Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Early Graveyards in Massachusetts

John Saxton
Originally uploaded by Mr. Ducke
Two somewhat unrelated events have occurred this month but now I see the relationship that makes a process understandable. The process of seeking early gravestones is complicated and frustrating even in this age of digital photography.

Matthew, a gravestone photographer, and friend on the photo hosting Web site, Flickr, went to the ancient graveyard, Copp's Hill, in Boston and took several amazing photographs. I stopped dead at this one and decided that this John Saxton , might be a brother to Capt. Joseph Saxton (1656-1715), 2nd (and thirteen years younger) husband of Hannah DENISON (daughter of Capt. George DENISON and Lady Ann BORODELL).

Using information in the Torrey's Marriages database at NEHGS, I discovered that this John and my Joseph are step-brothers. His father Thomas married three times and both of these men were his sons. My Joseph's mother was Ann COPP. (I wouldn't be surprised to find out she's a Copp of Copp's Hill.)

At about the same time, Nancy Hauser, a Denison family historian, tried to find the ancient cemetery in Roxbury where William DENISON, father of Capt George Denison is buried and John Eliot, the revered minister to the Indians is also resting.

After much research on both of our parts and a consultation with graveyard expert David Lambert of NEHGS, we have concluded that there many persons buried in Boston with no grave markers. Dave and I takled on the phone. I was his first consultation via the social networking Web site, Facebook, where we both are members.

The Web site for the City of Boston does have a Historic Burying Ground Initiative which can help us with our oldest, and in many cases, immigrant New England Ancestors. It is interesting to search this but it is important to remember that you should not assume you can visit the graveyard (many are gated and locked) and even if there is a gravestone or a footstone, it may be unreadable or underground. When using this be sure to use the abbreviations key. I recommend purchase of Dave Lambert's book for visiting many Massachusetts cemeteries. He tells me a new, revised edition may be ready by December.

But, I know you would like viewing this wonderful gravestone!

Here Lyeth Buried/The Body of/John Saxton/Aged 38 Years/Departed This/Life the 31 Day/of May 1686

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