Memorial: Remembering Gethsemane’s People
By Michelle D. Novak, MI; Interment data by the Bergen County Department of Parks, Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs
“Large numbers of African American graves have gone unmarked throughout America’s history. Fortunately, some records exist that identify most of those buried at Gethsemane Cemetery.” Inscription from the memorial panel at Gethsemane Cemetery, produced by the Bergen County Department of Parks, Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs (DCHA), ca. 2003.
The following data was compiled by the County of Bergen and various historians and volunteers working on documenting those interred at Gethsemane Cemetery and compiled over many years. The bulk of the information for 1895 through 1932 was transcribed from the records of the William Ricardo Funeral Home (1895–1932), which are archived at the Bergen County History Archives (bergencountyhistory.pastperfectonline.com/archive/4CE4EE5D-2019-4B4B-B3DB-454174671425, note that the BCHA index does not list the names of children). Additional information was transcribed from extant grave markers, newspaper clippings, and other sources.
The following data—which contains information for 515 individuals documented to be buried at Gethsemane—are printed on exhibit panels located within the Cemetery. The BCHA supplied PDFs of these panels to the GSBC so that the GSBC could publish the information in The Archivist and on the GSBC website.
This compilation is by far the most comprehensive set of data for the cemetery (the FindAGrave database lists less than 50 memorials) and is the first time this information has been published in full outside of the cemetery. Research into records and individuals is ongoing.
From the DCHA data, 79% of the interments were of African Americans (listed as “Black,” “Colored,” or “Negro” on the original records); 18.3% were of Caucasians (listed as “White”); 0.4% as “Mulatto”; and 2.3% were unrecorded. (Please see the historical transcription note on the next page.)
Males accounted for 250 interments (approximately 49%); females for 224 (43.5%); and a sex was not recorded for 41 individuals.
Shockingly, half of the interments were for people 20 years and younger—42% of who did not reach their fourth birthday. The oldest recorded person was 108 years old, and three individuals were 90 years of age or older. The youngest non-stillborn baby lived for only five minutes.
Two hundred ninety one burials were recorded between 1900 and 1915, more than half of the burials in the history of the cemetery.
If you would like to help enter the following DCHA data into FindAGrave, please contact us first at email@example.com. The data must be credited to the Bergen County Department of Parks, Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs (DCHA), and the GSBC will provide you with the correct citation credit and help coordinate data entry efforts.
We thank the Bergen County Department of Parks, Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs and the Bergen County History Archives for providing us with the article, data, and cemetery panels—and allowing the GSBC to revisit these materials and make them available to the public.