Cemeteries in Guyana

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Known Cemeteries

Although there are certainly other cemeteries in the Georgetown besides those we could find from a book published in 1914, online yellow pages for Georgetown or Guyana do not list cemeteries. To find out about the cemeteries where many ancestors were buried back to the 17th century, we must search for other means of finding the burial grounds. Some of the cemeteries known to still be in exististence are:

Babo John cemetery at Port Mourant, Berbice
Bourda Cemetery
Buxton Cemetery
Christianburg Cemetery
Coomacha Cemetery
Eve Leary British Military Cemetery
Ft Island (Essequibo River)
Ft Nassau
Georgetown (Rabbit Walk) Cemetery 4 (Maple Leaf Magic)
Golden Grove Cemetery (Is this the same as St. Mark's ??)
Good Hope Cemetery
La Repentir
Martin's Burial Ground - Mahica Region
Plantation Providence
Plantation Warren cemetery, Corentyne Berbice
Roman Catholic
Sarah Hill Cemetery, Bartica (next to Bartica Baptist Church ?)
St Andrews (Presbyterian)
St George's (Anglican)
St Saviors (Chinese)
St. Mark's cemetery (Golden Grove, East Coast)
Stanleytown Cemetery, New Amsterdam, Berbice --- You Tube Video on condition of this cemetery (March 2008)
Tempie, Berbice

Condition of Cemeteries in 2006
    Although in the US, researchers can often find tombstones of ancestors because the grounds are kept up regularly and some restoration work is done occasionally.  This is not the case in Guyana.   Few burial grounds, other than the small Eve Leary site, receive ground maintenance of any kind.    Additionally, in Guyana, after a person is buried, within a few years their tombstone may be taken down and replaced with one for someone recently deceased or a new one built atop the previous one. Therefore, finding a tombstone of an ancestor there would be highly unlikely even for more recent years and definately one would never be found for burials in the 1800s if the person was not of the very upper class of society..

Some of the cemeteries are fairly well kept and in others cattle rummage through the over growth and debris among the tombs. Most of the tombs have been exposed to frequent periods of searing heat and flooding for many years resulting in unreadable inscriptions and most stones and tombs broken beyond repair. John reports that he has not found any stone inscriptions that can be read older than 1950. Therefore, finding the burial locations of ancestors back to the colonial days may not be possible.   Burial grounds have not fared well given the environment and lack of maintenance and therefore, it is no wonder that stones and tombs survive less than 50 years. Another factor for cemeteries is the lack of space which has necessitated a system of building a tomb atop previous ones.  It is our understanding that at a maximum of 10 years following a burial, that plot becomes available for another tomb to added on top of the previous tomb, or if in bad condition, replaced entirely.
     Although there are reportedly "caretakers" on government payroll, the cemeteries are so overgrown with weeds and bushes that no tombs can even and where there are recent burials, the so many large holes exist that in some cases, no one can get close to the burial sites.   In many places, persons attending a funeral must walk over boards placed over vast holes. Tombs are regularly vandalized and few indenitifications remain on tombs. For Guyana burials, it would take a miracle to find a tomb from the pre-independence days as most are long gone; destroyed or victims of flooding, heat and heavy bush growth.   Photos of several cemeteries in Georgetown taken recently by John O'Connor show conditions of some cemeteries.   View them here.

Because Georgetown is below sea level, some cemeteries are required to have above-ground tombs. A photo of a local Georgetown cemetery (unidentified) can be found here. (this site was valid as of 1 December 2007)

The work done by Vere Langford Oliver in his book, Monumental Inscriptions in Demerara, (London, M. Huges & Clark, 1914, viii, 223 p., 26 cm) describes the cemeteries prior to 1914. The following is a summary of what Oliver discovered.

Bourda Burial Ground at Vlissingen

      Oliver was about to leave, going through this cemertery hurriedly but notes that the earliest date he saw was 1822 and that there were 'many hundreds of stones here as this was the chief town cemetery.'
     In 1798, the former colony governor, Joseph Bourda, died in Paris and the cemetery was unattended. It wasn't until 1876 that the Government of British Guiana entered into an agreement with the Bourda heirs to take over Plantation Vlissingen, which comprised of New Town, Queenstown, Robbstown and Bourda.
     Ordinance No. 8 of 1876 vested Plantation Vlissingen, in three Commissionaires, the authority to sell, distribute and grant titles of land to purchasers and heirs of Bourda's estate. Section 72 of the 1876 Ordinance provided for the immediate enclosure of the Bourda Cemetery and necessary adjacent lands. This act entrusted the Mayor and Town Council to maintain the cemetery. A sturdy iron rail fence and gate was erected to secure the area.
     In the cemetery are the remains and tombs of many people who are associated with the past history of this colony. People like; Adrien Tinne, John Patoir, Lawrence Cruikshank, William Booker, Thomas McCalmont, John Reid…the Vyfhuises, the Bagots, the Turners – to name only a few.   Many of these tombs date back to the early 19 th century and many of the people buried in the Cemetery played an important part in the economic life of the colony

Burial Ground - Massaruni Penal Establishment

Oliver describes this cemetery as above a river, on a hill. He noted that in addition to the inmates some inscriptions were of persons drowned in the rapids.

Fort Island - Essequibo River

Oliver found some inscriptions on the floor slabs but had no time to copy them. He says of the visit, "This is situated about fifteen miles from the mouth. It was formerly the seat of government and the brick fort here on the river bank mounted forty cannon but was decaying in 1799 (Bolingbroke, p. 133) The so-called Church is a plain oblong structure massively built and was once the Court of Policy Hall.

Fort Nassau

Oliver cites a few stones as early as 1755 and some higher up the eriver, about a mile above the mouth of the Teerani Creek about 1787.

Military Burial Ground, Eve Leary or Kingson

    This burial ground is located behind the seawall and the old barracks. Oliver found it clean and tidy but had made a hurried visit and took some names. Most of the burials were servicemen attached to the "West India Regiment".

Plantation Coomacha

Oliver only notes "150 miles inland" as descripotion and some burials as early as 1696, the death of a child, Jesabethr Rassche.

Plantation Providence, Demerara

Oliver noted one burial marker in the buildings yard, that of Mr. Pieter Hendrik Koppiers who died 1795.

Roman Catholic Cathedral

When Oliver visited this cathedral he found that it had been completely destroyed by fire and was bare. [NOTE: His visit would've occurred prior to 1914, but exact date of visit is not given.]

St. Andrews Scotch Church

This church first opened in 1819. There were only about 14 burials or memorials noted at this location.

St. George's Cathedral, Georgetown

     Of the records found at the Cathedral, Oliver writes: "The oldest Register is a brown leather volume marked "B" on the cover and styled, "Register of Marriages and Baptisms for the Colonies of Essequebo and Demerary, 1796.' It contains no marriages. The first baptism is on 6 June, 1796. Each entry is signed by Francis McMahon. Each page is numbered as far as 196, June 1804. There are thrity-one more folios, some loose, and the last entry is on on 4th April, 1807. Some few pages are frayed but otherwise the register is complete and in good condition.

     Another brown leather volume, smaller than the above, is marked "A" and contains baptisms from 6th June, 1796 and is also signed F.M. to 17th April 1807. THe Dean and I checked several entries with those in, "B", and as they coincided, we came to the conclusion that the two volumes contained the same entries throughout. From a letter of about the year 1830, it appears that the Rev. F. McMahon took the above two volumes with him to Grenada and after his death they were purchased from his Executors for 70 dollars. From the tablet in St. George's, Grenada, it appears that he died 22nd November, 1827 having been Rector 21 years. It is a pity the Marriages and Burials are missing.

     The third volume has no cover. The first baptism is on 27th October, 1807 signed, 'W.G. Straghan, A.B., Minister.' The first marriage is dated 26th April, 1807 and burials begin the same year."

     Many memorials are installed by the doors and transepts, on busts and on brass templates. Among them, Hubert Carlton Whitlock (North transept); Maj. Gen. Stephen Arthur Goodman (above west door); Fanny Wray; Walter Robert D'Urban; Alexander Milne; Charles Augustus Dean; Peter Rose; Hugh Lyle Carmichael (over east door); Sir James Carmichael Smith (marble bust); John Noble Harvey (north transept); Charles Montague and Elizabeth Jones (east wall North Transept); Thomas Dougan (South transept); Joseph Beete (east door, south transept); James Lugar (gothic tablet); John Walker Thommpson (above window); William Wynn Kenrick; William Peake; George Robertson; H. B. Magee; Sir James Robert Longden; Jasias Booker; George Booker; Goring Evans and Edward Henry Goring Dalton; Edward Thomas Evans Dalton; Frederick Elliot Dampier; Sara Ethel Proctor; William Henry Woodroffe; George Anderson; Richard Michael Jones Bovell, wife Lucretia and son; Francis Wollaston Hutton; William and Mary Ann Roberts.

St. Saviour's

Oliver describes this church as having no momuments or inscriptions and is a Chinese Church.

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