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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Earliest burials in Pere-Lachaise and the Rogers - numbers from the Paris city archives

Thanks to that indefatigable researcher Marie B., we now have much clearer picture of the earliest burials of Pere-Lachaise Cemetery.

As you may recall from a previous discussion of the seminal work by Mr. Roger and his son, they calculated a total of 2,174 burials by the time they published their two-volume series at the end of 1816. This appeared to include permanent as well as temporary burials but not the mass graves. They also sketched out each and every grave as each grave appeared. Impressive indeed.

What we now know is that by the end of 1816 there were 660 permanent burials, 3,663 five-year temporary burials and 49,714 mass grave interments for a total of 54,037 bodies laid to rest in Pere-Lachaise. (Burials included bodies from the 3rd, 4th, 5th. 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th arrondissements -- old numbers).

Excluding the mass burials - the Rogers were apparently interested only in graves with a marker of one sort or another and that each grave in their their printed list matches a illustrated version in their "graphic maps" of all the graves) that leaves 660 permanent and 3,663 temporary graves for a total of 4323 interments. Yet their number of 2,174 falls far short. Why?

Assuming the Rogers were diligent in their attempt to identify every burial -- and it would appear they were from their two volumes of listings as well as their detailed graphic maps -- then it is most likely that some if not many of the temporary graves simply lacked a marker.

I suspect the graphic maps might give us a clue to this puzzle. Looking at plates 34, 35 and 36 in volume 2 we can see they sketched row upon row of crosses, quite likely wooden crosses and probably temporary.

Still, as discussed in my earlier post, the Rogers did leave out a number of individuals listed in other early guides to the cemetery so it seems clear that they also missed a few marked graves. But that wouldn't account for the huge discrepancy;  yet they seemed so thorough. . .

We'll probably never know for sure why the Rogers missed so many graves but it would seem safe to conclude that it was their intention to do so.

The breakdown of burials for 1804-1816 is as follows: permanent-temporary-mass-total for that year

1804: 1-17-1491-1509
1805: 2-39-2099-2140
1806: 3-42-2394-2439
1807: 10-52-2694-2756
1808: 14-62-2271-2347
1809: 17-72-2017-2106
1810: 42-82-2371-2495
1811: 32-100-2267-2399
1812: 66-143-2466-2675
1813: 119-359-3697-4175
1814: 90-891-10123-11104
1815: 115-939-8668-9722
1816: 149-865-7156-8170
TOTAL: 660-3663-49714-54037

The dramatic spike total burials in 1814 was most likely the consequence of the the Battle for Paris which ended with Napoleon's capitulation to the Allies and his forced exile to the island of Elba.

(Source: Archives de Paris, VI.15.1.1326W, Archives des Pompes funèbres de Paris - Paris municipal funeral home archives.)

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