Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Review: A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries

In 2009 David Allen Lambert published the second edition of his book A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries. I like to wait for the second edition of guide books like this in anticipation of the additions and corrections that will be made to the first edition.

The guide provides a comprehensive listing of cemeteries in Massachusetts presented alphabetically by town. That organization makes locating cemeteries a simple process. Within each town the individual cemeteries are also arranged alphabetically.

Some basic information about each town is also provided such as the date of incorporation, parent town and contact information for each town hall. Individual cemeteries list date of consecration, first burial or oldest gravestone. Where available, typescripts or manuscripts for the cemeteries are indicated as well as the call number for where it can be found at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS).

This guide is useful for anyone with an interest in Massachusetts cemeteries. From genealogists to gravestone photographers, historians, and the many others who need to determine the location and available transcripts for cemeteries.

While I find the guide indispensable, I would like to see the next edition contain better addresses for cemeteries. Some cemeteries, like the Old South Cemetery in Peabody simply list the address as “Main Street, Peabody Center” (p. 191). Without a more specific address, people unfamiliar with the town could spend quite a bit of time trying to locate the cemetery. Perhaps street numbers of nearby locations or cross streets could be provided to help pinpoint the exact location. I would suggest that any cemetery seekers first check the cemeteries online in an aerial or “bird’s eye” view map to determine the precise location and parking options.

Occasionally some erroneous dates are given for the origin/oldest gravestone in a cemetery. For instance, the Old Salem Street Burial Ground in Medford was given a date of 1691 (p. 151) while the sign at the entrance to the cemetery says it was in use prior to 1683. The discrepancy is likely due to varying dates listed on the typescripts and manuscripts from which Lambert based the information.

This guidebook has the distinction of being the only book to be kept in my car at all times, ready for use at a moment’s notice. Despite the lack of exact addresses and occasionally variant dates, it is an indispensable guide that genealogists, historians and photographers will find they can’t do without. If only there was a book like this for every state in New England.

Marian Pierre-Louis
16 August 2010

A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries, Second Edition. By David Allen Lambert. Published by New England Historic Genealogical Society; 99 Newbury Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02116; 2009. ISBN 978-0-88082-222-0.345 pages. Paperback.

1 comment:

  1. Love this book! It is indeed "indespensable"! I like your idea about correcting street addresses, since I usually rely on my GPS system to get me to cemeteries. It doesn't work when you have to cruise up and down the street looking for gravestones- I recently found this out in South Boston and went the wrong way up a one way street!