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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

Suffolk, Virginia: Sold in 1845, the Bryant Twins are reunited

The virginian-Pilot, December 28, 1899

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Portsmouth, Virginia: The Story of Thomas Riddick

Gravestone of Thomas Riddick, Mt. Olive Cemetery (Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex), est. 1879. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, March 16, 2014. All rights reserved.

One of the most interesting gravestones in the Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex (est. 1879), is for Thomas Riddick. Located in the northwest corner of Mt. Olive Cemetery, the oldest in the complex, it features an interesting inscription regarding Thomas’ occupation.

Memorials to United States Colored Troops, Pt. 8: Major William H. Palmer, Norfolk, Virginia

A photo-essay series dedicated to the United States Colored Troops, and how they were remembered in contemporary news media .

Pt. 8

Norfolk, Virginia

West Point Cemetery (est. 1827)

Gravestone of QMS William Henry Palmer, Company I, 36th U. S. Colored Infantry, West Point Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, December 27, 2012. All rights reserved.

Portsmouth, Virginia: Finding Olivia of Lincolnsville

Map of Lincolnsville, Portsmouth, Virginia, ca. 1889. Norfolk Public Library, March 15, 2012.

The first time I came across the name Olivia Jordan Butt Smith, my paternal great-great-grandaunt, was twelve years ago. I was researching a branch on the paternal side of my family tree, the Youngs of Portsmouth, Virginia. Olivia was born in 1862, in Portsmouth, the daughter of Jordan and Lovey Butt (ca. 1829-1895). She was the sister of Mary Alice Butt Young (1865-1929), my paternal great-great-grandmother, Matilda A. Butt Colden (1856-1910), Anna Butt Schofield (b, ca. 1855), and Nancy Ellen Butt Lynch (ca. 1848-1879), my paternal great-great-grandaunts.