WEST ROXBURY (CBS) – Inside an innocent-looking warehouse in West Roxbury you will find what might be one of the spookiest places in Boston! They’re collecting fragments in a graveyard for gravestones.
“Because they were broken and lying on the ground,” said Kelly Thomas of Boston’s Historic Burying Ground Initiative.
The city owns sixteen historic graveyards and in them, hundreds of historic gravestones.
“They’re made of stone, which is a natural material. They just disintegrate over time, some of them have been outside in New England winters for over 300 winters,” Thomas told WBZ-TV.
When a gravestone falls apart, Thomas tries to put it back together, but sometimes, that’s easier said than done.
“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. You just find these pieces and you don’t know where they go. Somehow, this goes with this but I don’t know how this goes together,” she explained.
When the pieces do fit together, the restored gravestones go back to the graveyard. Thomas says her goal isn’t to make them look flawless, but to preserve them for future generations.
“I like to be as true to the history as I possibly can,” Thomas said.
In the painstaking process, Thomas says sometimes she develops a personal connection to the fragments.
“It’s kinda weird, but I imagine they had the same struggles we have today, maybe a bit different. Although, you read some of the tales of smallpox and various epidemics they had in Boston,” she said.
To add another layer of difficulty, she also tries to figure out which graveyard the pieces belong in, because a lot can happen in 300 years. Thomas has heard tales of fragments used as a manhole cover on a Boston street, another in a bread oven.
“That is what I’ve been told,” said Thomas. “You know, there’s thousands and thousands, probably millions of descendants from these people that exist now. You can’t just throw that away.”
Thomas currently has eleven gravestones that she’s pieced together and are ready to be set into the correct burial ground, however, she does not know which burial ground the belong in.
That’s where you come in!
Thomas is calling on all talented amateur genealogists to help solve Boston’s biggest jigsaw puzzle.
Head to boston.gov/gravestones, there you’ll find pictures of each gravestone with clues that could help in the search, like whether someone died in Boston or Dorchester, their spouse’s name or a marriage record. Get to work! And good luck!