Ceme­ter­ies can con­tain tan­ta­liz­ing tomb­stone tid­bits

Serve Daily - - MERIT ACADEMY - By Ginny Ack­er­son

We all visit ceme­ter­ies dur­ing our life­time, whether it be for fu­ner­als, Me­mo­rial Day, Pi­o­neer Day, or for a peaceful, con­tem­pla­tive walk … but are you aware of the won­der­ful ge­nealog­i­cal trea­sures that can be hid­den there? Ceme­ter­ies have sev­eral sources of in­for­ma­tion: the in­scrip­tions on the stones, the records of the sex­ton and, if the ceme­tery is as­so­ci­ated with a church, the burial records.

In­scrip­tions can range from none to de­tailed in­for­ma­tion for gen­er­a­tions. Some­times only ini­tials are given, but typ­i­cally in­scrip­tions in­clude the dece­dent’s name, birth and death dates and pos­si­ble re­la­tion­ship to another per­son. For ex­am­ple, you might find a stone that says “John Doe, 1859-1901” or “John Doe, 12 Septem­ber 1859 to 22 Jan­uary 1901” or “John Doe, beloved hus­band of Jane, died 11 Jan­uary 1901, aged 41 years, 3 months and 29 days.” (A help­ful birth date cal­cu­la­tor is at http://freep­ages.fam­ily.rootsweb.an­ces­try. com/~fgris/brown/age­calc.html.)

I have seen a large me­mo­rial stone in a fam­ily plot de­tail­ing the lives of that fam­ily through sev­eral gen­er­a­tions as well as their re­la­tion­ships and which of their many homes each per­son was born in.

Other in­scrip­tions that give in­for­ma­tion about a per­son in­clude sym­bols. Some are for fra­ter­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions such as IOOF, BPOE, the Masons and the Or­der of the Eastern Star, mil­i­tary in­signias, re­li­gious sym­bols and many oth­ers. An ex­cel­lent ar­ti­cle on how to de­ter­mine the mean­ing of the sym­bols is at http://ms­ghn.org/us­ghn/ sym­bols.html. Once you know the deriva­tion of the sym­bol, you might be able to find more records for them from those or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Sex­ton’s records can in­clude death cer­tifi­cates,fu­neral pro­grams, obituaries and lists of sur­vivors. Some of the best records they have are the plot list­ings. The in­for­ma­tion in­cludes who bought the plot and when, all of the buri­als in that plot and often the re­la­tion­ship of the de­ceased to the plot owner. This is es­pe­cially valu­able be­cause not all buri­als have stones. Know­ing when some­one was buried can lead to other records such as death cer­tifi­cates, pro­bate records and obituaries.

Fre­quently, when a ceme­tery is as­so­ci­ated with a church, there will be a burial en­try in the church reg­is­ter. Vary­ing amounts of in­for­ma­tion may be recorded in­clud­ing par­ents, spouse, chil­dren, age and date of birth and death. In some records, even the god­par­ents are noted. Again, there may be no stone in the ceme­tery to mark their grave, but the burial en­try will pro­vide iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion.

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