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  • Mel Hulbert

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - #4 'Close to Home'

‘Close to Home’ is the prompt for week four and I struggled with this topic for a while until I had the proverbially ‘light bulb’ moment.

St John’s Cemetery, Parramatta was founded in 1790 and is the oldest undisturbed European cemetery in Australia [1]. It was many years after I first started researching my family that I finally visited this cemetery even though it is relatively close.

Before visiting the cemetery I searched for a map of burials at the cemetery. The St John’s Anglican Cathedral website [2] has a Cemetery Guide which can be downloaded as a pdf and gives some interesting history of the cemetery, some notable burials and a hand drawn map of the site with labelled headstones which I found very useful to navigate around the site. I also used the Australian Cemeteries Index [4], a fantastic website that not only lists all who are buried in cemeteries around the country but often has images of the headstones as well. I was able to make a list of all of my ancestors so I could tick them off as I wandered around. The images were invaluable at St John’s as many headstones are flat and sadly many of the inscriptions have weathered away and having this link up and on my mobile allowed me to locate the correct headstone from the image.

St Johns Cemetery is very well maintained and this is due to the work of The St John’s Cemetery Project [5] and Friends of St John’s Cemetery, Parramatta [6]. The cemetery itself is located at 1 O’Connell Street in the heart of Parramatta and is a quiet oasis amongst the hustle and bustle of the city.

Many of my early ancestors are buried at St John’s Cemetery, with family names including: Batman; Mobbs; Thorn; and Tuckwell. I spent many hours wandering around, reading and taking photographs of my ancestors’ headstones. A few such as Margaret Susannah Batman have worn away with only the footstone remaining with the initials MSB and 1821 the year of burial. However help is at hand in a publication written by Judith Dunn and published by the Parramatta and District Historical Society called The Parramatta Cemeteries St John’s. This book not only lists the inscription, but gives a description of the headstone and even lists any missing headstones and their inscriptions and descriptions – very useful!

St John’s Anglican Cathedral is a short stroll away and I wandered there after visiting the cemetery. It is the second church to be built on the site with most of the current building dating from 1852. However, the twin towers of the Cathedral date to 1818 and are made of sandstone brick [7].

If you have ancestors or even just an interest in early cemeteries and churches then St John’s should certainly be on your list of places to visit!


All website references accessed in June 2020.

[1] Dunn, J. (1991). The Parramatta Cemeteries St John’s. Parramatta and District Historical Society Inc.

[2] St John’s Anglican Cathedral

[3] St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Cemetery Guide

[4] Australian Cemeteries Index

[5] St John’s Cemetery Project

[7] Rapp, C., Pearce, J., Roe, J. (1988). St John’s Parramatta. St John’s Parramatta Publications Committee


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