Monument honours 700 children buried in unmarked graves in N.L. cemetery

A new monument at a Corner Brook cemetery will honour the hundreds of babies buried in unmarked graves.

'A place to grieve' in Corner Brook (Townsite) Roman Catholic Cemetery

The Corner Brook (Townsite) Roman Catholic Cemetery. (Newfoundland's Grand Banks website (

Hundreds of children buried in obscurity in a Newfoundland cemetery are about to receive some remembrance in a monument that will carry their names, thanks to painstaking research by several volunteers.

Some 700 babies have been buried in unmarked plots in the Roman Catholic section of the Townsite Cemetery in Corner Brook, says Margaret Farrell, whose niece is interred at the cemetery without any marker.

Farrell says her sister doesn't know where her daughter's grave is located — and she's not alone.

"That might be one of the reasons I was so interested," Farrell says. "I've had a lot of calls from people…who were related to these babies but had no way of finding out where they were."

Farrell, a retired nurse, and other members of the cemetery's Roman Catholic committee have spent the past five years quietly digging through church archives for information about the children whose deaths have gone unmarked but not forgotten.

'A worthwhile thing to do'

With the help of a local funeral home, the group commissioned the monument that will be engraved with 450 names of children who are known. There will also be an inscription honouring the 250 children whose records were incomplete, according to Farrell. They were buried under aliases such as "baby girl White" or simply "baby boy."

"I think with respect for the dead, that it's a very worthwhile thing to do," she says. "I can't see any reason why people would not appreciate the fact that at least there is some recognition of these children."

The cemetery opened in 1926, but up until the 1960s, there was no funeral home in the area, Farrell says. She says it wasn't uncommon for families to bury their children themselves, perhaps marking the site with a little white cross, or more often, nothing at all.

During this period, services typically weren't held for babies who died shortly after birth, Farrell says, but almost all deaths were reported to the church.

"We're only going on supposition. We don't know all the facts because we've got nobody from back then," she says. "The only thing we know which is absolutely authentic is the fact that we have gone through every record in our church…and every baby that was baptized or buried from our church will be on that memorial."

The monument is being installed in the cemetery this week and will be blessed by a bishop at its unveiling. Farrell says relatives, including her sister, may never know the exact spot where their children are buried, but she hopes the monument gives them a place to grieve.

Farrell says her husband, who died four years ago, "always wished" he could be buried next to their daughter, Deirdre, who died at birth in 1960. Farrell says her own final resting place, near the markers for her daughter and husband, is already inscribed — the date of death left blank.