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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Are the old cemeteries kept up?
By state law, if a cemetery is abandoned, the town assumes responsibility for care of the grounds.
In Putnam, the abandoned cemeteries receive grass-cutting several times a year, either by town personnel or a landscaping company under contract. The cost is shred by the town and the county.
My ancestor was a soldier in the Civil War. Can I get a government marker in place of the broken stone that's there?
Government markers are always available to mark veterans' graves. Contact your local Veterans Administration or your local VFW.
I'm looking for the marriage of my ancestor, Hezekiah Smith and Mary Something-Or-Other, probably around 1744. Can you tell me the date and place, and who her parents were?
These types of questions should be directed to the local historical society or museum. Maybe... but only if the chruch records or a family bible, or a gravestone, or some other dependable record survived! Not all did, and some records have been sent elsewhere. The Gilead Presbyterian Church, for example, sent its early records (which might include its days as a Congregational church) to the Presbyterian Church's main archives in Philadelphia, and we don't yet have a copy. We'd be pleased ot post any infomration which the church or other historians or genealogists would like to document.
I'm looking for the grave of my ancestor Ethan Jones, who died in 1748. Where is he buried?
Good luck. Carved gravestones have been around for many centuries, but in rural Putnam County the first marked grave is that of Abigail Moss, wife of Rev. Elisha Kent of Southeast, who died in 1751, and even that stone may have been placed at a later date. Before then, and in many cases thereafter, graves were marked with a simple uncarved fieldstone. They all look alike; unless the family has a document with some indicator of which is which, we can't be of any more help.
My ancestor's stone has fallen down. Is it okay if I come and raise it back up?
Not unless you're a professional at it! Under any conditions, WE DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. If you still want to try, be sure your medical insurance covers self-inflicted back problems, broken toes, and any of the other evils that may be visited on those who attempt to hoist stones weighing several hundred pounds! They can be raised with a tripod of substantial 3" lumber flexibly (but securely) bolted at the top to allow adjustment of the legs, or a heavy-metal engine hoist, and a chain-driven pulley system; still, tripods can topple over. Despite being stone, the markers are fragile; do NOT wrap them in chain, but in the heavy straps used by movers. Never, NEVER attempt it alone! PLEASE notify those in charge of the cemetery ahead of time of your intention to do this activity. Better still, leave it to us and eventually we'll get to it.
What should I bring to clean my ancestors' stones?
Please leave any metal scrapers, scouring pads, wire brushes, acids, screwdrivers, etc., at home! They will ruin the soft surface of the stone. Soft brushes, auch as toothbrushes, and a mild cleaning solution will do. The best chemical stone cleaner we've run across is called D-2 Biological Solution, available from its manufacturer, Simple Green. Note that it does not remove the black stains of pine sap.
Is there a slave cemetery in Putnam?
No. A cemetery by Lake Gleneida, since lost, was allegedly a slave cemetery, but the family that had the property (Belden) did not report having any slaves. They did however, care for the poor, and in the days when the poor were "farmed out" to lcoal caregivers, free Blacks would have received the same care as anyone else. Those graves might also have included those who died with still in indenture -- working off the cost of the ocean crossing, or other debt. The "slave cemetery" had only one identifiable grave, from 1824 -- a White woman who wanted to be buried with her family. It more likely served the poor or indentured. The Beldon plot in Gilead Cemetery as the grave of Trim, a young boy described as a servant.
My ancestor's stone is broken in half. How do I cement it back together?
It's best not to try. There are epoxies especially made for this; let us get to it -- we will repair and reset each damaged or fallen stone eventually. Where small segments have broken off, there are mixes which simulate marble, etc., which we can use to make it appear whole. In some cases, there was an above-ground base, with bolts holding up the vertical slab; the bolts would corrode and let the stone drop. These can be fastened back to the base, but again. let professionals get to it in time.
My ancestor's stone is red sandstone. It's starting to crack and fall apart. How can I preserve it?
The problem comes from water seeping into the crevices in the porous stone, causing cracking when the water freezes in winter. At worst, the whole inscription can fall off the headstone. The best protection is to cover the stone in cold weather. At present, two stones in teh county are covered in the winter with glass-fronted wood shelters; installing and removing them yearly is labor-intensive and a storage problem. A simple plastic sleeve with a string or nungee cord to hold it down might do, but we don't have the staff or facilities to do this for every red sandstone grave in the county. If you can make arrangements with someone to tend it yearly, fine.
My ancestor paid the cemetery association in 1857 for perpetual care. The town now owns the cemetery. Is her gravesite still getting care?
If that cemetery is now a town preservation area, there may be a groundskeeping schedule every year. Other than that regular expense, the fund is intact and it can only be used for that cemetery alone. It's available for some grave-tending expenses, not including new grave markers.
I turned over a stepping stone in my garden and found an inscription on it. It's a tombstone. What should I do?
Contact the local members of the cemetery committee (we're all listed on the Contact page in this website) . These wandering stones turn up occasionally. In some cases, an old worn stone was replaced by a newer stone or a white bronze marker, and the old stone was taken home or discarded. Others though may haeve been stolen from a cemetery at some time, and we need to find where they belong so we can return them. One recent Putnam find was missing from another state!
My ancestor was a veteran of the Revolution, but his stone doesn't get marked with a flag on Veterans' Day. How can I arrange for that to be done?
The flags might be placed
by the local veterans organizations, scouts or historical societies. They may not be aware that he was a vet. If you know what his outfit was, by company or regiment, and when he served, it would help find him in the muster rolls to confirm his record. Discharge papers are good proof.
My ancestor's family had a graveyard on their farm. The town now cares for it. How do I go about being buried with them?
You probably don't. The right to this practice legally ends when the family, or association, or individual controller, abandoned it, sold it to another party or deeded it to the town. It is no longer the family's, nor is it an active emetery, nor has your family necessarily contributed to the upkeep of what is now a preservation site. The are no more burials in any closed cemeteries, unless the deed ot the town specified the unfulfilled plot and who held the right to it. In that instance, you still must bear the burden of all costs of opening and closing the grave, erecting the stone, removing random trees, plants, boulders, etc., and might even owe the town for a portion of the annual clean-up costs. Allowing a new burial in a closed historic cemetery is not recommended, as a moder stone always looks out of place!
My neighbors have an old cemetery on their land. It's just fieldstones with no names, and they want to wipe it out and plant a garden there. How do we legally stop them?
You can try to appeal to their better judgment to keep it as it is, or to deed it to the town for upkeep, but unfortunately, if it belongs to them they can legally plow it under. (The same applies to "historic" houses, trees, rocks, etc).
Would they be willing to allow the graves to be moved to an existing town-owned cemtery?
I've noticed something on this website that isn't correct; the date of my ancestor's death is not right. Who do I contact?
If you see anything on this website that is incorrect -- or if you can add to the information that is already here, we want to hear from you! Please contact the webmaster by emailing email@example.com or getting in touch with one of our Committee members (on the Contact page).