|Sunset Memorial Park & Mausoleum|
As a genealogist, I am so appreciative of the volunteers who contribute photographs of cemeteries and headstones to the websites findagrave.com and billiongraves.com. I have been able to locate the gravesites of many of our relatives through them. So I don't know why it never occurred to me to volunteer to take photos at cemeteries in the St. Louis area. Visitors to the above-mentioned websites can put in requests, providing as much information as they have on the deceased, and volunteers can then "claim" the request. You then have two weeks to post the photos or list a problem if the stone cannot be located.
Last weekend I decided to claim a few graves at Sunset Memorial Park and Mausoleum, as well as one at Father Dickson Cemetery. For the graves at Sunset, I had the section numbers as well as the lot numbers for each of the requests, so I was not anticipating any problems with locating the stones. That was a grave assumption on my part. This cemetery has no other identifying markers within each section, so there was no way to know where grave 304 was located within Section 1, for example. Unfortunately the office was not open, despite the posted Saturday hours. Unless I wanted to walk the entire section looking at the names on each headstone, I realized that this would be a futile effort on a 90 plus degree day.
From there I headed on over to Father Dickson Cemetery in Sappington. This historic cemetery was opened in 1903 as a final resting place for African Americans. Due to segregation, African Americans were not allowed to be buried in any of the existing cemeteries in St. Louis. The cemetery represents 167 years of history, with the last burial taking place in the 1990s. After falling into disrepair, the cemetery is now cared for by a dedicated group of volunteers who are working to restore the 13-acre tract of land. Fortunately one of these volunteers was on-site when I arrived, as I did not know the section or grave number of the man I was researching. I had his birth and death dates (and knew that he had been murdered!), but not where he was buried. The volunteer provided me with a very interesting overview of the history of the cemetery, and then told me that he has the record book for the cemetery at his house. I later emailed him the information about the man I was searching for, and unfortunately I learned that there was no headstone for this individual. However, the volunteer did provide me with details such as the fact that the man had died in City Hospital #2, the date of burial and the exact location of the grave itself. As a genealogist, all the little bits of information help to paint a picture of your ancestor's lives. So at least I could pass all this along to his descendant even if I couldn't provide her with a photo of a headstone.
The moral of the story is to only accept assignments when the location of the burial plot is provided, and where the cemetery has a map so that I stand a fighting chance of being able to find the grave.