Woman researching family tree discovers mass grave of Irish emigrants
An American woman may have discovered a mass grave of Irish emigrants, which could provide details about the fates of hundreds of people from the 19th century that until now have been lost in history.
Annie McMullen of Rhode Island wanted to research her husband’s family history.
She discovered that her husband’s great grandfather had emigrated from Ireland with his three brothers to Waltham, Massachusetts during the Potato Famine.
Her research revealed that one of the brothers, Charles, died in a freak accident and was buried at Waltham’s Church Street Cemetery, a common internment site for Irish Catholics from the surrounding area.
Annie went to visit the cemetery only to find that the site now had several homes, a church and a school built on it.
Determined to find out what had happened to Charles, Annie got hold of a map from the period and discovered that the site was indeed once used as an Irish Catholic cemetery.
Further research led her to discover that in the 1940s, the city of Waltham decided to use the site to expand the local school.
More than 1,000 bodies were moved from Waltham to the Calvary Cemetery in Boston including that of Charles.
Annie went to see Calvary Cemetery only to find a large open field area with no signs of headstones.
A little bit of digging revealed that the site does contain several headstones, which were laid flat on the ground on top of the bodies.
Over time they had become buried themselves due to the neglect of the entire site.
Annie uncovered several more headstones, with markings stating the corresponding bodies belonged to emigrants from various counties in Ireland including Cork, Donegal, Kerry and Galway.
She spoke to waltham.wickedlocal.com about the incredible discovery: “I began to wonder about all the individuals who have been searching their Irish family history and have not been able to find where their family members are buried.
“I am hopeful that we may be able to connect many Waltham/Newton (residents) and other individuals of Irish descent with their ancestors.”
The site will now be investigated fully by The Irish Ancestry Research Association (TIARA). It is estimated that there could be up to 900 headstones to uncover and identify.
Annie and her husband Bill will be part of the volunteer team helping at the dig.