In the summer of 1985, as a member of the research team for the Genealogy Association of Sacramento, I entered the Sacramento City Cemetery for the first time. It was necessary to search a card file to find the burial site that I needed to visit. I noted that some cards were out of alphabetical order, certainly not unheard of among card file systems. Because many an individual had created an index helpful to me in my family genealogy research, I offered to copy the card file (17,000 cards) on my home computer as an aid to the cemetery staff. Darrell P. Martineau, Cemetery Supervisor, accepted my offer. He informed me that the cards had been produced under the Works Project Administration (W.P.A. 1936-1940). Thus began the development of the present index titled: Marsh Index to the Burials of the Sacramento City Cemetery: Years 1849-2000.

In working with the burial cards, I found that the card file system did not include all the burials in this cemetery. In my readings about the Sacramento City Cemetery I found that this cemetery had been estimated to contain approximately 35,000 burials. I had made no plans for doing anything more than copying the existing card file. The process of doing this led to the creation of this index in stages.

Stage 1. The burial card file was input to my computer. (Data on cards consisted of name of deceased, date cemetery notified, date of burial, location of gravesite, name of undertaker and burial permit number.) The cemetery's interment records were for the years 1936 to the present date. These were reviewed to ascertain that all were included in the “Marsh Index.”

Stage 2. Plot Book Volumes A and B were searched for names to add to the index. Many names were found. At times, due to illegibility of handwriting, it was necessary to check gravestones for surname spelling. To facilitate the finding of gravestones I superimposed the Plot Book page numbers upon a map of the cemetery. Using this finding-aid, I began to discover gravestones for which there was no burial card on file. It was clear that having discovered gravestones without burial cards on file, a gravestone inventory needed to be conducted. Approval was obtained from Mr. Martineau and Johnnie Bramble, Parks Superintendent. I presented a request for volunteers at a general meeting of the Genealogy Association of Sacramento. Twenty-seven members signed on to do this work.

Stage 3. The Gravestone Inventory was carried out from October 1986 to July 1987 with thirty-five dedicated volunteers who copied the inscriptions on the stones and in most cases described the stones. From the data gathered, names, dates, nativity and relationships were added to this index. I have estimated that this inventory enabled me to find 3,500-4,000 burials to add to the index.

Stage 4. In 1988, a vault, previously used for the reception of deceased prior to burial, and no longer used for that purpose, was established as the archive for the cemetery's records. Records were moved from the cemetery office to this locale. August 1988 the Sacramento City Cemetery Archives was opened to the public. I served as the first volunteer archivist from 1988-1996 with volunteers assisting me. The first archive volunteers were Mrs. Marilyn Fuqua, Mrs. Elizabeth Kelliher, Mrs. Dorothy Mills, Mrs. Marjorie Powers and Mrs. Helen Narver Smith.

Soon after the opening of the Sacramento City Cemetery Archives, Darrell Martineau, Cemetery Supervisor, obtained bound volumes titled: “Deaths and Interments in and from the City of Sacramento.” These volumes, released to the Sacramento City Cemetery by the Sacramento County Recorder's office, held the burial records for the years of 1850-1927. With the arrival of these volumes, I was then able to find additional information such as nativity, cause of death, occupation and burials that had been removed or reinterred. Most importantly, interments were found for which there had been no card on file, no gravestone and no entry in a Plot Book. These found names were added to the “Marsh Index.” These found names could not be added to the Plot Books as the exact location within the plot could not be ascertained. Because of time constraints, not all names in the volumes “Deaths and Interments in and from the City of Sacramento,” could be searched to add nativity and cause of death to the index.

An 1898 Sacramento newspaper carried a report about the Plot Books having been created 2 years earlier. It became apparent to me that the Plot books had been created to a large extent for the period of 1849-1896, by recording the existing gravestones. The absence of a gravestone was the reason for the name of the deceased to not have been entered into the Plot Books at the time of the Plot Books creation in 1896.

Stage 5. In many instances, an interment location could not be proved as the individual had no entry in the Burial Card File nor in a Plot Book and no gravestone. In many of these cases where Lot number has been indicated in the burial books, I searched cemetery deeds and used same surname ownership of a lot as proof of interment location.

The cemetery had no interment records for the period January 1, 1928 to January 1, 1936. For those years, Clark and Booth Funeral Home records, placed in the cemetery's archive by Mory Holmes, were searched for Sacramento City Cemetery burials.

A biographical file on individuals interred in the Sacramento City Cemetery was begun upon the suggestion of a volunteer, Sheldon Dunn. Information was gleaned from newspaper files and from Sacramento County histories and from relatives of the deceased. Volunteers spent many hours reading newspaper obituaries to find information that was missing from the cemetery's records.

During my years at the Sacramento City Cemetery there are three volunteers who from the first request for volunteers to do a headstone survey in 1986, worked on that project until it had been completed in 1987. They followed this with providing clerical help in transferring newly found information into the burial card file for the cemetery office. When the Sacramento City Cemetery Archives opened in 1988, they continued to work, helping to make it successful and did so until 1996. They are Mrs. Elizabeth Kelliher, Mrs. Marjorie Powers and Mrs. Helen Narver Smith. Their dedication to the needs of the Sacramento City Cemetery is commendable.

In summation, my work on this index has spanned fifteen years. Names were extracted from records by me and input to my computer by me. The “Marsh Index” has grown from the 17,000 names at first available to me and has become an index to over 31,000 interments. Without the volunteer work that produced the headstone inventory, much less would have been accomplished.

Virginia Marsh, R.N.
Sacramento, California
May 1, 2002

(Virginia Marsh passed away on March 28, 2015. Her ashes are interred next to her husband Norman at the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery in Plat B161, Tier 4E, Grave 1.)