Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Grave Discovery


About a year ago, I was lucky enough to find a photo of the grave headstone for my 4th great grandfather James Hadden posted on Colin Milne's NE Scotland Genealogy website (http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/nescotland/index.html). Colin had posted a number of photos of what he refers to as "strays" in the hope that genealogists and family members will be able to connect with the graves of their ancestors - as I did.

The headstone, located in St. Peter's Cemetery on King Street in Aberdeeen, Scotland (pictured above right) lists seven individuals - Mary Smart (James Hadden's first wife) who died in 1840, William Hadden (James' brother) who died in 1842, William (James' son) who died in 1862 at the age of 12, James Hadden himself who died in 1871, James George Wood Hadden (James' son) who died in 1890, Jessie Jamieson (James' second wife) who died in 1896, and finally, Alexander Hadden (James' son and my 3rd great grandfather) who died in 1914. The headstone inscription provides relationship and death dates, inferring that perhaps all seven individuals are buried in the same grave. But is that even possible even with the almost 75 years between the first listed death and the last?

The current standards for graves in the city of Aberdeen provides a limit of four internments per grave. Fortunately, the city "Bereavement Services" staff were able to provide some information from their records about this Hadden grave that addresses the question, in part.

The grave was purchased on December 22, 1842 by James Hadden. The date of purchase is important as the headstone indicates that Mary Smart died in October 1840 and James' brother, William died in November 1842. It is therefore highly probable that neither of these two were buried in the grave. Unfortunately many of the cemetery records were lost years ago so the existing records can only confirm that Jessie Hadden (nee Jamieson), James' second wife; Alexander, James' son and my 3rd great grandfather; and, John McNight, James' step-son, not listed on the headstone, are buried in the grave (an eighth name in the mix).

The Aberdeen city staff have informed me that "In the olden days in Aberdeen it was not uncommon for family's to use graves for close friends or even neighbours as money was so tight." It was also not uncommon for headstones to list the names of family members purely as a memorial to a family member who was buried elsewhere. In fact, Colin Milne has reported finding headstones that list someone along with where their grave is located. In addition, he has even found situations of the same person being listed on two separate headstones in two different cemeteries.

At least part of this puzzle has been solved and just for the price of asking the very cooperative staff of the city of Aberdeen.

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