Quaker Burials: Glossary of Terms
Blacks “black”, “negro” and “colored” are used throughout the records of the Merion Meeting, the only place in the area for many years to accept black burials. The words of the original records have been reproduced in the database.
Burial Ground Quakers prefer the name “burial ground” to “cemetery.”
Caretakers take care of the property, and receive lodging in the 1804 house that adjoins the yard. In the past, caretakers have been involved in burials and coffin building.
Children’s Rows Some rows were reserved for burial of children, some of them stillborn and not given a first name.
First Company The first Welsh settlers who came to the area, 17 families who divided 5,000 acres among them. Some of these families arrived as early as 1682.
Free Quakers A group of Quakers who split from the traditional Quakers by fighting in the Revolutionary War. There are about 63 Revolutionary War veterans in the burial ground. Also known as “Fighting Quakers.” The Sons of the Revolution place flags on the burial sites of a few graves known to contain Revolutionary War Vererans.
Headstones Quakers have not traditionally placed headstones on burial sites, being thought too showy or worldly. Some stones have been placed on graves; in 1888 markers were allowed that were no more than 6 inches above ground. Later Quakers, believing this to be ostentatious, buried these stones. Today there are very few headstones in the yard compared to the number of burials. Some of the ones that exist were placed on the graves at a much later date than the original burial. The oldest headstone was placed in about 1782.
Indians The term “indian” is used in the Merion Meeting records. The word in the original records has been reproduced in the database. A chief was buried next to the gate in an upright position.
Members’ Rows Burial sites for members of the Merion Meeting or other Quaker meetings.
Plots There are no measured plots in the burial ground. The locations in the burial ground are not reserved for a single individual. Particularly in the oldest section of the yard, graves have been re-used several times for later burials.
Stranger’s Rows Non-member burial sites. In the old section, the area furthest from the meetinghouse was reserved for “strangers and negroes.” The 1801-1804 section also has several Stranger’s rows.
Stone Friends’ Row Although mentioned in the records, the meaning of this name is not currently understood.