Monday, January 23, 2012

A Grave Concern - Amanuensis Monday

Thanks to John at Transylvanian Dutch who originated the Amanuensis Monday meme, providing a framework (and nudge) for transcribing family records, news clippings and other treasures.

This is another transcription of a document from the papers of Maria Lee Palmer Smith (1844-1931), my husband's great-grandmother. It is a letter from the men acting as her uncle Thomas Meredith's executors addressed to Maria's mother, Margaret Meredith Palmer. Punctuation, format and spelling are retained from the original, though line breaks have been altered.

Baltimore 31st March 1854
Mrs Margaret M. Palmer
Frederick Md   Dear Madam

Your letter of  the 28th inst
has been received -
In reply  we would respectfully suggest, with your concurrence,
that Thursday the 20th April be fixed for the interment of the remains of your deceased husband.
As regards the remains of our most estimable friend Thomas
Meredith; as far as we can ascertain, we believe it is determining that they shall remain where they now are, in the vault of his brother in law Edward Jenkins.
If you should desire to be present, at the internment of 
the remains of your late husband, the day and hour may be fixed with you, after your arrival in Baltimore
                                                                 Very Respectfully

                                                                    Wm Kennedy          }        Executors
                                                                    MCourtney Jenkins  }   Thos. Meredith

Notes: This letter answered one question and posed so many more.  

The family has long wondered what happened to the gravestone of James Palmer who died in 1847. We assumed he, like most of his family, was buried at Clifton in Kilmarnock, VA even though there was no stone. 

One of my husband's cousins told me that Margaret's grave was "scanned" (I have no idea what technology was used) when the family put up a new marker to replace one that had eroded and that another, small unmarked grave was next to hers. They were hoping to find James' grave but decided the second grave was too small to be an adult. 

After discovering a handwritten family record in Maria's papers I believe the small grave may be that of Maria and James' stillborn daughter. But James was a mystery. 

From this letter, written a few months after her uncle Thomas Meredith's death, it seems James Palmer was buried in Baltimore in 1854 - more than six years after his death

I do not know which cemetery the executors were referring to (on the to do list), but I strongly suspect it was a Catholic cemetery. The first one I will check is the one associated with Baltimore's new cathedral - a project Meredith actively supported. I also suspect the reason Palmer was not buried in Virginia was that there was no Catholic church or cemetery near his home at the time of his death. 

Of course, the real question is where was James Palmer's body those six years? 

Source: Kennedy  & Jenkins, (Baltimore, MD) to Margaret M. Palmer. Letter. 31 Mar 1854. Privately held. Frederick, MD. Published with permission. 


  1. Sure hope you find James Palmer's final resting place (and his temporary one, too).

  2. You know I love these kinds of stories. As far as the "scanning" goes, I'm not sure of the technology either. However, in searching for an unmarked grave for my g-grandfather, they took a metal detector out there and kept identifying what they called "pics". Each pic had a number on it, buried underground, that marked each grave and corresponded with their records. They said they have one for every grave, marked or unmarked, and that this is a pretty common practice. I'll find the link on my blog so you can see what one looks like.

  3. Check out the third picture in this post:

    1. I wish there was the chance of something like your pic for the graves in Kilmarnock,Kathy, but the graveyard there was the family graveyard (on family land) before it was donated to the church in the early 20th c. There are no remaining records of the burials there before 1900 (at least none that the family knows of).

  4. Good luck finding the right cemetery! I have a similarly mysterious gap between death (1883) and burial (1889) for one of my ancestors. They lived in NYC, so it's unlikely there was as shortage of Catholic cemeteries, and the cemetery where he ended up claims the 1889 burial was his first, that he was not being reinterred from a previous grave.


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