lists, sometimes not. There are also cemetery transcripts, mostly unfilmed manuscripts, at the PANB and, at one time, in the Saint John Museum. The latter collection had an index, but it may have gone to the Saint John Regional Library when the Museum restructured its Library-Archives services.

“Out of the Way Cemeteries in Restigouche County, New Brunswick,” by Suzanne Blaquière, in Generations (Fall, 2000), lists ten small burial grounds, of various denominations, with their location, accessibility, but not, as yet, transcribed.

“Private Burial Plots In and Around St. George, New Brunswick” fills over four pages in the Summer 2001 issue with actual transcripts complemented with family information.

Advertised in Generations (Spring 2001, page 31) are a series of cemetery transcripts from the Mirimichi region, available from Avadane Connolly. In the Mirimichi Branch News, Generations (Fall, 2001) they note that the cemetery committee has updated 51 Northumberland County cemeteries, and that copies are for sale.

Has It Been Done?

Several NBGS branches have active Cemetery Committees, and more lists of small, out-of-the-way burial grounds should be followed by more transcripts. In the meantime, an index of, or better yet, a subscription to Generations will let you access at least some of this current work. But remember, transcribing gravestones has been going on for well over a century. Some early work was published and is listed in the New Brunswick History Checktlist, but much early work may exist only in manuscript or typescript. Libraries, museums, historical associations, archives, and special collections are all possible places to look.

Saint John

Saint John, like most older cities, has a variety of burial grounds, some in active use, some long-closed to further burials, which makes it a puzzle to figure out where to look for graves. Three researchers have done their best to straighten out the history of various graveyards, and the records, at least for the Church of England.

Graeme F. Somerville published Some Burial Records of the Loyalist Burial Ground, Saint John, New Brunswick in 1985, in which he gave some history of the various graveyards and made accessible the surviving burial records and early transcripts of monumental inscriptions for the old cemetery on King Street, East.

Recently, his A Library of Stone Pages: Weslyan Burial Ground (The Methodist Cemetery) in Saint John, 1838-1959, has been published. Advertised in Generations (Fall 2001), page 46.

Lennox W. Bagnell transcribed and published The Church of England Cemetery (1837-1923) Saint John, New Brunswick in 1987, this being the Burial records (not just monumental inscriptions) for the Thorne Avenue (now Westmorland Road), “New Burial Ground” consecrated in 1835. Because it gives grave numbers it is possible to confirm family connections where a surname is misspelled (I found two McCoy children under “Mecy”) and it covers much of the 19th century.

Another overview of the history of various early graveyards in Saint John was written by Daniel F. Johnson, B.B.A., C.G.(C) who published them in The New Brunswick Genealogist, Volume 2 (Saint John, 1988) together with Epitaphs from the Church of England Burying Ground after it was closed and “improved” by the city and a number of stones destroyed or moved. He has also published some 4,000 transcriptions from Cedar Hill Extension Cemetery, Saint John, N.B. (1989). Other Saint John researchers have delved into other death and burial records for specific times. In 1998-1999, Generations ran lists from Ruby M. Cusack’s Index to Death Roll in the Saint John Globe 1897-1926. The PANB website has a searchable Index to Saint John Burial Permits, 1889-1919.

Funeral Home and Undertaker’s Records

They exist. Ms. Dunphy used Brenan’s Funeral records at the PANB who hold other cemetery and funeral home records for the Counties of Charlotte, Saint John and Westmorland. Always check the latest County Guide, you never know what may have been turned in and just accessioned. Among the most extensive is Saint John’s Fitzpatrick’s Funeral Home Records, MC1409, microfilmed.

However, checking for something else in Generations, Issue 55, Spring 1993, I came across “Death Dates from Undertaker’s Records, Hampstead, Queens Co., New Brunswick”, pages 39-48, and continued in Issue 56, pages 40-48. The Fall 2001 issue Karen Small has contributed a table of “Grand Manan Death Certificates 1920-1929,” from microfilm 18907 PANB.

When you know the community you are interested in, check with the local Library, they might know what local records exist and will certainly know about anything like this that has been published.[4]

References

  1. Robert Fellows, Researching Your Ancestors...(1979), pages 120-21, offers sound advice on locating older, and small cemeteries, reading tombstones.
  2. Louise Manny's Scenes From an Earlier Day; Historical Notes on Wilson's Point in Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society 19 (1996) pages 39-46.
  3. Douglas, "In Loving Memory of ...", Tools on the Trade, page 71.
  4. Douglas, Althea. "New Brunswick Burial Records (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/New_Brunswick_Burial_Records_%28National_Institute%29.
 

 

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