IRISH HEADSTONES FOUND IN ALBANY, NY ALLEY
Cliff Lamere Sep 1999 / rev. Jan 2001
On 31 Aug 1999 some children in the South End of Albany, NY were turning over stones in an alley.
They were searching for insects, a report has said. These stones were actually headstones and although they had been
lying face down in the soil, they were very well preserved. Their smooth backs were providing a sort of "paving" in the alley.
They and the neighbors were relieved to learn that there were no bodies below the
The seven headstones had originally been standing in the St. John's Roman Catholic Cemetery, a parish cemetery. Burials in this cemetery occurred from about 1842-1890, but the city of Albany wanted the land for industrial development. By 1902, some of the bodies had been removed to Albany Rural Cemetery, St. Agnes Cemetery and another St. John's Cemetery, which was in different county (Rensselaer). A newspaper article dated 16 Aug 1902 quoted the cemetery caretaker as saying, "If interested families did not remove their dead - the remains would be removed and placed in a common grave." A contract was awarded in Nov 1903 for removal of the remains to Calvary Cemetery in nearby Glenmont, south of Albany.
My understanding is that the members of each burial plot (which might have had many graves) were buried in a single grave in Calvary. Only one stone from the plot was taken with the remains. The other stones became extras and found other uses.
An article about the discovery of the headstones appeared in the 3 Sep 2000 issue of the Times Union (Albany's newspaper). After talking with the writer of the article and another person who was helpful in tracking down the source of the stones, I received three pages of information. The information on this webpage came from those three pages plus the two personal communications.
I was told that all of the people on the headstones were Irish, but later I learned that one was not. You will have to form your own opinion as to whether or not all were from Ireland.
The Calvary Cemetery is a Roman Catholic cemetery located in Glenmont, a few miles south of Albany. Its records are open to the public. Each burial is listed on a separate card and the cards (perhaps 6-7,000) are chronologically arranged rather than alphabetical. It takes a long time to find anything unless you know when someone died.
To make things confusing, the name St. John's comes up three ways in this
1) The headstones had been originally in a St. John's Cemetery on Delaware Ave. in Albany. The present Delaware Theatre would have been on the northern edge of the cemetery, if I correctly understand what was on TV reports.
2) When the first remains were removed, they went to three cemeteries, one of which was also named St. John's. Its location was in Rensselaer Co., perhaps in the city of Rensselaer according to the Calvary Cemetery caretaker. That cemetery may not exist any longer.
3) Two Albany Roman Catholic parishes near the southern boundary of Albany merged. St. John's church was in need of a great deal of repairs and they had the money to do it. St. Ann's which was just a few blocks away had a very nice building but was cash poor. The two parishes merged to form "St. John's-St. Ann's Church" and closed the St. John's building. This combined church operates the Calvary Cemetery today, and for just a few years the parish name has appeared on the cemetery sign. I have no knowledge of who operated the cemetery before the merger and I don't know when the merger occurred (but possibly after 1970). These things didn't happen to come out in my conversation with the caretaker.
The names below have been capitalized and printed in a white font so that you can find them easier.
Anything in brackets [ ] are my personal remarks.
[The data from here to the next divider was from one page of information that I received.]
Drawings were made of the seven headstones. Some of the information was abbreviated. I have tried to substitute the intended words for some of the abbreviations. The headstone inscriptions were as follows [commas were added by me as separators of lines of text]:
1) IHS [a religious abbreviation], ANN, Wife of JOSEPH LAWLOR, March 23 1846, Age 35, Rest in Peace.
2) MICHEL BURK, died Oct 15 1862, Age 36 yrs, In Memory of His Wife ANN.
[This would make more sense to me if the word "of" was replaced
by a comma.]
3) TERENCE EARLEY, Oct 18 1847, Age 48, Wife ELLEN.
4) JOHN, son of JOHN & MARGARET KIERNAN, died Dec 21 1848 in the 11th year of his age. Also, RICHARD HENRY, July 31 1849, Age 1 yr 10 mos.
5) ARTHER [sic] GRAY, July 27 1849, Age 30 yrs, Native of _____ Co. Kildare. Also his Son THOMAS, died Dec 27 1849, Age 6 mos. May the Lord have mercy on there [sic] souls, amen. Erected By His Affectionate Wife, ANN GRAY.
6) ANNE WHITTY, died Aug 17, 1850, Age 1 yr 5 mo 7 days.
7) Erected by DAVID GOING, in memory of his wife, BRIDGET, died June 15 1852, 30th year of her age. Also her two little JEMMIES. Rest in Peace, Amen
[I was told that Jemmie in Ireland would be like the English James. Could it be like Jimmy? In any event, it would appear that two sons by the same name as each other were buried in her grave site. The caretake of Calvary Cemetery searched the record cards for a year or two and found a James Going buried there. The other James he had not found when I spoke to him, due to the time-consuming nature of searching unalphabetized cards.]
"The following information has been provided from the records of the old St. John's Cemetery by Michael Conti, Caretaker of the Calvary Cemetery, Glenmont, New York related to the seven tombstones that were discovered in the alleyway on the north side of 11 Benjamin Street. It confirms that the original interment for those individuals listed on the gravestones found in Albany were indeed in St. John's Cemetery on the east side of Delaware Avenue, just south of Morton Avenue."
The records of St. John's (which were turned over to Calvary) show the following:
ANN LAWLOR born Kilking, Ire., died Albany 24 Mar 1846 at age 35.
TERENCE EARLEY born Tyrone, Ire., died Albany 18 Oct 1848 at age 48.
JOHN KIERNAN (son of JOHN and MARGARET) died 2 May 1848 at the age of 10. However, the date of death on the gravestone is 21 Dec 1848 and the age given was 11.
RICHARD HENRY KIERNAN (son of JOHN and MARGARET) died 31 Jul 1849 at age 1 year, 10 days.
ARTHER [sic] GRAY died of cholera on 27 Jul 1849. The records have an asterisk with a notation "Headstone" and shows a drawing of the gravestone. He was born in Kildare, Ire. and died at age 30.
INFANT BOY GRAY (probably the THOMAS listed on the gravestone) died 27 Dec 1849 at age 6 months.
BRIDGET GOING born Tipparary, Ire., died 15 Jun 1852 at age 28 (the gravestone indicates that her age was 30).
JAMES GOING (infant son of BRIDGET & DAVID) died 3 Oct 1849 at age 9 weeks.
ANNE WITTY - no information found
MICHEL BURK died 15 Oct 1862 at age 30 years (The gravestone indicates his age was 36 years). He was buried 16 Oct 1862. The cemetery records also list a "recorder", JOHN KEELIN
[The information between here and the horizontal line above has been reported pretty much as I received it. I did not check it against the headstone information for the accuracy of what it said. I do not know more than I have reported.]
ANNE WITTY has not yet been associated with the original St. John's Cemetery from which the other headstones were removed. Nor does it seem that ANNE WITTY is buried in Calvary Cemetery. Only a small part of her stone was found, and nothing is known about her at this point.
Visitors since 10 Jan 2001