Historian Leads Walter Pierce Park (DC) Cemetery Restoration

Hat’s off to Mary Belcher. A group she organized has been diligently restoring and documenting upwards of 10,000 persons who were buried in the Adams Morgan section of Walter Pierce Park in the District of Columbia.

photo of Mary Belcher leading effort to restore historic District of Columbia cemetery

Photo: Mary Belcher. Credit: WJLA-TV (District of Columbia).

Over time the old grave markers have deteriorated and been lost. Mary’s group is using the older records and evidence found on the site to document each person buried there. No small task.

Watch this news report from local television station WJLA-TV to see what Mary and her group have accomplished so far in their cemetery restoration efforts.

Adams Morgan Cemetery Fight

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Written by Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history.

He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

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About Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history. He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society. An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

6 thoughts on “Historian Leads Walter Pierce Park (DC) Cemetery Restoration

  1. In your spare time (lol) could you advise me on how to get a group started locally and how I can obtain copies the burial records. The local lady handling the records has it all on computer but will not allow me access. Just when I was feeling generous and wanted to do something for others on ‘Find A Grave’. Any advise will be appreciated. By the way, I’m located in Louisiana.

  2. I have had to stop searching,as it osts so much money for somene on a fixed income..,,joining fees,, then costs to get the documents to prove,, I really miss this work and have spent 4 years trying and got a lot but with the help of my childen payng for ancestry .etc,,now they have families and I wil not sk for financial help.. sincerely dorothy bentley

  3. Dorothy – why not go to your local public library or to your area Family History Center. You can accomplish a lot of research there. In what city do you live?

  4. Margaret: You might want to start your own project.

    1. Go with your digital camera to your local public cemetery and start taking photos of each tombstone. Systematically go down each row.
    2. Create your own blog and post each tombstone individually or upload it to free sites like Find-a-Grave or to FamilySearch.org
    3. You should be able to read each stone to get the information – but when the carved words are no longer visible – you could skip it in your initial documentation of the cemetery.
    4. Keep careful notes of the tombstones you skip so that you can later research and determine the information on the person who was buried there.
    Note the names of the persons buried next to and adjacent to the unidentified stone – those can be valuable clues for determining that person’s identity.

    Work with your local genealogical or historical society and see what suggestions they have.

    Please let us know what you are able to accomplish.

  5. Hi Tom: Thank you for your kind words about our project at Walter Pierce Park. Our list of names of those buried in the African American and Quaker cemeteries was compiled by a team of researchers working directly from District of Columbia death records, which are stored in the city archives and are publicly available. If anyone would like to see the names of those buried–particularly those African Americans who might have had ancestors who passed away in D.C. in the 25 years following the Civil War–I have posted them on our website at: http://walterpierceparkcemeteries.org/

    Our efforts have been community-driven. Our thought toward protecting the cemeteries is: If we didn’t do it, who will? I know what it’s like not to have any money to do research. But sometimes there are academic institutions willing to help, because it is so important to us all to reconnect to our history and out ancestors. In our case, our good friends at Howard University helped us, and that, in turn, helped us get some outisde grants so that we could continue our work at Walter Pierce Park.

    By the way, I’m a devoted subscriber and fan of genealogybank.com. The source I use most is your newspaper archives, which has helped us beyond measure in understanding the depth of the history at Walter Pierce Park.

  6. Mary: Thank you for the additional details about your work … and for the shout-out about GenealogyBank. We are really glad that it has been so helpful for you. All the best – Tom

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