[Marjorie Morgan]

Marjorie Morgan Tells of Grave Concerns for those Buried in the Old Melbourne Cemetery

Marjorie Morgan has spoken to the Port Phillip Pioneers Group about the Old Melbourne Cemetery on a previous occasion but this time she explained how she compiled her book "The Old Melbourne Cemetery 1837-1922."

At first sight the book seems complicated but Marjorie gained her information from six different sources. these were:

(1) An Alphabetical Burial Register. This is the main surviving register of the Cemetery. It covers February 1866 to November 1917, there being no surviving registers prior to 1866.

(2) A Denominational Burial Register. This covers March 1877 to October 1917. It is in alphabetical order within each denomination.

(3) "The Memorial History of Melbourne" by Isaac Selby. Published in 1924 it includes many details about the Old Melbourne Cemetery and people buried there, as well as references to their relatives and friends. Also information extracted from the Memorial Inscriptions of 454 graves, and a map of the cemetery showing plot locations. This book covers the time 1835 to 1924.

(4) Memorial Inscriptions compiled by George T. Townend. Mr. Townend who lived in Victoria transcribed these inscriptions in 1913-14. He sent his work to the Society of Genealogists in London as he was a Fellow of that Society. Leslie Schumer, a former member of the Port Phillip Pioneers Group saw it when he visited the Society during a trip to London and organised for a copy to be sent to Marjorie. The Melbourne City Council also received a copy plus other material which included photographs. All this information has been copied by the State Library of Victoria.

(5) Jewish Burial Records. In 1919 Mr. Solomon M. Solomon, Secretary of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, in anticipation of the impending exhumation of the Old Melbourne Cemetery wrote to the Health Department and enclosed a list of the people buried in the Jewish portion of the Cemetery. He also sent maps showing the exact location of the graves.

(6) Letters of Application to Register Graves. In November 1867 citizens were invited to apply for grave sites until early March 1868. Four hundred and twenty-five applications were received by that date and another thirty-six were accepted prior to 1905. The original letters of application have survived and contain useful details.

The General Index of the book provides a lot of information, including where known, the cause of death, occupation, place of birth, address, each with the appropriate source noted. Other sections of the book show copies of original records, some being hand written, maps, lists of undertakers, Ministers of Religion, lists of names of bodies exhumed, old and new grave numbers, and photos including one of the area in Fawkner Cemetery where many bodies were reburied.

Despite all the above sources of information there are many people who were buried in the cemetery whose names are unknown. Someone buried in the very early years would have needed a good stone marker on their grave for an inscription to be made years later.

Records kept by Government Statistician Henry Haylyn Hayter, who was largely responsible for our wonderful Birth, Death, and Marriage certificates, indicated that between 1836 and 1854 there were 800 graves in the cemetery. These had been noted by 1843 but when the cemetery closed only 450 were visible.

Although the Cemetery closed in 1854 it reopened again in 1867 but was only open to those who owned a plot. It closed completely in 1917 and bodies were exhumed in 1919. Prior to this time however the Queen Victoria Market wished to expand and take over part of the cemetery. Bodies were exhumed from the area set aside for Aborigines, and for Members of the Society of Friends. The unused section of the Jewish area was taken.

The Old Melbourne Cemetery was laid out in the first land survey. A child is known to have been buried there in 1837 but no records were kept for the first year. Some burials continued to take place on private properties and church yards when Melbourne was deemed too difficult to get to. In England burials continued in church yards until the first public cemetery was opened in 1855. The Old Melbourne Cemetery was the first in Australia where people were buried according to their religious denomination.

John Batman's burial in the Church of England section was estimated as being the thirty-third, whilst the last person to be buried in the Old Melbourne Cemetery was Jean Hamilton Henderson on 29 October 1917.

Marjorie Morgan was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 1994 for services to the Victorian School for Deaf Children and Community History. Her involvement with the Genealogical Society of Victoria and the Public Records Office goes back a long time and indeed she spent five years at the Public Record Office indexing. She is a member of the Box Hill Historical Society where her interest in cemeteries resulted in her being referred to as the 'Cemetery Lady.' She is the author and co-author of numerous genealogical and historical books.

The story of the Old Melbourne Cemetery continues today as more changes to the area are imminent. It remains the final resting place for many people because only remains from marked graves have been exhumed.

( The above is a report on Marjorie Morgan's address at the General Meeting on 28 March 2015 )

( Contributed by Jan Hanslow. PPPG Member No. 1057 )


"The Old Melbourne Cemetery 1837-1922" Published 1982. Author Marjorie Morgan.

"Nosological Index 1863 and staff and registars of the Registrar-General's Department, Victoria 1862" by Marjorie Morgan.

"Poor Souls, They Perished: The Cataraqui: Australia's Worst Shipwreck" Co-authors, Andrew Lemon and Marjorie Morgan.

"Buried by the Sea: A History of Williamstown Cemetery" Published 1990. Co-authors: Andrew Lemon and Marjorie Morgan.

"Family and Local History Sources in Victoria" Published 1994. Co-authors: Frances Brown, Dom Meadley, and Marjorie Morgan.

"Happy-go-lucky a Gippsland Gold Town 1863-1917" Co-authors: Dorothy Morgan and Marjorie Morgan.

"Irish Families in Australia and New Zealand" (Various Volumes) Co-authors: Hubert William Coffey and Marjorie Jean Morgan.

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