Cemetery records index: St. Agnes, Menands (NY)

If you have ancestors who lived in New York’s Capital District, you might well find some research joy in this exciting cemetery indexing project by the volunteers of the Troy Irish Genealogy Society.

TIGS has been transcribing the interment books of St. Agnes Roman Catholic Cemetery in Menands, N.Y., just outside of Albany. So far, two volumes of records are online, encompassing the years 1868 to 1910. Book I (1868-82), which went online in November of last year, contains 3,427 names. Recently, Book II (1883-1910) became available, containing 6,073 names. Book III is in progress, with over 12,000 names.

The records are a snapshot of the Albany-area melting pot, according to information from TIGS project coordinator Bill McGrath. For instance, the clear majority of burials listed in Book II were people born in Albany, followed closely by those born in Ireland. Immigrants from 13 other countries are represented in the records, including England, Germany, Italy and Canada.

The indexes on the TIGS site will give you a last and first name of the deceased, date of death, age, and the book number and page number of their interment entry.

TIGS also provides a printable request form that can be sent to the cemetery requesting the full interment listing for $5. Information available on the complete listing includes deceased’s place of birth, place of death, address of last residence, burial date, lot/section numbers and in some cases, the undertaker’s name. It could be well worth sending for, if you find a match in the online index.

Having visited there once, I can agree that St. Agnes is a beautiful example of the rural cemetery movement, all gently rolling hills and serene vistas. And it’s also a place of rest for thousands. I have a feeling quite a few researchers will be reconnecting with their Capital District roots because of this project.  McGrath and his team of volunteers have a lot to be proud of!


It’s gonna cost, but how much?

This consumer-affairs column about a family researcher socked by high fees in the course of cemetery research leaves me with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, the fees  in this case did sound steep. (For a grave location lookup, the administrators wanted $70 for the first name and $45 for each additional name, according to the article. Yikes.)

On the other hand, the overall tone– the surprise that anyone charges for this information – struck me as a bit naïve.

In fairness, the reporter did note that this is not the only cemetery that charges lookup fees, which certainly has been my experience.
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Cemetery trips: What not to do

If you stick with genealogy, eventually you’re going to end up in a cemetery. (As a researcher, I mean.) This post is about beginner’s luck, which is not always what it’s cracked up to be. On two very different cemetery trips, I learned some important (and basic) don’ts:

Don’t go without a friend (old or new) who’s been there before. I nearly missed my family’s monument in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Watervliet, NY. Pathetic, considering I had a cemetery map and a plot location AND the monument was big enough to have bit me if it wanted to. But I had no sense of the cemetery layout and quickly got disoriented, wasting much time and energy. By contrast, when I visited the much larger Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn with two knowledgeable genealogy buddies, things went just swimmingly– because they knew the ropes and the layout, not to mention the staff.

Don’t assume there will be a marker,
even for relatively recent burials. Sure, markers fade and sink in old rural cemeteries. But markers can also be missing for big-city relatives who died within living memory. Looking in Holy Cross for the grave of my gg-uncle William (d. 1930), I found only a blank space and a somewhat murky plot ownership record. I still need to learn whether the marker disappeared or never existed – common enough when families had enough money to buy a grave, but not a monument.

W. Haigney gravesite

Lots of markers here, but not THE marker. I think the grave I was looking for is next to the potted plant.

Don’t assume that everybody in the grave is on the headstone. I have two family plots that contain children who died very young but are not listed on the headstones. In both cases, though, their burial information is on their death certificates and is confirmed by the cemetery’s own burial records.

Don’t skip a visit with the staff, even if you think you know everything. Yes, the title says it all. I didn’t bother finding when the groundskeeping staff patrolled St. Patrick’s. I already had my grave location info, so who cared? Oh, well: St. Patrick’s isn’t nearly the size of Holy Cross, but it still managed to confuse me. I kick myself thinking how efficient I could have been if a human being had given me a quick primer on how the place was arranged. I never did find one tombstone I was looking for that day; I ran out of daylight. Which brings me to another point: In larger urban cemeteries, a visit to the office is just the prudent thing to do. The staff should know you’re there and what section you’ll be visiting – often, they’ll want to keep an eye out for you, which isn’t a bad thing.

I’m sure there are lots more favorite cemetery tips – and goof-ups. Any to share?


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