Existence marked

October 18, 2017

Unidentified grave sites in the Moorngag Cemetery have had markers installed, some after more than a century.

The Moorngag Cemetery, between Tatong and Swanpool, saw its first burial in 1888.

With the advent of the Anzac Centenary, local man Barry O’Connor sought unmarked graves of returned servicemen for attention by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

He found three, but in the process realised that nearly 60 other graves sites were not marked.

The Tatong Heritage Group, with the Moorngag Cemetery Trust and the Benalla Family Research Group, embarked on a mission to place markers on the graves.

This involved working out who was buried where and matching the cemetery records with other local accounts.

Many hours were put into researching historical sources such as old newspapers, and further research was needed to design the markers themselves.

Eventually Mr O’Connor settled on concrete plinths with recesses in which to place the markers

The resulting headstones are attractive and clear, and should stand the test of time.

Funding included generous donations from some of the descendants of those interred without a grave marker.

Tatong Heritage Group members set to work earlier this month fastening the markers to the plinths, then placing the plinths on the ground.

Long-time gravedigger Ted Exton armed himself with the Moorngag Cemetery Register and identified each grave site.

The markers were installed with great care, aligned with the cemetery layout and pre-existing stones.

The most challenging placement was out in a grassed area, where the only sign that there had once been burials was a slight indentation in the ground.

Being some distance from the marked burials, some measuring was needed to ascertain where the graves were.

Many of the people named on the markers were known of, or remembered by locals.

A difficult but interesting case was Hanah Brown. Her burial was recorded, yet there was no other record of a Hanah Brown having existed at that time.

According to the Moorngag Cemetery Register, she was born in 1813 and died in 1898.

One explanation is that she was indigenous.

The name is typical of those endowed on the first Australians, a name thought more respectable than that given by her own culture, and it would explain why she was never recorded as a member of the population.

If this is the case, her birth date must have been a guess, for she would have been in her early 20s when white people arrived in the Tatong district.

The Moorngag Cemetery records have now also been digitised for online access and can be found at

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