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Ancestral Plots

 Recently the mermaid was going through some documents and came across four documents that were not immediately clear as to what they were. They all seemed to be deeds for plots in Calvary cemetery. The mermaid descendants, on her mother’s side, from a long line of Hendersons. An Ancestry.com search years ago confirmed that the Hendersons were a mix of Irish, Scottish and British ancestry, but we could not go back any further than early 1900s when the family ran a funeral parlor on the West Side of Manhattan. That was a good business to be in, then and now, because as they say, people are just dying to get in. And if you were Irish and on the West Side of Manhattan in those days, owning a funeral business was the equivalent of owning a bar in Rockaway.

Upon inspection of the documents, we realized that two were in the name of Henderson, one in the name of Monahan and one in the name of Slevin. The mermaid had never heard of any Monahans or Slevins in the family tree, but who knows. The fascinating one was David Henderson which dated 8/3/1861. So, it would appear that some of the mermaid’s relatives were here back in the Civil War days. Researching the plots through Calvary’s website, we came to realize that the four plots were spread across three of Calvary’s four cemeteries, all located in North Queens. So, I took a ride to see what was up with David Henderson.

As expected, David was not speaking, and in fact David’s headstone was not in the place that the deed said. Upon inspection of the other sites, the same was true. Those other sites were all dated in the very early 1900s. Since the Greenpoint Avenue office was closed due to Covid, I went to the other office on the other side of the Kosciusko Bridge. That office was closed too, but a very nice person there gave me some interesting information.

I asked if the deeds I had were valid, and she said yes, they were. Since I am always planning, I asked if we held the deeds, could we put people in them? The economics of dying today is a lot higher than it was back then. She said, well that depends on a few things. I asked, such as? Well she said, I needed to research how many people were in those graves, but given the dates, she said there was probably plenty of room! This was starting to feel like finding $100 bills on the ground with no one around. But she said there is a fee for doing that research, and you will have to send the information to them, and they will do it. But you can just call first and they will tell you whether it’s worth doing. She then said there is a bigger issue though. And I asked, ok what is it?

It seems that if you buy a plot with perpetual care, they will mow the grass and take care of the plot forever. But if you don’t, there is an annual fee, and if you wanted to activate the plot you would have to pay back fees. I did some quick math and realized the 1861 plot might require 159 years of maintenance. But depending on how much a year, it might be cheaper than buying a plot.

Listen, we all got to plan for a final resting place. The mermaid has already told me two things: she is going before me, and she wants to be cremated. I told her no to both! So, the 1861 plot is on a hill off Greenpoint avenue with wonderful views of Manhattan and Greenpoint, and everyone wants to live in Greenpoint these days. The 1861 deed was also issued by old St. Patrick’s on Mulberry Street, before the seat of the diocese moved to Fifth Avenue. Being a lover of history and cemeteries, and a Greenpointer, this seems like the perfect place. Now if I can only come up with the 159 years of back fees, I’ve got a place to rest. Forever!

By Lou Pastina


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