history-genealogy site

This is a site where I will discuss my family genealogy research and related history. When a blog deals with a particular family group, I will try to include it in the title so uninterested people can skip it without skimming it. It is my hope to get feedback on research methods, family members and historical context from other historians, genealogists, and researchers. (c) Barbara L. de Mare 2006, 2007

Location: Englewood, New Jersey, United States

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Although I wrote this a few years ago, it seems an appropriate time to publish it on my blog. I have been informed that the man mentioned in the article is now one of the inhabitants of the cemetery--Mt. Repose or elsewhere--so no one should be offended.

On July 27, 2001, my sister Betty and I visited Mt. Repose Cemetery in Haverstraw, New York. This was our second visit having gone first in 1999. The point of these trips was to learn more about the family of our Grandmother Ethel Dykeman. We knew from obituaries and other sources that her mother Sarah Janet Phillips, generally known as ANettie,@ was buried at Mt. Repose as was her grandmother Catherine McKenzie.

Before this trip I had located some of the Rockland County cemetery records on-line, and gotten the plot number at Mt. Repose for a Thomas Phillips. As he was buried three days after the death date I had for our 2G grandfather Thomas Phillips and as Thomas Phillips was the husband of Catherine McKenzie (who I knew was buried in Mt. Repose), I surmised that this had to be my 2G grandfather, one of the ancestors for whom I was searching.

After our first unsuccessful visit I had written to the cemetery, asking for information about the burial cites of Sarah Janet Phillips and Catherine McKenzie, but had gotten no reply. Additionally, I had called the day before we planned on visiting, leaving a message on an answering machine. I got a return message from a man who stated that he would not be at the cemetery on the proposed date. Having had no luck finding anything on our own two years before, we decided to delay the trip to another day.

I called again when we had another chance to visit, and left another message. This time a man named Jim called back when I was at my desk and advised me that he would be at the cemetery on the following Friday, not Saturday. Having actually spoken to this elusive man, I took the day off from work to go there. Jim told us to meet him between 11 and 12 at the garage up the road to the right of the main gates. He said to look for a blue pickup truck, and he would be around there someplace mowing the grass.

On the appointed day we followed Jim’s directions, and indeed found him hanging out at the garage. He told us that he had very few records as several years ago the secretary of the cemetery corporation had a fight with the Board of Directors and took all the records home. The secretary then died and no one knew what he did with the records. Jim further advised us that records of many burials never existed as at times the people in charge of the cemetery were illiterate.

I asked about the records I had found on-line. Jim was vague, but did say that several years before some woman went there and copied down “the remaining records.” He figured these must be what I found. Jim showed us a safe in the garage and pointed out a few record books in it that he said he does not let anyone touch anymore as they became damaged and loose from prior careless handling. He seemed to be blaming the woman who had copied them, but was unclear. He had no idea where she was from.

Jim then reluctantly showed us a map of Plot 212, which is where I knew Thomas Phillips was buried, and let me copy it. The information on the map confirmed that Thomas Phillips was indeed our 2G grandfather Thomas Phillips. Next Jim showed us a blue card from a filing cabinet in the garage. He also let me copy the blue card. While I was copying he told us that he had no interest in the old graves and records, and could not understand why so many people did. He was helpful nevertheless. After I finished copying the blue card he took us to the plot, then went back to mowing the grass.

Mt. Repose is a large old non-sectarian cemetery still in use for burials, but seems to have no office or other building except for the garage. Only Jim the grass mower seems to run the show, although he did make reference to a Board of Directors. It would seem that Jim must answer to someone as there is a cemetery corporation. I doubt that he really lets anyone tell him what to do. All in all, the visit was quite an experience.


Anonymous tired-don said...

Lotsa SECORs interred there, too

9:18 AM  

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