The Names: Find Your Ancestors!

Do you have ancestors who died in Washington, DC, during the 19th Century? Do you know where they were buried?

The Walter Pierce Park Archaeological Team couldn’t find burial registers for the African American or Quaker cemeteries at Walter Pierce Park. To determine who was buried there, we reviewed official District of Columbia death records, which list the place of burial for the deceased. The result of our research is the Walter Pierce Park Burials Database, containing nearly 8,500 names of those who were laid to rest in the cemeteries. To read or download the PDF, click on  Walter_Pierce_Park_Burials_Database.

The city in 1855 began keeping official death records in a large ledger called the “Interment Register.” In August 1874, DC began issuing individual death certificates, which contained more information than the earlier records. The Walter Pierce Park Burials Database identifies people by name, age, cause of death, length of time residing in the District of Columbia, the place of death (usually the home address), and other biographical information.

MatildaHayes

The 1889 death certificate of Matilda Hayes, a 67-year-old nurse/midwife who died in Hillsdale and was buried at Mt. Pleasant Plains.

In the course of its research, the Walter Pierce Park Archaeological Team found very few city records documenting burials in the Quaker cemetery, which was founded in 1807–about 48 years before the city began keeping death records. In addition to burials in the Quaker Friends Burial Ground and the African American Mt. Pleasant Plains Cemetery at Walter Pierce, the database includes burials in the African American Free Young Men’s Cemetery at 12th and V Streets NW, which was  in operation between 1849 and 1870. The graves from the Free Young Men’s Cemetery were moved to Mt. Pleasant Plains in 1873.

If you’re looking for an ancestor or someone else in the database, we encourage you to use creative name spellings. Death certificates were filled out by doctors and undertakers, and misspellings sometimes occurred. In addition, there were large gaps in the city death records during the Civil War–specifically between June 1861 to June 1862, and from August 1862 to January 1866–causing the omission of an unknown number of burials.

The Walter Pierce Park Archaeological Team reviewed more than 75,000 death records at the District of Columbia Archives to document the nearly 8,500 burials in the database. We are extremely grateful for the help of DC archivists Ali Rahmaan and Bill Branch, who kept us on track through our months-long project.

WE ARE PROUD TO MEET THE DESCENDANTS OF THOSE WHO WERE BURIED IN THE WALTER PIERCE PARK CEMETERIES. IF YOU HAVE FOUND AN ANCESTOR OR HISTORICAL FIGURE YOU’VE BEEN SEEKING ON THE LIST OF BURIALS, PLEASE CONSIDER LEAVING A COMMENT!

3 responses to “The Names: Find Your Ancestors!

  1. Thank you so much for your website and this list. My 4th Great Grandparents were buried at the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. They were Philip Johnson (d. 1879) and his wife, Clara Johnson (d. 1874). I had a copy of the death certificate, which is how I found out about the cemetery. After doing a google search Mt. Pleasant in DC, I found a Washington Post Article and this website. Thank you for your work and concern to those persons buried here. Respectfully, Andre Ferrell.

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