Sundays in the Cemeteries of Pittsburgh

We’ve been pondering how to get outside, meander, and get a change of scenery. Our solution – visit cemeteries. I decided to map out cemeteries where our ancestors and extended family are buried.

Our first trip was to St. Mary Catholic Cemetery in Lawrenceville. We found the graves of two of my third great-grandmothers, Mary F Vogel Feil Goetz (1833-1910) and Anna Shevlin Campbell (1841-1908). I wanted to jump up and down with relief that I had found physical proof they existed. Mary is a direct maternal ancestor – shes the mother of my mother’s mother’s mother. Anna is my from paternal line.

We then walked around looking at the other graves for awhile. This is one of the old style cemeteries with big chunky headstones seemingly dropped onto the grounds without rhyme or reason.

Then we went home because it was hot. I realized I probably needed a hiking staff because cemeteries are notoriously unsteady grounds.

Today, we went to the great-20th century Jefferson Memorial cemetery in Pleasant Hills. We were searching for Laura’s great-grandparents. It was quite a search. The online map is cramped. So we just drove around appreciating the monumemts. I had my hiking staff.

I am not making this next part up – Laura parked and walked up to look at a President Thomas Jefferson monument. I’m a few minutes behind her, so she looks around. And she realized we had parked right next to MY great-grandparents. What are the odds – I hadn’t been to their grave since the mid-90’s.

I think it was a sign. I dutifully cleared away the weeds and debris while Laura went to see the monument.

I was quiet. I have such mixed feelings about them, so many questions I wish I could ask. I noticed my great-grandma’s name was simply Jane. No middle name, no maiden name. She died in a fire in 1971 so I’m sure her burial was traumatizing.

We continued our search for the John the Baptist section. We saw a doe with two yearlings frolicking in the road. We found a giant fish sculpture. Then a frog. A log cabin. Lots of Jesus statues.

Finally, we found the section. It took forever to figure out the layout. I used my staff to make my way across the hill, stopping to probe headstones covered in weeds.

We found it. And I was shocked to see that her great-grandparents headstone was almost identical to my great-grandparents. Similar layout, even the phrase ‘Together Forever’ The photos don’t do justice to the similarities.

Two coincidences in one trip. Perhaps I’m being fanciful, but it felt significant.

We are purposefully avoiding the big uber spaces like Allegheny and Homewood cemetery for now because everyone goes there.

Next on our list

Union Dale cemetery (Northside)

Chartiers cemetery (Carnegie)

Zion Cemetery (Whitehall)

Zelienople Cemetery ( Zelienople)

Christ Our Redeemer (Northside)

St. Herman’s Cemetery (Butler)

It’s pretty cool to fuse family history with a need to get out of the house. Imagine what epidemics they endured – cholera, tuberculosis, influenza, typhoid, and polio. 3x great-grandma Annie was actually commended for her nursing services during the 1854 cholera outbreak.

It all ties together…


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