Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mapping the Past at an African American Cemetery

Hidden behind two private residences is a historical treasure whose mysteries are waiting to be unlocked. The girls and I worked on a project with my DAR chapter to create a map of the Asbury Methodist African American Cemetery. To date, our DAR volunteers spent over 300 hours doing genealogical research on the people who are buried in the cemetery.

The gate to the cemetery is behind the ruins of the church foundation.
We worked to match the genealogical information to the information on the tombstones and made a map of the cemetery.

Margaret Bruner was a third-generation free woman and land holder who worked a farm with her husband. Her great-great-great-granddaughter traveled from Denver to join us for the afternoon to help with the project. She said that she is proud about what we have uncovered about her family's past.

The stories of the past still resonate with us in the present. My daughters were very moved when they saw this stone for two sisters who both died in infancy. They wondered about what might have happened to the little girls and remarked that "things were really difficult for people back then." We can learn so much about trials, tribulations, and hard work from people who lived in the past.

Many of the unmarked graves are hidden by stones and weeds, so we used metal detectors to try to locate them. Natalia said that we are "history detectives."

Finally, we took precise measurements between stones or points where metal was detected in order to make a detailed map.

Our work will serve to help map the past for African Americans who wish to conduct genealogical research, a task that is often challenging. Birth, death, marriage and census records are not always readily available. Papers giving a slave his or her freedom are a helpful tool in tracing individuals and proving relationships, but they are only one piece of the puzzle.

This project is a work in progress and I hope to learn more as we continue in the quest to map the past.


  1. This looks so great! What other kinds of things do you do with DAR?

  2. We do so many things in our chapter, although the cemetery project is taking quite a bit of time right now.

    We've distributed over 8,000 flags this year in parades, at veteran's hospitals, and other community events. We're trying to promote patriotism and history education.

    We also sponsor several essay and poster contests and partnered with schools for Constitution Week.

    We support several Native American schools and have adopted soldiers, sending care packages to them.

    Our chapter is fairly active, but I know that there are others who do even more than we do!

    Let me know if you're interested in more information or want help with genealogical research!



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