Hidden Treasures: The HSBC Cemetery Transcription Files

Hidden Treasures: The HSBC Cemetery Transcription Files
By: Ann Royston Blouse
March 10, 2015

In the 1970s, HSBC members undertook the project of locating every cemetery in Baltimore County and transcribing all of the headstones in those cemeteries. The results of this multi-year project now reside in the Cemetery Transcription files at HSBC.’

Headstones that may be illegible today were more clear 40 years ago and the transcriptions provide a wealth of family data for anyone tracing their family in Baltimore County. Early headstones recorded not only a person’s name and dates of birth and death, but also names of parents, wife(s) and frequently heartfelt verses lamenting the loss of a loved one.

The transcriptions are recorded in the order in which the graves were located in the cemetery and there are often accompanying maps. Thus, one may be able to infer family relationships from the groupings of seemingly unrelated people.

Some transcriptions are handwritten; others have been typed. Many of the files include an index to the transcriptions, making it easy to locate a specific family or person.

But wait you may say, there is an online source for this same information—Find A Grave—why would I go to HSBC to look at these files? As someone who has made extensive use of all available genealogic resources, I can assure you that you often find much, much more info in these transcriptions. Let’s use the transcription file for the Middletown Union Cemetery as an example.

The file begins with a typed index of family names included and respective page numbers. There is a short description noting when it was copied and the people who did it, with an overview of the cemetery’s founding and condition. There is a map orienting the location of graves to the church and Freeland and Middletown Roads. 50 pages of typed transcriptions document more than 1000 internments.

Let’s look at the record for Sarah Akehurst. The transcription reads “Sarah/wife of/Charles Akehurst/formerly of/Peter Ruhl/Dec./died June 13, 1882/in the 63rd year of/her age” (/ indicates end of a line on the stone). The entry in Find A Grave for this same person reads gives only dates of birth and death. Thus, the HSBC record has provided twice as much information as Find A Grave.

I was looking for the burial place of my 2nd great grandfather, Caleb Lowe, who married Sophia Hoffman. He died in 1864 of tuberculosis contracted while a prisoner of war. I finally found him recorded in the 1971 transcription for the Hoffman/Gunpowder Family Burying Ground: row 1, position 1, wooden marker, partly illegible. In 1993, when the Daughters of the American Revolution erected the commemorative marker of those buried there, Caleb was not on it, because his wooden marker had disappeared. But the HSBC files documented his internment, thus solving a long-standing mystery.

Discover the HSBC Cemetery Transcription files—I promise you’ll find something you didn’t know.