Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Facebook Cemetery Hunt

Michael and Kate are good friends, work colleagues, and additionally, Kate is an inspiration as a cancer survivor. During a conversation not too long ago, Michael told me they lived in the east end of Toronto, near the St. John's Norway church and cemetery. I was able to share with him a little of my family's history in Toronto's east end and specifically, that my great grandparents, Alexander Shand Hadden and Jessie McKenzie Hadden (nee Gaull) were buried in St. John's Norway cemetery but that I had yet to find their grave and headstone.

Kate seized the opportunity to provide a summer distraction and a bit of a history lesson for their children. So off they marched on "The Hadden Hunt" - an adventure to see if they could find my great grandparents! First, a bit of the magnitude of the search - the cemetery covers about 35 acres of land and contains about 50,000 graves. Little wonder I couldn't find the grave and a daunting task for my friend and her children.

I was able to provide a general location for the grave that older family members have over the years passed on to me - north-west part of the cemetery, a stone that lies flat on the ground near the cemetery's back fence, and both my great grandparents had died in 1945 within a few months of each other.

The grave and headstone was located in a low lying area, the inscription not fully visible due to years of growth around the stone. An easy solution was provided by the sleuths - gain the assistance of a cemetery worker who dug the stone out (pictured below), cleaned it off and re-laid it after explaining that the stone rested directly above my great grandparents heads and that they were facing east.

Photos of the event recorded the successful adventure and were quickly shared with me through Facebook.

For the first time, I have seen the headstone of my Hadden ancestors and I have the photo above to show for it!


  1. Wonderful story. Awesome friends.

  2. Burials at St. John's Norway have recently been fully indexed and published by Toronto Branch OGS. That should make another hunt a little easier!
    - Brenda