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Uncovering the Stories Behind the Names on Headstones at D.C.’s Holy Rood Cemetery

Moran family grave marker at Holy Rood Cemetery
Take a stroll through one of D.C.'s less visited cemeteries, Holy Rood Cemetery, and discover the stories behind the names on the headstones. From prominent doctors to Irish immigrants, uncover the past lives of the city's regular Washingtonians.
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Whenever I stroll through D.C. cemeteries, given my fascination with the stories of regular Washingtonians, I’m always curious what the story is behind the names on the headstones. Hundreds and thousands of people who lived decades, or their entire lives in our city now reduced to a simple engraving in stone.

I’ve been pretty busy over the last several months with Ghost Baby, and you’ve probably noticed the substantial dearth of longer posts. So, with my extra 30 minutes this weekend, I did a little digging to see if I could uncover some interesting stories.

This past weekend, I stopped by one of the less visited, and slightly rundown cemeteries in D.C., the Catholic Holy Rood Cemetery on Wisconsin Ave. in Glover Park. I wandered the grounds checking out the names and took photos of a number of the markers in the hopes that I could look them up in the archives to have even a minor glimpse into their past lives.

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Moran family grave marker at Holy Rood Cemetery
Moran family grave marker at Holy Rood Cemetery

If you’ve been to this cemetery (I’m sure the overwhelming majority of you have not), you will notice that it’s quite neglected, and that those buried there are not in the history books. The vast majority of eternal residents there were regular Washingtonians. And, the first grave marker that caught my eye, was one that stuck out near the top of the hill for the Moran family (photo below).

My assumption was that, while not a giant monument to a family’s wealth, this was something that cost a fair bit of money, and therefore the family it memorialized probably was reasonably well off. And, there surely must have been at least a few mentions of them in the newspapers of the day.

One on side, the tall marker had the following names inscribed on it: James P. Moran, John F. Moran, John F. Moran (Sr.), Mathilda M. Moran. Off to the digital archives I went to see what I could find on the Morans.

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The Morans
The Morans

John F. Moran

John F. Moran
John F. Moran

The first person I found was  John F. Moran (1864 – 1929). John was a prominent doctor and professor for 35 years at Georgetown University. His obituary was printed in The Washington Post on March 17th, 1929.

Apparently he had been ill for two years after having a stroke in 1927, leaving him virtually incapacitated.

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John was born to Irish immigrants in Georgetown during the Civil War, on June 8th, 1864, attended Holy Trinity Parochial School, St. John’s College in Annapolis, and finished medical school at Georgetown in 1867. In 1917 he was appointed chief of the obstetrics department at Georgetown and stayed in that position until his stroke in 1927. Concurrently, he was the head of obstetrics at Columbia Hospital for Women.

Moran was also a founding member of the American College of Surgeons, the Cosmos Club, and the Knights of Columbus.

John’s brother Michael V. Moran was mentioned in his obituary and in the 1910 U.S. Census, with his wife Mathilda M. Moran (also on the grave marker), was listed 3129 N St. NW. The grave marker also listed his older brother James P. Moran and John’s son John F. Moran Jr.

The last thing that I found was an old passport application for John from June 15th, 1892. I couldn’t find the trip closest to this date, but going through old travel documents and ship manifests, it appears that he made trips to Ireland, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic — quite well traveled for that time.

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John F. Moran 1892 passport application
John F. Moran 1892 passport application

On another side of the marker were the following names: Albert E. Easton, Mary A. Easton, and Mary E. Moran.

The Eastons
The Eastons

The Eastons were boarders in John F. Moran’s home at 2426 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, according to the 1900 U.S. Census.

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Morans and Eastons in the 1900 U.S. Census
Morans and Eastons in the 1900 U.S. Census

On the next side of the marker listed had the names Michael Francis Moran and Margaret F. Moran.

Michael F. Moran and Margaret F. Moran
Michael F. Moran and Margaret F. Moran

We found Margaret in The Washington Post on February 1st, 1893, noted for getting a liquor license in Georgetown at 1011 M St. NW, near where the convention center sits today.

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1893 liquor licenses granted - Washington Post
1893 liquor licenses granted – Washington Post

Margaret died at the age of 80 years old in 1919 while living at 3009 M St. NW.

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