Volunteer Spotlight on Christine Schott
Updated: Jan 31, 2021
Christine Schott is a volunteer that has spent the better part of 2020 sifting through countless records in an effort to create a coherent and inclusive database of the individuals laid to rest within the Homestead Cemetery. During her research, Christine discovered that the official ledgers, used to track burials from 1886 onwards, were missing large portions of information. Many of these gaps resulted from incomplete recordings, faded and aged ink and paper, or physical pages lost to time as the records were divided and moved around the surrounding boroughs for storage. What's left of these original records are currently housed at the Carnegie Library of Homestead.
Christine started the massive undertaking during the early months of the pandemic. She says, "I have wanted to do this project for many years. I have spent quite a bit of time researching my own family history in Baltimore, MD, and have spent plenty of time in cemeteries there. I've always thought it would be a great resource to have a complete photo documentation of any of those cemeteries for me to do research online. Since I live here and not there, I decided I'd try to increase my own "genealogy karma" by taking on a project here in Homestead in hopes that the good vibes get the same type of project started in Baltimore. Silly, I know, but that's kind of where it came from. The secondary reason is that I now live here and have a strong connection to Homestead and Munhall as well. As I've been working on this project, I've seen so many names that I recognize from the area! So when the pandemic hit and everything closed down and I had nothing to do, I figured that was as good of a kick in the pants to get started as any."
After receiving digitized files of the ledgers and maps, Christine spent months transcribing the information to an updated Excel spreadsheet. It wasn't until October that she was able to begin photographing and cataloging headstones to expand her database. She could regularly be found wandering around the cemetery grounds comparing the maps and ledgers with satellite images to gain a clearer idea of exactly where burials where located. Christine was able to use past years' Google Earth images to find monuments that had since been damaged or overgrown, and often used a trowel to remove layers of debris and growth from their surfaces.
She says she started with a small and well-defined section at the top of the hill, the round Section I, before moving parallel along Main Street towards 22nd Avenue in Sections A and C, where she is still currently working. "As I take the photos, I match them up with the ledger entries and include more of the info from the headstones in the Excel file, including a note of whether I've found a stone for each ledger entry. It's incredible how many people were buried without a marker."
We cannot thank Christine enough for the valuable information she has literally pieced together, and we look forward to being able to help her continue her research! If you are interested in helping Christine uncover and photograph monuments, please reach out to the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org.