Now visitors with smartphones and tablets – or those who prefer paper – can locate their ancestors on our map and learn about them
About This Project
Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) churchyard opened around 1677. Initially, it served as a burying ground for Swedish Lutheran settlers and their descendants. Over time, men, women and children who worked and lived near this church were also buried here. Some were veterans who fought in the American Revolution, War of 1812, the Civil War, and more recent battles such as World War II. Others were farmers, mariners, scientists, artists, merchants, bankers, com- posers, ministers, homemakers, students, and craftsmen. This churchyard has welcomed thousands of “permanent residents” during its 340 plus years of existence.
By 1790, the bucolic landscape that once surrounded Gloria Dei’s churchyard had developed into a wharf town. The 19th century saw a massive development of adjacent land for commercial purposes. In 1967, an elevated freeway was built directly to the west, increasing vehicular traffic in the area. This industrialization had a devastating impact on the churchyard, explains historian Jeanette Woehr. “A lot of the graves you can’t read anymore because acid rain has ruined the marble.” As a result, visitors often have difficulty locating their ancestors’ gravestones.
The Historic Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Preservation Corporation was formed in 2014 to help preserve and maintain the churchyard. Our first order of business involved assessing the conditions of the 540 gravestones that remain. The resulting report has helped us identify the markers in the worst shape and prioritize repairs.
What did we do about the tombstones that are no longer legible? We dug into our archives to identify them. After comparing several sources — an annotated plot map from the 1930s, various drafts of an inscription book dating to the 1870s, and several handwritten ledgers containing burial records — we were able to positively identify all but 16. We published these results in a comprehensive map that details plot numbers and the names of those interred. Hardcopies of this map are available for free in a box mounted at the front of the church. Visitors with smartphones can access an interactive version of the map on our website.
Support This Project
Your support helps us pay for printing costs and website maintenance. These tools make it possible for descendants and loved ones to find their ancestors’ gravesites.