Friday, April 3, 2015

Get Looking!

I may be a long, long way from Merrick, Long Island, but if Wilbur G. Lasko’s 1969 obituary said he was buried at Maple Grove Cemetery, there’s nothing that can stop me from looking.

Of course, finding the right Maple Grove Cemetery might have been a challenge. I rather suspected “Maple Grove” would be a popular name for a non-denominational burial site. It didn’t take long, however, to ascertain that the one I was seeking was located in nearby Queens, a borough of the greater New York City area.

My first stop—as always in such matters—was to look up Wilbur Lasko’s entry at Find A Grave. Unfortunately, the website seemed rather disinclined to help me out, so I took an alternate route: I looked up the cemetery by name. I found the right place: a cemetery located in Kew Gardens.

While there are over sixteen hundred burials at Maple Grove Cemetery, less than half have been photographed, so far. Forty eight photo requests remain languishing—presumably as volunteers await the first real signs of Spring before venturing out on their much-appreciated rounds.

In my disappointment over not finding Wilber Lasko’s entry, I thankfully didn’t give up too quickly. On Find A Grave’s page for Maple Grove Cemetery, under the usual contact information, I spied a website address.

Hoping against hope that this was one of those truly organized, twenty first century cemeteries with all their interments searchable online, I rushed over to the Maple Grove Cemetery website. While there, I learned a few impressive things about Maple Grove:
·       that it is a rural cemetery in the midst of a huge megalopolis
·       that it was founded in 1875
·       that it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places
·       that they seek to enable families to preserve their “rich history” through voluntary            participation in a family history database of those buried there.

The Maple Grove History Project—including shared stories—has its own page on the cemetery’s website, including a Family History form that may be completed and submitted to them electronically.

If the Maple Grove Cemetery is indeed following through on this project idea, I think it is so thoughtful—not just for grieving families who want assurance that their loved ones will not be forgotten, but for us, the ever-seeking researchers, as well. As the organization mentioned in its website,
This database will be available to families conducting genealogical research and to historical scholars.

I imagine those who attend to the day-to-day affairs of running a cemetery have a vastly different view of the hordes of genealogical researchers accosting them on a daily basis than we do of our own, individual one-time-only requests. I have run into some employees at other locations who were downright irritable, despite my politely-worded inquiry, timed to occur at a customarily quiet time of the week. I have also run into employees who were on a self-appointed mission to protect the “privacy” rights of said deceased relatives.

Privacy? Really?

In the face of such experiences, the approach rendered by Maple Grove of Kew Gardens, New York, seems refreshingly different. Here’s hoping they find success in their project.  


  1. Greetings, Jacqi,
    For all the reasons you mention, I tend to just hike up and down rather than disturb the employees . And it seems every graveyard in our area is on a hillside :)
    Online information is wonderful and I expect those kind of sites will continue to grow.

    1. Sounds like your genealogy pursuits include a serious workout, Gayle!

      It certainly makes my day when I run across a cemetery that has gone digital with its look-up duties. I hope you are right that this is a trend. Find A Grave is helpful, but only where there are active volunteers. Having the official word is so much more helpful.

  2. I hope they are as friendly as they sound! :)

    1. They seem to be, Far Side. I just got an email in reply to my question about the Lasko burial there, which included an encouraging comment about sending in material for their family history file. It will be interesting to see what they make of it. It certainly sounds like a worthwhile project.

  3. I always find it hard to envision a lot of places in this country as they were just a hundred years ago - before urban sprawl wiped out the country farm lands. Half of Long Island is now endless towns and houses ... and it was all swamp and forest not that long ago...

    I hope the cemetery has some hints and clues to offer!

    1. Actually, Iggy, it's hard for me to envision Long Island not having endless towns and houses! Admittedly, I wasn't around, a hundred years ago, but the parts of Long Island where I spent the majority of my growing up years had been thickly populated, as I understand it, at least from the time of the "post war" years.

      Of course, the other end of the island--where you might be likely to put in to port--is a different story. But that's a story more than one hundred miles away from the places my family once called home.


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