I am trying to help a friend. He has a Revolutionary War ancestor, Captain Robert Lenthall Eells, buried in the Hanover Center Cemetery in Hanover, Massachusetts ( findagrave, googlemaps).

I grew up in that area and visit periodically so I have tried to find his ancestor's grave for him, but have been unsuccessful in the past. I'll be visiting again and was asking for help in how to locate this particular grave. It's quite a large cemetery so I was looking for a method to find his grave other than just walking around until I found it (I try to do a little of that each trip). We have tried findagrave, talking to the cemetery custodians, and google searches. We did come across a partial plot map in a proposal to restore a small portion of the cemetery but unfortunately he was not in that section.

We have found several Eells (Robert Eells in Lot 62 Section F and George Eells in Lot 60 Section F)but unfortunately not the Robert Eells he was searching for.

The particulars are:

Robert Lenthal Eells: b. 17 Feb 1732 Hanover, d. 19 Jun 1800 Hanover

m. 01 Dec 1757 Scituate

Ruth Copeland: b. 16 Sep 1735 Scituate, d. 21 May 1831 Hanover

He has a findagrave photo request posted, but has not had anyone locate his gravesite yet.

Capt Eells was a cousin of the Barstows, and a leading citizen of his time, and reportedly one of the wealthiest ship builders in the town. His grave was listed in several books of town records with tombstone transcriptions compiled in the late 1800's. Not sure what happened to his marker now.

The lady from the Hanover Department of Public Works tried to help my friend. She was not able to find Capt. Eells in the card file or computer index she had on hand. She said that someone had many years ago walked off with a lot of the old records. They have been trying to restore their database ever since.

I did make another 'walk around' looking for Capt Eells this Thanksgiving (2012) but was unsuccessful. I did upload 86 photos to BillionGraves.com and have some others to upload to findagrave.com. BillionGraves' app is certainly easier to use but I didn't realize I don't get the photo's so I switched back to findagrave mid walk.

  • 2
    I've so far been unsuccessful locating the book and record so are you able to point us to any one of the "several books of town records with tombstone inscriptions compiled in the late 1800's" in which his "grave was listed"?
    – GeneJ
    Nov 20, 2012 at 22:08
  • 1
    Was he married? If so, perhaps finding his spouse's grave may help. You might also try to find the grave of her daughter Sarah who was born and died in 1781 (Sarah Eells was born on 2 Aug 1781 in Hanover, Plymouth, MA, USA. She died on 17 Aug 1781 in Hanover, Plymouth, MA, USA). Nov 20, 2012 at 22:20

4 Answers 4


I reviewed several published works about Hanover and/or Hanover Center Cemetery and/or ...

Wikipedia has a photograph of Hanover Center Cemetery by John Phelan, 2010, with "First Congregational Church in the background." From the brief reading I did separately about the church, seemed the structure in the picture was built after 1800 when this Robert Eells died.

I have only been able to locate a death record about "Captn. Robert Leuthal Eelles." See L. Vernon Briggs, ed., History and Records of the First Congregational Church, Hanover, Mass., 1727-1865, and Inscriptions from the Headstones and Tombs in the Cemetery at Centre Hanover, Mass., 1727-1894, being volume I of the Church and Cemetery Records of Hanover, Mass. (Boston: press of Wallace Spooner, 1895).

  1. p. 202. Record reports the good captain died 19 Jun 1800, then age 68; "Dropsey and long decline." (Chapter 7, "Deaths entered on the records of the First Congregational Church ..." This section of of the death records begins in 1727/8, "After I (Benja[min] Bass) came to town.")
  2. p. 209, entry for death (but not burial) of "Ruth Ells"; reports this death 27 May 1831; no further notation or reference to her identity. (Also Chapter 7, Deaths; this entry among records of Rev. Calvin Chaddock, "After the installation.")

Neither of the two death records noted make specific mention of burial. (So this would not be the tombstone inscriptions your friend has told you about.)

The same work, L. Vernon Briggs, ed., History and Records of the First Congregational ...) has Chapter 11 (p. 214-308), "Inscriptions from the stones and tombs in the cemetery at Centre Hanover, 1727-1895." These records are arranged roughly in alphabetical order; I observed Eells burials p. 246-247; found no Robert d. 1800 nor a Ruth d. 1831 among the listings.

Jedediah Dwelley and John F. Simmons, History of the town of Hanover, Massachusetts, with ... (Massachusetts: by the town, 1910) has a genealogy including this "Robert L. Capt. ..." (p. 166, which at least in this digital edition appears after p. 291); reports Eells resided "at the Corners, on the present location of 'Hotel Josselyn.'" (When was that built? Was a family cemetery disturbed at the time of its development?) Robert said d. 19 June 1800; wife Ruth (Copeland) Eells said d. 21 May 1831.

Perhaps in further review of the work mentioned, you will find other entries reporting this Robert's burial at Hanover Center Cemetery. In the alternative, consider asking your friend to share the details of his/her source and include those details in the question.

There was another early church at Hanover. See L. Vernon Briggs, History and records of St. Andrew's Protestant Episcopal Church of Scituate, Mass ... and Hanover, Mass ... (Boston: press of Wallace Spooner, 1895). I did not review that material in any depth, but had I located anything, I would have noted it here.


Not every person who died at a place was buried in that town's cemetery (or in any true cemetery). Of those who were, not all were buried in marked graves, much less with stones that have survived.

Of course modern cemetery record keeping is often quite detailed, but this reporting has generally evolved. Cemeteries have histories, too. Sometimes records exist that tell you when certain sections of the cemetery were opened up for burials (or filled). You may be able to tell how this cemetery was developed by walking the rows. Some areas may be more modern than others; family plots may, or may not have been common very early. Are there areas or plots where grave stones seem noticeably missing?

According to the Hanover, Plymouth County, Massachusetts USGenWeb site, professional genealogist Scott Andrew Bartley has participated in building the FamilySearch wiki about the town, "Hanover, Massachusetts." He's an outstanding genealogist. Your friend might want to correspond with Scott or check out the wiki page.


I am the friend mentioned in the question. I have previously studied all the sources listed above when making application for the Sons of the American Revolution membership. I did not know about Mr. Bartley's work and will enjoy that source.

The source that lists Robert Lenthal Eells' inscription is "Old Cemeteries of Southeastern Massachusetts - A compilation of records by Charles M. Thatcher in the late 1880s", The Middleborough Public Library, Middleborough, Massachusetts, 1995, Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 95=78687, ISBN 9-6476-93. The records in this collection were never published by Mr. Thatcher, but were instead a collection of his papers in the library's archive that were eventually published by the library.

The entries are listed in alphabetical order, not by plot, and the EELLS family entries under OLD CEMETERY AT HANOVER CENTER on page 75 are:

EELLS, Capt. Robert L., died June 9, 1800, in his 68th yr.. (Rev. Soldier).
Ruth, wife of Capt. Robert L., died May 2, 1832, in her 93rd yr..
Sarah, dau. of Capt. Robert L. & Ruth, died Aug. 17, 1781, aged 15 days.
Lucy, dau. of Robert L. Esq. & Consort of Deacom Elijah Barstow, born Aug. 12, 1776, died Jan. 21, 1840, in her 64th yr..
Joseph, died Nov. 6, 1836, in his 63rd yr..

Joseph is the son of Robert Lenthal Eells and his family plot has been located and photographed at FindAGrave in the Hanover Center Cemetery.

  • Welcome to genealogy.SE, ArtP. +1 for great stuff. This information gives us not only context, but it precisely describes a conflict among the sources. I'm taking another look.
    – GeneJ
    Nov 22, 2012 at 15:32
  • Materials that constitute the apparent title page, preface and a listing of the cemeteries from this work is available online (pdf). I am editing/updating your answer, ArtP, to provide the link.
    – GeneJ
    Nov 22, 2012 at 16:32

The entry on findagrave looks like someone just copied the info from a book, but he has four children listed in the cemetery. If you have not located his children's graves, you could contact the findagrave submitters (3 different people) who posted this family and ask if they know where they physically are.

Next, if he is a revolutionary war soldier, try to find out if there is a veteran's marker placed on his grave. There would be a record showing plot location.


I think some stones were lost when a large tree toppled down several years ago. I'm not sure of the exact date but it was in this century (21st). The tree was felled by a severe down draft that caused it to splinter and topple which destroyed several graves stones. I suspect the stones of an ancestral uncle and his family were among those destroyed as I had found them not long before this tree fell and have not been able to find them again. I remember the graves were under the long heavy branch of an ancient tree and I suspect it was the one no longer there which destroyed some graves stones.

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