In The Beginning

Govanstown Cemetery Project

My current work in Cold Genealogy began almost a year ago as an offshoot of research on my maternal line. I began searching for my 3rd great grandfather, Washington Harford, in Baltimore, Maryland. The search eventually yielded an obituary from the Baltimore Sun dated 29 Jun 1875 in which the funeral was cited as being “from the Presbyterian Church at Govanstown.” I tracked down the church online and happily emailed them my information and asked them about records concerning the interment of Washington Harford. The response was prompt and negative! “We have a transcription of our stones and we have no Harfords. The Church suffered a fire in the early 1900’s and there are no records.” The story of my life with this family – another dead end!

Two days later I received an email from a Dr. Anderson, who runs the Cemetery Project for Govanstown Cemetery of the Govans Presbyterian Church. Apparently, even though she had sent me a negative response, the young lady in the office had forwarded my email to Dr. Anderson as he is collecting information on people that may be buried in the Govans Cemetery. He is trying to reconstruct the interment records from family histories and documents that people might have at home. He had a book from 1917 stating that an annual payment was received by the church through 1931 for perpetual care of Lot 90 with the lot being owned originally by Washington Harford. There are no headstones, but there is space for eight graves in the lot and it appears from what few records remain that he purchased all eight. I was able to figure out who most of those eight might be and emailed him copies of the obituaries and a family chart for his files.

In the course of doing the research on Washington Harford, I of course looked for other family members in Govans, I passed several names to Dr. Anderson and he in turn passed back plot information on people with the same surname. I did the research to see if any of them were related to my people and each time came up empty. While I could not prove a relationship to my family, I sent my basic results to Dr. Anderson for his files as each time I was able to come up with a funeral notice or obituary. At the same time, I noticed how much I enjoyed the whole basic search process. So much of what I do now on my lines is the in depth searching for wills and land records to try to prove relationships. This was like the early days when it was just the fun of seeing how far and how fast you could go.

I did not want the fun to end, so one day I emailed Dr. Anderson and offered my assistance. As he found lots with no stones or information, he should email me the name and whatever he knew and I would see what I could do. He had been very helpful to me and I wanted to return the favor. About a week after making my offer to look for his unknown dead, Dr. Anderson sent me the following email,

blockquote If you are still willing, I could use some help on the following: George W. Moses owner of lot 93 where James Moses was interred March 1925. Samuel Whittle. Julia Millard. James Sherndon. All are names that are unusual enough, I hope, and all were buried before 1917. Take your time and thank you for whatever help you can give.

That’s it – all the information that I have to work with. I went first with George Moses and spent four days banging my head against a wall. I was able to construct a family group from the census records because I had two names to work with. I was never able to find any concrete tie to Govanstown, beyond what Dr. Anderson had provided, and that was my primary objective. I also had jumped in with both feet and not kept any real documentation of my research beyond the results – not one of my best moments!!!!

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