Hi everyone, Levi here!
As today’s blog post I thought I’d take you on a guided tour of Woodland’s “Vault,” where we store all of our historical archives and documents. These are invaluable sources, and have themselves lead us to some incredible discoveries that we wouldn’t have otherwise known about (for instance, it took one look at the Burial Book back in 2014 to discover that Woodland has many victims of the Victoria Day Disaster buried here, something we hadn’t realized).
The first source that we go to when we’re searching for something is our burial records. Amazingly, these are handwritten and go all the way back to when the cemetery opened in 1879. Back in the day, they recorded every burial that took place on our grounds, and this is where they kept all of the information about the deceased. It’s a great way to access things like date of death, age at death, full names, and addresses. It also records what they did for a living, which can really start to tell a story about the person’s life! The picture below is one of the three pages in our burial book that record the burials of 51 Victoria Day Disaster victims, just two days after the wreck.
Accompanying the burial book, we also have a handwritten record of all of the sales of burial plots. This has been really helpful in my research because it reveals the original lot owners, and sometimes elucidates the circumstances under which they bought the lot. It’s also pretty neat to see the prices these things sold for back in 1881 – only $20 at the time! In the photo below, you can see the purchase of one of the Harris family plots by John Harris back in May of 1881.
Our lot book also dates back to 1879, and its still maintained today with each burial that happens. Looking in here can tell us exactly who is buried where in a family plot. This is especially helpful in locating burials that were moved here from Old St. Paul’s – if they’re not recorded as burials, they’ll certainly be in here. You can also glean some things about family relationships from how things are laid out here, as people were usually buried next to those to whom they were closest. Pictured below are the layouts of some of the lots in Section R, one of the cemetery’s oldest sections.
Records from 1879 onwards are pretty easy to access here in our vaults, but finding individuals who were moved here from the Old Cemetery can be a bit more tricky. Luckily, we have a transcription of the burial and lot records from St. Paul’s which was created in the 1980s. This is a handy tool for finding the old old burials, and it’s sometimes our only resource if someone comes in looking for a family member who was buried prior to 1879. The original records are held at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Darch family, mentioned in the records below, were very successful saddlers and were responsible for building London’s first “skyscraper” (6 storeys at the time) to house their growing business.
These documents, in conjunction, can solve most of the mysteries that we stumble across out on the grounds. A quick search in these records can reveal a lot about someone’s life and death, and they provide a strong foundation for further research that we can carry out in the city archives, Western archives, and the London Room
And of course, who could forget the “old sea scrolls” – we still use these maps to navigate out on the grounds!