Researching family tombs has many challenges including identifying owners and actual occupants as most tombs are missing the original memorials with the family name. There are also few church records that mention the tombs, since they were often privately passed down within the family. The King’s Chapel Register of Burials records the burial services that took place, rather than the location of the actual burials. By considering multiple sources, including both church and private records, the History Program is beginning to piece together a clearer understanding of those buried beneath the chapel.
While it is not known if all twenty tombs were owned starting in the 1750s (five of them lack early records), some families occupied tombs throughout the duration of the crypt’s use. This included the Bulfinch family, perhaps the most well-known name in the crypt. Dr. Thomas Bulfinch II, a respected physician and Patriot during the American Revolution, married Susan Apthorp, who grew up attending King’s Chapel. Their son, Charles Bulfinch, became the famous architect of the Massachusetts State House and parts of the United States Capitol. A closer genealogical look at Susan Apthorp Bulfinch reveals that several families at King’s Chapel are linked across multiple tombs and generations.
Susan Apthorp Bulfinch, daughter of the wealthy merchant Charles Apthorp and Grizzell Eastwicke, was born on September 13, 1759. The Apthorps joined the congregation in the 1720s and became the owners of tomb number two in the 1750s. Records indicate that Charles and Grizzell, as well as several of Susan’s siblings, occupy that tomb. After marrying in 1759, Thomas and Susan became the owners of the neighboring tomb, number one, which is where they and several of their children are buried. Five tombs down from the Bulfinch family is the Lloyd tomb, descendants of Susan’s maternal great-grandmother, Grissell Sylvester Lloyd. On the crypt’s opposite side sits a tomb, number eighteen, owned by the Coolidge family, who became members when Joseph Coolidge, Jr. married Elizabeth Bulfinch, the daughter of Susan and Thomas, in 1796.
Susan Apthorp Bulfinch’s ties to other tomb owners in the crypt provide a glimpse of how tight-knit the wealthy community in Boston was in the 18th and early-19th centuries. In fact, a pair of silver communion chalices still used in services today come from these interconnected crypt occupants. Inscribed “To King’s Chapel, 1798, from Madame Bulfinch,” Susan made this gift of silver that was passed down from her maternal grandmother Griselda Lloyd Eastwick. That the communion silver is used today shows how the long legacy of these families at King’s Chapel reaches beyond the crypt.