Green-Wood Cemetery Where Ancestors Await You


Record book from Green-Wood Cemetery.
Courtesy of Green-Wood Cemetery.

Last spring I was reading my local newspaper when an article caught my eye. It was regarding a cemetery in New York City that has compiled over 160 biographies of people who served during World War 1 and that are buried there. They even put this on their website for anyone to look up. The cemetery is Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, and they put these biographies online in time for the 100th anniversary of the United States entry into World War 1. I immediately went to their website to check this out and found a vast resource for genealogy research. I spent hours looking over their website. I discovered that in addition to the World War 1 biographies they had done the same with their Civil War veterans. They even have an online magazine called “the Arch.” In the current issue, they had articles about Flora and Fauna, birding at Green-Wood, beehive keeping at Green-Wood, and many other remarkable reads. Green-Wood also has a guided trolley car tour you can take. Since Green-Wood is 478 acres large, this may be the best way to see the cemetery. They even have a burial search on their website that covers most of the over 560,000 people who are interred there. This burial search makes it easy to find ancestors that may be buried there

Entrance to Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, undated (ca. 1890-1910).

In a fall 2013 article in The New York Researcher magazine by Anthony Cucchiara, a figure is given that one in seven Americans today can trace some of their ancestors to Brooklyn. That would mean about 46 million of us can trace part of our family to Brooklyn. Since Green-Wood Cemetery was established in 1838 and has well over a half million interments, you have a good chance that one of your ancestors are at Green-Wood. I ran a few of my family’s surnames and found that I have a fourth cousin buried there. He was Thomas Spencer Dakin.

General Thomas Dakin. The New York Public Library, Digital collection.

Thomas Spencer Dakin was an officer with the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn, during the Civil War. He also was a baseball player and was among those that wanted to make it a national game. Dakin also was a prominent member of the United States Rifle team. However, the one thing that intrigued me when reading his biography on Green-Wood Cemetery website was that he took ill while attending a sermon given by Henry Ward Beecher, and died the next day. I have just finished reading “The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher” by Debby Applegate. This is a well-written book and worth your time to read. As it turns out Henry Beecher is also buried at Green-Wood

Photograph shows the gravestone of Congregationalist clergyman and social reformer Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2012)

Green-Wood Cemetery has many famous and infamous people buried there as well as the everyday hard working people to who you just might be related. If you do find an ancestor buried at Green-Wood here are some of the records, Green-Wood may have for your ancestor. Transfer Records of lot ownership, Affidavits of Heirship, Memorandum Files, Last Wills and Testaments, Burial Orders, Heirship Books, and Lot Books. Some of the items these files may contain are newspaper clippings, obituaries, photographs, correspondence, burial lot ownership, date of death, the cause of death, family histories, place of residence, genealogical charts, death certificates, grave diagrams, and many other items that any family historian would find interesting. When you do the Burial Search, you will be given the name, burial date, and the lot and section number. To learn more, you must ask for Green-Wood’s genealogy service. The cost is $30.50 per half hour. According to Lisa Alpert of Green-Wood Cemetery, the average charge is between two or three hours of work. The work is done by Green-Wood’s genealogy team who gathers the records and emails the scanned items and or photographs. Lisa explained that they are not set up for individuals to come in and do the work themselves. But she did say “we will shortly be offering the opportunity for someone to come and work with one of our archivists to do that. They will have the opportunity to review our institutional archives, as well as our Collection. (The Collection has over 8,000 items, including stereo views photographs, books, artwork, objects, etc. all relating to persons interred at Green-Wood.) It’s more of an accompanied visit. There will be a charge, but we haven’t determined yet what it will be.”

Roosevelt Burial Record.
Courtesy of Green-Wood Cemetery.
On Feb. 14, 1884 the future President Theodore Roosevelt lost both his wife and mother hours apart from each other. In his diary that day he placed a black X, and wrote “The light has gone out of my life.”

With so many cemeteries falling on hard times it is refreshing to see the energy that Green-Wood has. Cemeteries can be an excellent source of genealogy information. This is something I am sure most of you already know. Perhaps we all should do more in our own local area to help our cemeteries last well into the future. I urge all of you to visit the Green-Wood website, even if no one in your family ever set foot in New York State. I am sure you will find it a fascinating visit. Here is the link: 

My thanks to Lisa Alpert, Vice President of Development and Programming at Green-Wood Cemetery, who furnished much of the information and many of the images used on this blog. I hope to meet her next year when I visit for a guided trolley tour.



This entry was posted in Lets Talk and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Green-Wood Cemetery Where Ancestors Await You

  1. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Reblogged this on Our Ancestors and commented:
    About a cemetery…

  2. Pierre Lagacé says:

    When I go to the green-wood cemetery link I get a security alert!

  3. What an interesting article! I want to go tour Green-Wood!

  4. KerryCan says:

    I love cemeteries for lots of reasons and this one looks inspiring, as well as pretty and peaceful. Next trip to Brooklyn, I’ll check it out!

  5. What a wonderful and post! Thank you for sharing this. The entrance photo of Greenwood is spectacular.

  6. Amy says:

    My daughter lives five minutes away from Greenwood, and yet we’ve never been there. Once we started to walk over, and we turned back because it was raining. We definitely need to get there! Great post!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I know of a relative who is buried there, but had no idea of the wealth of other information you can pay them to unearth(as it were!) I will use that service because I have scant information on that branch of the family. Thanks.

  8. Peter Klopp says:

    What a treasure of information is waiting for discovery at Green-Wood cemetery! I wished I lived a little closer. Even without a relative buried there, I would definitely pay a visit to the genealogy experts with their tons of information. Thank you so much for publishing such a useful post for family researchers!

    • chmjr2 says:

      I hope to visit next year. However I have spent a lot of time on their website and found it to be very interesting. The Civil War and WW1 bios are great. I wish more cemeteries could do something like this.

  9. jte17 says:

    What a marvellous resource! Sadly, I can claim no one in this cemetery so I’m rather envious of those who can.

  10. This is a great summary of a place that offers detailed information.

  11. Spyro says:

    This is a great article and reference to Green-Wood. I visited several years ago. It is a beautiful ride through – beautiful plants, trees, gravestones and monuments. But your article really drives the history available. I missed the extent of that history years ago. Thank you. Spyro

    • chmjr2 says:

      It is true that they have a lot of history and better yet they wish to share it with the public. I am looking forward to when I can visit and see what you did on your visit.

  12. Beth says:

    I am enjoying this journey so much! Thanks for sharing.

  13. chmjr2 says:

    I am glad that you are enjoying the visit. I bet you have found the Green-Wood website time well spent.

  14. dlpedit says:

    Wow! You have ancestors all over the map! Interesting article. I never cease to be amazed at the beautiful handwriting exhibited in much of the ancestral record-keeping that was prevalent “back then.” (Then again, there were plenty of examples of the illegible type!)

    • chmjr2 says:

      I agree my ancestors are all over the place. The trick is to find them. Some of them sure do know how to hide. The truth is both my family and my wife’s have been here since the early 1600s. Some before if my 2 to 3 percent Native American DNA means anything.

  15. higginsmj says:

    What a wonderful resource. I can imagine this is very helpful for many genealogists. Alas, I have not yet found any relatives who migrated to the USA…but I will continue to search and hopefully there will be someone interred at Green Wood. It seems like an amazing place, on many levels. Thanks for such an interesting and informative post…as usual.

  16. Luanne says:

    What a lovely historical treasure! I wish other cemeteries would follow suit!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s