What follows are the highlights of the last two Hope Cemetery Commission meetings:
On Sunday, February 27 at 3pm, at All Saints Church, the Friends of Hope Cemetery will be sponsoring a lecture called “Do you know what Hell is?” (which should win both “Best Title for a Lecture” and “Best Rhetorical Question” in the 2011 Best of Worcester Awards). An interpreter from Old Sturbridge Village will be discussing burial practices in the 18th and 19th century. (Unfortunately, I’ve got another event to go to that afternoon, but I hope at least one of you can attend and tell me how this went. I am incredibly disappointed that I won’t be going!)
Some of you have asked me about how much various types of plots cost at Hope Cemetery. In December, we set the rates for calendar year 2011. Stephanie, the wonderful clerk at Hope, prepared a comparisons of local cemetery lot prices, burial fees, and other fees for 2010. This also indicates where there will be a change at Hope for 2011.
I know that some of you are interested in the barn (scroll down this page for a picture and description of its significance), and the rehab of the structure will be out to bid this spring and will be worked on this summer. The focus will be a permanent fix to the support of the floor joists and foundation (at least, that’s how I understand it). It won’t necessarily make things look any prettier, but the goal is to keep the barn stable. (No pun intended.)
The cemetery receives numerous genealogical requests every month, and we are trying to direct the research for these requests to the Friends, who are regularly in the office on Wednesday mornings. Because of the inclement weather, the Friends volunteers haven’t been able to make it in very much this winter, and work on a formal genealogy policy is somewhat delayed as well.
As a longer aside, performing genealogical research at the cemetery is very time-consuming. We’ve got about 60,000 burial records digitized (in a database), but many more records are still in a card file. The lots are on cards by lot number, and cross-referenced on cards by last name. There are also records that are in neither the database nor the card file, but in ledger books by year of burial. Depending on where the record is, whether the name we get on the request is spelled the way it is in the cemetery records, etc., it could take weeks for a volunteer to fully research and respond to a request. The ultimate goal would be for all these records to be digitized (and thus easily searchable), but digitization of records costs money. How to do this kind of large-scale effort has been on my mind lately.
Another Friends item: the Friends are looking to install some interpretive markers (similar to the Blackstone Canal markers) in a few locations. They’ll comply with National Park Service standards. I’ll let you know more about this as the snow abates and the Friends decide on locations.
Green burial is a topic I brought up at December’s meeting. Unfortunately, it’s unclear whether it’s legal or not in the Commonwealth. I’ll keep asking about it, because I know it’s an option some of us might like to have when our time comes.
Fellow board member Richard Perry took pictures of columbaria at the other area cemeteries (so that we could see what we like) and I think we’ll continue discussing a columbarium for the cemetery in the coming months.
There’s going to be a bit more of a formal/regular review of the conditions of mausoleums and monuments, but the snow makes it a bit tough at the moment. I’ll mention this more as the snow thaws.
Our next meeting will be March 1, and it will be a mostly financial discussion. Please let me know if there are any questions you’d like asked (or, better still, answered).