A Look Into the Past

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Trustees share High Street burial ground information with the Historical Society

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, November 6, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Hampton resident and Historical Society volunteer Martha Williams, has begun an initiative to create a computerized database of those who are buried at the High Street Cemetery. John Carden photo

HAMPTON -- Historical Society volunteer Martha Williams has been pushing cemetery trustees for over a month to develop a database so people can find where their relatives are buried at the High Street Cemetery.

And on Wednesday, Nov. 4 the trustees decided to meet her and other members of Hampton Historical Society half way. While they will not map the cemetery on a computer as originally proposed due to cost, they will allow volunteers to put cemetery records on to a computer for the sole purpose of maintaining a genealogical database.

Cemetery Superintendent Dan Kenney said the trustees denied the request initially because they were concerned the society wanted to publish the information online.

While the information is public record and readily available to anyone who comes into his office, Kenney said he didn't want it the hands of just anybody.

But when members of the Historical Society told the trustees they have no intention of publishing it online, the trustee agreed to enter into a partnership with the group.

Ben Moore of the Historical Society, told trustees they have no "hidden agenda" behind their request. All they want to do is have the information to aid people who call the society looking to find long-lost relatives.

"We get an increasing amount of e-mails from people from all over," Moore said. "We get requests for help, but we are unable to satisfy them."

Moore said his group has no problem with getting volunteers to transcribe the information, which is currently on index cards in a file cabinet at the cemetery building, onto a computer.

The cemetery, he said, will even benefit from the work they do.

"Right now there is only one place where these records are," Moore said. "You should do something from a fiduciary responsibility to ensure there is a second copy."

Kenney said he was hesitant at first because of fears that specific graves could be vandalized.

"You will be surprised by the number of families that told me they don't want certain people knowing where their graves are," Kenney said.

William said she doesn't believe there would be vandalism.

"Vandalism is random," Williams said. "I don't think people come to the cemetery to vandalize a particular grave. They are not looking for their first-grade teachers."

Moore assured trustees that the majority of the people requesting the information are not looking to physically visit the grave site.

Another reason why Kenney didn't want the information readily available is because there are three competing monument dealers in the area.

He characterized one of them as a "hearse-chaser."

"I have a lot of people who have pre-bought their lots," Kenney said. "If this individual was to have access to their names, he would be calling them trying to sell them monuments, and I don't want that to happen."

Moore, however, eased his concerns.

"We are not interested in grave sites that are not occupied," Moore said. "We only want ones that are occupied for genealogy purposes."

Trustees agreed to allow the society to put the records on computer as long as they don't give out information to people who wish to remain anonymous.

However, the trustees denied the society's request to map the cemetery.

Kenney said there is an actual handheld map that list all the grave sites but the former superintendent put a stop to updating it 20 years ago.

"The map was made when we did have a lot of vandalism out there," Kenney said. "We had all kinds of vile words, swastikas and other things that were written on graves. I suspect that is why they decided to scratch the idea of a map at that time."

Trustee Matt Shaw said his concern with mapping would be the cost.

"Right now Danny can tell you whose buried at Section E, Row 4, lot 27 and where to go to find it," Shaw said. "If we do a map, it won't be useful to anyone unless we put up markers for each section.

"Before you know it we are adding a bunch of stuff that we don't want to expend money on," the trustee said.

Currently there are 10 cemeteries in town, seven of them on private property. The three that are public are Pine Grove, Ring Swamp and High Street Cemetery.

Ring Swamp and Pine Grove haven't had a burial in over a century and are already documented by the Historical Society.

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