Our data development efforts started with building two independent datasets – one for the cemetery stones, and one for the burial records. The cemetery stone dataset consists of some 2500 records, with photographs of the stones, the text of the inscriptions, and exact geographical coordinates. The burial records consist of some 23,500 records, of which about 17,000 are from the nineteenth century. These records consist of names, date of burial, and some information on family relations and occupations. This means, of course, that only ten percent of the burials in the cemetery have stones.
We have recently expanded our records to include about 2500 records from St. Peter’s Cemetery. Holy Cross was opened in 1843, and prior to that the Catholic population in Halifax was buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery, located at the corner of, what is now Spring Garden Road and Grafton Street, on the grounds of St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, the successor building to the old St. Peter’s Church. The St. Peter’s Cemetery records cover the period from 1799 to 1842. This, therefore, gives us coverage of Catholic burial records in Halifax for essentially the entire nineteenth century.
In the current phase of research, we have linked the cemetery stone dataset to the burial record dataset, and are working on “thickening” the burial records by adding additional data – from the census, vital statistics, baptismal and marriage records which exist.
We have also started to build a “wealth indicator” by constructing a dataset of property assessment records. Photographs of the paper records were taken in the fall of 2013, and the information on those images was transcribed into digital form over the winter – now comprising about 14,000 records. Of course, these records constitute all of the assessments, both Catholic and Protestant, in Halifax for different years. This provides a platform, therefore, to begin to develop much broader networks than those which are strictly tied to Holy Cross Cemetery.
This information work is being conducted by a corps of database volunteeers. Spurred by the desire to know more about their own ancestors, their devotion is laying the groundwork to build a much deeper social history of the Holy Cross community in the nineteenth century. If you are someone who could help with this endeavour, consider donating your time to this job.