Tombstone Tuesday: A plot thickens

My great-great-uncle's gravesite in Brooklyn.

This cemetery story has bothered me for a while, so I decided to go ahead and post it on Tombstone Tuesday, although there is no tombstone. Instead, we have a grave, a twisty set of records, and a somewhat mysterious blank spot.

My great-great uncle William Haigney (1867-1930) is a genealogy blank spot himself. Nobody had ever mentioned him. When I began my research, nobody knew he was there to mention. He was included on my late Aunt Catherine’s List of Haigneys past and present. Unfortunately, she was no longer available to expand upon family history.

I hoped that a long-deferred cemetery trip to Brooklyn might produce some facts to flesh out my sketchy portrait of William. Silly, silly me.

Armed with death certificates and burial dates for William and his wife, I hoped the grave would be fairly easy to locate, which it was. But then the clerk said, “Wait a minute,” took an old register down and worked in silence for another 10 minutes, frowning thoughtfully from time to time. I began to feel guilty, then apprehensive. What was in those records? Vampire sightings? News that William’s grave had been paved over?

As it turned out, the ownership record was odd for the plot in which William was buried with his only child. The owner of record was a family whose surname is unconnected to any of my lines, with burials taking place between 1859 and 1889. However, the plot was emptied by 1930. Despite William’s burial in it, there was no subsequent owner on record.

I headed to the gravesite, where, after diligent pacing and counting, I had to accept that there was no marker. Not too surprising. William never appeared to have much money. There might never have been a marker. Plus, he died in 1930, and his only child in 1946, leaving no children of her own.  There’s a good chance nobody had come near the grave in 60 years.

But the plot ownership quirks are typical of my research on William, a collection of facts that frustrate with more questions. How did William come to be in that particular spot? Was the plot’s owner of record connected to William somehow? And where was William’s wife?

The third question at least can be answered: William’s wife is buried in her parents’ large plot in another part of the same cemetery, beside her first husband.

But the other questions rest undisturbed for now, like William himself.


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