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Buried, Lost, and Forgotten

You may have heard of the term Pauper Grave, an unmarked plot in a cemetery due to that individual's or family's financial wealth.  This is real situation that a genealogist may run across.  I personally have run across numerous pauper graves within my family tree after digging deep enough into its family history.  When I finally located ancestors through an obituary, a church record, or a death certificate, I planned a trip to that cemetery.  When I arrived, camera in hand to take a photo of the marker, there was nothing to take.  But what is more disappointing is to find out by talking to cemetery staff, that the record for the exact location of that person does not exist.  Reasons for this happening at several cemeteries where I have ancestors are numerous.  I thought, with my own personal experiences, that this would be a good area to expand upon to prepare the novice genealogist for a similar incident down the road in your family tree.


Infant mortality is not a new, but existed at a much higher rate in the early 1900's and before.  Many times the family does not own a family plot.  Therefore, most cemeteries have an infant section specifically laid out.  I have also found out, through poor record keeping, that the grave location was never logged into the book if a marker was never put in place.  And it is not a rare sight to visit an infant section of any cemetery and view numerous plots with no markers scattered within the headstones.  I have talked to cemetery staff that cemetery policy permits burials up to the age of ten in the so-called infant sections.  Other cemeteries may have even an older age limit.  Currently I have two family tree members lost in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  One was buried in St. Casimir Cemetery in 1916, and another buried in St. George Cemetery in 1919.


My wife mentioned this to me years ago upon visiting websites and reading about it.  So I was disappointed, but not surprised when I went to the Chicago area to take a photograph of my great grandfather's grave.  Not only is he lost, but also are seven other members within his family.  The cemetery is Chicago's largest Polish cemetery, St. Adalbert, which is located in Niles.  If you have an old death certificate from Chicago that mentions buried in Polish cemetery, the cemetery is St. Adalbert.  Prior to the creation of St. Adalbert, the cemetery map shows eleven specific catholic parish sections.  This area is small by comparison to St. Adalbert's present size.  When St. Adalbert was created, it took over these individual parish cemeteries.  I found out that the cemetery had lost the records of my great grandfather and his son named after him.  Even if the records were not lost, it would do me no good.  It was then that I learned about the Catholic Archdiocese policy of renting a grave.

If a parish member could not afford to purchase a plot, the a grave could be rented.  No marker could be put up.  The family had one year to purchase the grave.  If that one year period passed, then the grave would be sold and the new patron would own it and a marker could be placed.  I would assume that this new patron would be buried over the renter's grave.  Records of grave rentals were kept, but the mapping locations no longer exist.  Therefore, a document of the renter's grave exists and can be printed out at the cemetery computer terminal located in the office, but the exact location within the specific old parish cemetery no longer exists.  This is the difference between renting and paying patrons, and what I would define as a pauper grave.  Below is the actual printout for Peter Golinski, my great grandfathers second son.  I outlined the church parish of St. Hedwig in red, where I believe Peter to somewhere be buried.


my ancestors who braved the ocean to start a new life here so that future generations would enjoy the better life in America, I had my wife take the following two photos.  It was hard getting started in this new land.  You may not have been a family of means in the beginning.  But the realization of your dreams has been enjoyed by future generations as was your intention for your journey across the ocean.  You may be lost, but you will be remembered!

This first photo is of me standing in front of the St. Hedwig Parish section in St. Adalbert Cemetery in Nile, Illinois.  Behind me in this section are the lost graves of my great grandfather Thomas Golinski(d.1894), his first wife, Dorothy(d.1890), and their children Stanley(d.1909), Peter(d.1902), Thomas Jr(d.1902)., and Stanislawa(d.1890).

This second photo is of me standing in front of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish section in St. Adalbert Cemetery in Nile, Illinois.  Behind me in this section are the lost graves of Mary Rydzkowski(d.1892) and Joan Ryckowski(d.1895), both children of my great grandfather Stephen Rydzkowski and his wife Felixa Nowacki.

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