An Archive Whose Subjects Are Permanent Residents

Green Wood Cemetery

Last week I spent an evening in a cemetery chapel crowded with archivists, genealogists, and Sunset Park locals. We were gathered at  Green-Wood Cemetery, where some of New York’s most infamous VIPs RIP, to hear cemetery staff highlight their collection of ephemera and records spanning their 175-year history.

Professor of archival management at Brooklyn College, Green-Wood Archivist, and boxer Anthony M. Cucchiara has dedicated some elbow grease toward making the archives at Green-Wood a usable and accessible resource. Cucchiara gave much credit to volunteers and interns who have -with Cucchiara at the helm- spent approximately 6,000 hours processing archival materials. Volunteers still meet some Saturdays to refine and continue their work.

Green Wood Box of Stereographs

Jeff Richman, Green-Wood Historian and writer, spoke about the collection and showed off some stereographs from the cemetery’s archives. Photographers, he said, were drawn to the cemetery as a peaceful break from the city scenes. Richman displayed some on tables for post-talk browsing.

Of the many types of archives housed at the cemetery, burial orders sparked my interest most. The documents can show family relationships and fill in gaps researchers might not find in U.S. census records. Burial orders are packed with useful information like official death dates and interestingly, signatures of relatives that might verify other signed documents. If you’re lucky they might also include renderings of monuments on site.

Green-Wood also introduced a program, “Green-Ealogy,” which allows you to submit research questions online. Mark Daly, Manager of Genealogical Research Services, said they receive an impressive 30 or so research inquiries a week.

Green Wood Cemetery

Brooklyn’s Green-Wood celebrates its 175th anniversary this year with an exhibit at The Museum of the City of New York.

Green-Wood has recently purchased a beautiful abandoned greenhouse that resides across the street on 5th Avenue. They plan to restore the lot into a welcome center. The cemetery offers creative programs, walking tours and trolley tours throughout the year. Check them out here.

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One thought on “An Archive Whose Subjects Are Permanent Residents

  1. D. MacVey says:

    You know how much we love tramping through cemeteries! We’ve gotten a lot of information about our relatives from cemetery headstones and records. There is an on-line resource/archive called “Find-a Grave.” Volunteers take photos of gravestones in cemeteries around the country and then post them to the site. It has been added to the Ancestry.com collection so in our genealogy research I have found many birth and death dates through this resource without actually having to go to the cemeteries. But, in fact, we have seen some really beautiful cemeteries in our travels!

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