Unmarked Graves

Through out the United States, Michigan and the World there are more unmarked graves than marked ones.

To those who have not thought about it this may sound like a false hood but once you examine the facts and see for yourself the facts will speak the truth and the doubts will be gone.

Lets start with your own family history. Where are your parents buried? Are their graves marked. What about those family babies who died at birth do they have a marker? I have a brother and sister both without markers and don't have the money to pay the exorbitant fees and expenses to place a stone on their graves even though I know where the graves are in a well known cemetery.

OK Where are your grand parents buried and do they have a marker. Now repeat that question for a few more generations back. Most families soon run out of locations and also end up with the statement there is no marker.

On November 17, 2010 at the Post Cemetery on Mackinac Island, a headstone was placed at the grave site of infant Robert D. Walsh over 117 years after his death at Fort Mackinac. The stillborn son of Private Walter J. Walsh and his wife, Fort Mackinac Hospital Matron Caroline Walsh, was buried at the Post Cemetery on Mackinac Island after his death on August 17, 1892 at Fort Mackinac.

"By properly marking this grave site, we are able to honor the wishes of the family and bring greater historical accuracy to this cemetery," said Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Phil Porter.

Mt Olivet cemetery open from 1888, Mt. Elliott from 1841 was a long wagon trek in bad weather from Warren. Staff members of many cemeteries have stated that they have hundreds of children buried without markers. St Clement Cemetery from 1854 is a sister pioneer cemetery to Warren Union Cemetery in Warren Michigan. Records show 451 child and 299 adult burials before 1898 of which only 28 markers now show a child burial. That gives a ratio of 1.5 child burials for each adult. There were 17 scattered years when there were about twice the children buried than adults. 5 years had about three times the child burials. One year had 12 times and one year 4 times.

One old caretaker admitted that there were a huge number of graves with no marker visible and that they actually had to probe with a rod before they dared dig a new grave. In the old days markers would fall down in the depression made when the old wood caskets caved in and in time covered over. Many mowers were pressed into service and the less markers the faster they could get the mowing done. St Clement had about 1,500 burials prior to 1943. The above is verifiable.

Warren Union Cemetery is aside the Red Run along Chicago Road East of Ryan. Pioneer farmer Peter Gillette sold a parcel of land in 1845 to eighteen families for a burial ground. It has 2600 grave spaces inside the fenced area after subtracting aisles and drives. Studies indicate possible 1000-2000 total burials but no one alive knows.

Consider that the old section was considered full by 1945. Proof of that is in the fact that many of those old families had to buy plots in other cemeteries because their local lots were full, even if markers had not been placed on them.

Township records, newspaper articles and stories indicate that pauper burials were also done there.

If one looks at county death records 50% of the deaths were children in the old days prior to WWI.

Add to that the many more stillborns and baby burials that were not recorded. An examination of county records shows that of the 150 stones with children's names only a few were recorded.

Families who suffered stillborn or baby deaths did not usually want a big funeral or a stone as there was a stigma about this. The family home served as the funeral home and most families just buried the remains in the cemetery quickly and privately and did not want a marker to remind them of a stillborn or sickly often unnamed baby which would prolong the sorrow of the guilt ridden grief stricken mother.

Looking at Warren's sister cemetery there were about 1.5 child burials per adult burial prior to 1900. The infant mortality rate back then was very high sometimes over 200 per 1000 per annum so this over years indicate a few hundred.

Old county death records of Warren show there are 500 child deaths per 1000 deaths average.

The sister cemetery with good records indicates possibly 1200 per 1000.

And it is known that virtually no stillborns and very few babies were marked by stones.

Researchers have done the math of all of the above and say that there is high probability that hundreds of children are buried at Warren Union Cemetery without markers.

And we know that many adults in the very old families were buried there without markers.

A beautiful memorial was donated (without cost to the city) in memory of our pioneer pioneer families and children who were buried there and now have no markers. That stone was stolen by grave robbers see cemetery page. They have no right to steal a memorial donated to our pioneers and children.


Most Cemeteries in the world including those of Macomb County Michigan have unmarked graves. Many old ones like Millar along Metro Parkway east of Schoenherr have almost no readable stones left. We could also state the fact that most burials of past years were not in cemeteries at all rather were in locations close to the site of death and are virtually unmarked. In Europe catacombs abound underground with thousands of unmarked bones. I have been there and seen them. Macaber to say the least but true facts nevertheless. Creepy isn't it.

The writer of this article who is a historical researcher has read and indexed Warren Union Cemetery in Warren Michigan, St Clemens Cemetery in Center line Michigan, Brookside, Perkins and Morehead in Fairgrove Michigan and Watrusville in Watrusville Michigan. He has also photographed all visible stones and published the research to local libraries and made it available free on the internet.

Countless family cemeteries across the United States suffer this problem. But there is help. Researchers are identifying locations of family burials and inexpensive markers can be made to mark the graves. The writer has made numerous cement markers by just pouring mortar cement into a rectangular mold then using cement stamps to put in the letters and numbers. The cost is minimal. The letters are then painted inside with black paint then a cement sealer applied to the top of the entire marker. This results in a marker that should last many years. No they are not of the same quality as a professional monument company marker and cement will not outlast granite. But cement marker do the job and meet the need of marking graves or adding information to a site.

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