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Recovering and Preserving African American Cemeteries – Preservation Leadership Forum, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Pinewood Cemetery COPYRIGHT Nadia Orton
Pine Forest Cemetery, Wilmington, North Carolina

The reverence attached to cemeteries and burial grounds, which have long been considered sacred sites, is an example of enduring Africanisms and cultural tradition in the African American community. Burial grounds have always been regarded as places where ancestors could be properly honored and provided with the dignity, care, and respect in death that had often been denied them in life.

Interest in the study of my family tree has led me to over a dozen cemeteries throughout Tidewater Virginia and North Carolina, and helped reconstruct a family legacy spanning over 400 years. Cemeteries offer an important, tangible connection to history allowing closer interpretation of days past than most other sources can. Genealogists and family historians have long recognized the benefit of cemeteries in the study of family history and an increasing popular interest in genealogy has led to an increased focus on them.  READ MORE

Portsmouth, Virginia: The life and death of Rosebud Rudolph Douglass Aggrey (1882-1961)

Mrs. Rosebud “Rose” Rudolph Douglass Aggrey, Livingstone College, ca. 1927.

Anyone who briefly reviews my blog knows I’m a longtime researcher of African American cemeteries throughout the South. Ever since 2007, cemeteries have remained some of the primary sources through which I’ve learned priceless bits of information, details that helped complete our family’s historical narrative often in ways no other sources can. So you’d think it’d be no surprise to me that one can still glean interesting details from years-old cemetery photos, yet this is exactly what happened during a recent routine newspaper dive for family history.

Richmond, Virginia: Honoring family, the Ortons and Youngs of Church Hill

The Young Family, Portsmouth, Virginia, ca. 1927. All rights reserved.

One never knows where priceless bits of family history can be found. In 2012, we visited the household of the Parkers, paternal cousins, in Portsmouth, Virginia. They shared with us a great photo of my paternal grandmother, Lillian Vann Young Orton, who was born in 1927, Portsmouth, Virginia. She is featured in this photo, the infant in the center, surrounded by several of her siblings.

Suffolk, Virginia: Views of Oak Lawn Cemetery (est. 1885), August 9, 2019

Assisting grassroots efforts to preserve a historical, African American institution of Suffolk, Virginia

Gravestone of Pvt. Lamb Jackson, 2nd U. S. Colored Cavalry. Documented on Findagrave by Nadia K. Orton, January 2, 2013. Photo: Nadia K. Orton. August 9, 2019. All rights reserved.