Myrtle Hill Cemetery Demography Project

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The graveyard I chose for the historical demography project is named Myrtle Hill Cemetery and is located at 112 Andrews Street, in Syracuse, New York. Myrtle Hill Cemetery is a small public graveyard, fenced off by a tall iron fence. The fence is open during the day but closed at night to keep out trespassers and deter vandalism (some of the headstones on the west side of the graveyard seem to have been broken; making me think the fence is very necessary). The cemetery is located in a largely residential area, so much so, that the iron fence of the graveyard borders several of the backyards in the neighborhood.

The cemetery is designed very simply. There is an administrative/office building located near the entrance. A small stone path, which begins near the office building, cuts through the few acres of the graveyard and the headstones that cover its grounds. Along the path, there are a few stone benches for visitors (all of which were donated by families or individuals related to someone interred at Myrtle Hill). Other than the building and the benches, there are only headstones in the cemetery. The headstones are mostly made out of sandstone, although approximately ten to twelve were made out of granite. The oldest grave marker within the cemetery is the headstone of an infant named Charles Elliot, who died in 1913. The headstone is made out of sandstone and is in good shape, although a bit worn down and hard to read. The youngest grave marker within the cemetery is the headstone of Ruth Perry, who died in 2001. The headstone is also made out of sandstone and is in almost perfect condition.

Myrtle Hill Cemetery has a total of 128 headstones. I collected information from 40 of the headstones located in the graveyard, making my sampling fraction 31%: 40 (headstones reported) /128 (headstones total).

Myrtle Hill Cemetery is located in a historical area of town, but not the most affluent of areas. The neighborhood the cemetery is located in is largely composed of low-income families. However, the architecture of the homes surrounding the cemetery does not look meager, but rather affluent. I chose this cemetery in order to analyze whether the past affluence of the area positively affected the lifespan of the individuals who lived here during that time. The following are calculations on life expectancy, infant mortality, child mortality, and crude death rate. I calculated them in order to see how death rates fluctuated at Myrtle Hill, and whether affluence or lack thereof, affected lifespan.

Calculations:

The following calculations are based on a 31% sampling fraction of the headstones at Myrtle Hill, from 1913 – 1999 (the span of the date of death within sampling fraction).

(Life expectancy table omitted for preview. Available via download)

The data shows a decline in lifespan throughout the years at Myrtle Hill. However, there are only seven headstones recorded in my data sample from 1940 – 1990 (which is the most likely time the neighborhood fell into economic decline). While the data seems to suggest that the neighborhood’s economic decline and lingering effects of past urbanization and industrialization negatively affected the average lifespan of the community, one has to take that suggestion with a grain of salt because of the size of the sample fraction taken from the cemetery.

(Infant and child mortality table omitted for preview. Available via download)

Due to the small size of the fractioned sample, the data above does not reflect very realistic mortality rates in infants or children born during 1870-1989, such as the 50% child mortality rate calculated for 1980 – 1989.

(rude death rate table omitted for preview. Available via download)

Due to the small size of the fractioned sample, the data above does not reflect very realistic crude death rates from 1870-1989. There is a significant spike in the crude death rate from 1930-39, followed by abnormally high crude death rates from the 50s onward. There is nothing in the local history to indicate why these spikes occurred in my data. It’s most likely the sporadic fluctuations seen in the table above are due to the small sample size.

My data seems to suggest that life expectancy significantly decreased after the economic decline of the neighborhood surrounding the cemetery. However, the small size of my fraction sample could also correlate to a higher rate of inaccuracy. Economic decline most likely did have had an impact on life expectancy in the area, since less financial resources naturally translate into less access to medical care and a diminished ability to maintain nutrition (unable to provide/buy food). These combined factors can, and probably did affect the life expectancy of the residents in this neighborhood. However, I do not believe that the sporadic fluctuations and decline of lifespan illustrated by my data do not accurately reflect the rate at which life expectancy was affected by the economic decline (if at all).

(Recorded data table omitted for preview. Available via download)