Tag Archives: Cemetery

10 More Facts About Cemeteries

whisperingMy husband and I had dinner with some good friends the other night. They know about my obsession with all things Genealogy so the talk quickly turned to their search for ancestors. During the conversation, I whispered to my friend “I love visiting cemeteries, especially old ones”. I wasn’t sure how she would respond as most people think it is creepy to do this. Her face lit up and said, “Me too!”. The next hour was devoted to “Cemetery” talk. Ancestor Hunters have no problem discussing this topic so in honor of that, here are 10 interesting facts about cemeteries.

♦ Located on Route 80, near Tombstone, Arizona, the Boot Hill Graveyard became the Tombstone-Boot_Hill_Graveyard-Graves_of_Billy_Clanton,_and_Frank_and_Tom_McLaury_2final resting place to over 250 gunslingers, miners, and other fearless wild west pioneers. Humorous headstones are scattered over the hill. Those like “Here lies George Johnson, hanged by mistake 1882. He was right we were wrong. But we strung him up and now he’s gone.” and “Here lies Lester Moore, Four slugs from a .44, No Les No more.”

♦ What is the difference between a cemetery & a graveyard? Graveyards are in the “yards” of churches and is always adjacent to and part of a church.

♦ Arlington is the only national cemetery to hold servicemen from every war in U.S. history. Although the first military burial at Arlington National Cemetery didn’t occur until 1864, the burial ground holds the remains of those who fought in every war since the Revolution. In 1892, soldiers killed in the Revolutionary War were re-interred from a Georgetown cemetery, and casualties from the War of 1812 have been reburied at Arlington as well.

♦ In 1876 a handful of mobsters botched a morbid plan to kidnap the body of Abraham Lincoln and hold it ransom. The hapless grave robbers were arrested just a few days later. Fearing another attempt, the government secretly hid the body of the sixteenth president in an unmarked grave for 25 years. Then in 1901, under the urging of Robert Lincoln, the president’s only surviving child, Lincoln’s body was dug up and placed inside a steel cage, lowered into a 10-foot-deep vault, and buried under tons of concrete. He’s still there today, in his tomb, on the grounds of Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Hollywood forever cemetery♦ Cemetery tours are now big business. One such cemetery, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood California has maps to the Star’s graves available for tourists. This is also an old cemetery – established in 1899, and filled with tall, old-fashioned headstones and towering monuments, including a few unusual ones shaped like obelisks and a rocket ship. Many tour companies in Los Angeles offer tours of the many “celebrity” graveyards in the area.

♦ Family (or private) cemeteries were a matter of practicality during the settlement of America. If a town or religious cemetery had not been established, settlers would seek out a small plot of land, usually in wooded areas bordering their fields, to begin a family plot. Sometimes, several families would arrange to bury their dead together. While some of these sites later grew into true cemeteries, many were forgotten after a family moved away or died out. Therefore, some of our ancestors’ graves from the 1600’s may never be found.

♦ Visitors to loved ones interred in Jewish cemeteries often leave a small stone on the top of the headstone. There are prayers said at the grave site, and the stone is left on the visitor’s departure. It is done as a show of respect; as a rule, flowers are not placed at Jewish graves. Flowers are fleeting; the symbol inherent in the use of a stone is to show that the love, honor, memories, and soul of the loved one are eternal.

♦ Columbarian walls are a common feature of many cemeteries, reflecting the increasingColumbarium walls use of cremation rather than burial. While cremated remains can be kept at home by families in urns or scattered in some significant or attractive place, neither of these approaches allows for a long-lasting commemorative plaque to honor the dead nor provide a place for the wider circle of friends and family to come to  mourn or visit. Many cemeteries now provide walls (typically of  brick or rendered brick construction) with a rectangular array of niches, with each niche being big enough to accommodate a person’s cremated remains. Columbarium walls are a very space-efficient use of land in a cemetery compared with burials and a niche in a columbarium wall is a much cheaper alternative to a burial plot. A small plaque) can be affixed across the front of each niche and is generally included as part of the price of a niche.

♦ Stamps Cemetery (Witches Cemetery), Tennessee. This cemetery is old, unconventional, creepy, located around backwoods and less popular. The tombstones are lined in Zig-zag pattern and some of those stones are marked with pentagrams. It is believed that that cemetery belongs to dark witches. There are lots of eyewitness who saw strange appearance around the area

♦ Meaning of symbols on Headstones:

  • Arch: Rejoined with partner in Heaven
  • Book: Faith, wisdom
  • Peacock: Eternal life
  • Tree trunk: The beauty of life
  • Crossed swords: Life lost in battle
  • Garland: Victory over death
  • Anchor: Steadfast hope

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

 

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Filed under Ancestry, Cemetery, Death, Family History, Family Search, Famous, Funerals, Genealogy, Graves, History, Research, Uncategorized

Part 4: My Mother’s Grandmother was Superstitious –A Month of Tales from the Dark Side

part 4I thought I would spend this month leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood, but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my Mothers superstition beliefs or were a result of her beliefs.  I will post a blog every Friday and Tuesday and I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

My Mothers maternal Grandmother Asenath “Dolly” Walt was born February 27 1863 in Camden, Ray, Missouri.  Dolly was said to be a very superstitious woman. Anyone who visited her home knew that she did have what they considered unusual quirks.

ring of salt

It is said that Dolly was petrified of “demons”. She believed that at night they would creep around her home and try to gain access. She kept a large container of salt by both the front and back doors for when visitors came. Upon answering the door she would take a scoop of salt and place it across the doorway. If the person was not a “demon” they could cross over the salt with no problem. The salt would have kept out any non-human who wanted to enter. I guess she never thought that a “demon” would probably not come knocking on her door, he would just kick it open and come in!

tombstone from Machpelah

Machpelah Cemetery

Dolly’s fear of “demons” began at a young age. She had lived her entire life within the 16 mile radius between Camden and Lexington Missouri. Most of her relatives who had passed away were buried in Machpelah Cemetery in Lexington. Even as a young girl this cemetery was considered an old one as the first burial there was in 1839. When Dolly was about 6 years old her younger sister Naomi passed away at the age of 1. In those days visiting a cemetery, especially one that was so far away, was an all day event. This day was no exception. After the small service for Naomi the women went about laying out the picnic lunch for the mourners on the edge of the grounds.  Dolly and her other siblings were racing around, darting in and out of the SONY DSCnearby woods. Dolly, in an attempt to hide from the others ran out of the woods and hid behind a large Headstone. That is when she saw it! A large man/beast come out of a grave and began walking slowly towards her. She ran terrified, screaming, all the way across the cemetery and into her Mother’s arms. When Dolly calmed down enough to speak she told the adults what had happened. They tried to convince her that what she saw was the grave digger climbing out of the hole he had just dug. Try as they might no one could convince her that she hadn’t just seen a “demon”.

Asenath McGowan HSAfter this experience she refused to set foot in the Machpelah Cemetery. When her own daughter Ella (My Grandmother) died in 1921 she pleaded with her son-in-law not to bury her in Lexington and so Ella was buried in the Buckner Cemetery.  Dolly spent 61 years of her life afraid of the “demon” that came out of the grave and was convinced that he was out to get her. Upon her death on February 19, 1931 Dolly’s husband John McGowan had her buried in the Machpelah Cemetery.

Here are some more Superstitions that my Mother had:

If your nose itches you will soon be kissed by a fool.itchy nose

happy new yearIf your house is clean on New Year’s Eve you will have a clean house all year.

Walking over a grave pic

If you get a chill up your back or goose bumps, it means that someone is walking over your grave.

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

Come back on Friday for the next installment of “My Mothers Superstitions  – Tales from the Dark Side.”

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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Filed under Ancestry, Cemetery, Family History, Genealogy, Halloween, Story telling, Superstitions

9 Interesting Facts About Cemeteries and Headstones

Tucson  South Lawn CemeteryI have always loved Cemeteries, especially old ones with all the ancient stones that seemed to have character to them. Growing up my family would visit the local Cemetery at least once a month, taking flowers or potted plants for the people we knew. My Mom would even pack a picnic lunch and we would sit on wooden benches in one section of the grounds and eat our sandwiches. I thought this is what everyone did and as a result I never developed a “fear” of Cemeteries.

Obviously taking pictures of Headstones for “Find-a-Grave” came natural for me. I have taken over 1000 photos in the last year alone. My daughter and two Grandsons’ often accompany me and the boys tend to ask a lot of questions. “Why does that one have a tree on it?” “Do all Cemeteries have grass like this?” “How come that one is completely covered with cement?”

To be honest they have asked some questions that I didn’t have an answer for, so I had to spend some time researching. As I was looking for answers to their questions I even came up with some I had often wondered about myself.  Here are some of the interesting facts that I discovered:

  1. Before the 19th Century there were no actual Graveyards. Most people were buried on their family property or just Church cemeteryoutside the town limits. Later they began to bury people in the Church yard which were usually fenced in and they felt very desolate. By the mid 19th Century most Church yards were getting full and more people were living in larger towns. As a result they began setting aside land specifically for Cemeteries. These were well maintained and had grass, trees and flowers giving it a “park like” feel. It was then that people began the tradition of picnicking in the Cemetery.

 mortsafes

  1. 2.Up until the 18th Century a lot of graves were covered by iron cages called “mortsafes” or were totally covered with stones. There are 4 reasons given for this tradition 1) to keep animals from digging up the corpse 2)to keep people from walking or sitting on the graves 3) to keep the deceased from becoming a vampire or zombie 4) to keep the grave from being ravaged by grave robbers.
  1. Headstone engravers faced their own “Year 2000 problem” when still-living people, as many as 500,000 in the United States alone, pre-purchased headstones with pre-carved death dates beginning 19–.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  wooden headstone

  1. During the Civil War the headstones were made of wood and cost about $1.73 a piece. After discovering that the wood deteriorated over a 5 year period and realizing how much it would cost to replace them so often they decided that they should be replaced with a more permanent marble or galvanized iron marker.
  1. Arlington Cemetery began as a Cemetery for Union Soldiers only. In 1898, President William McKinley, a former Union soldier, spoke in Atlanta, Georgia and said, “In the spirit of Fraternity it is time for the North to share in the care of the graves of former Confederate soldiers.” In consequence to his speech, by act of the United States Congress, a portion of Arlington National Cemetery was set aside for the burial of Confederate soldiers. At this time 267 Confederate remains from and near Washington, D.C. were removed and re-interred at this new site at Arlington.
  1. There are several reasons that there are unmarked grave. 1) If the deceased was a bad person. 2) If the deceased was an executed criminal.  3) If the deceased was a pauper.   4) If the deceased wanted anonymity. 

 Memento Mori PIC. with hourglass

  1. 7. Puritans who were known for their tremendous piety, often had that Skull and Crossbones put on their Headstones. It was a reminder that they had gone to Heaven but if you did not believe as they did you would go to hell. It was called a “Memento Mori” which is Latin for ‘Remember that you will die’.

                                                                                                                                                                                               mozart

  1. Many famous people made the decision to be buried in unmarked graves for a variety of reasons. Among those who chose no markings are John Wayne, George C. Scott, Frank Zappa, Roy Orbison, Mozart, Bessie Smith and John Belushi.
  1. You can learn a lot about the deceased by the symbols displayed on their Headstone. During Colonial times the person’s occupation was depicted by symbols. A gardener may have a shovel or rake, a carpenter may have a saw and a sheriff may have a star. There were also symbols for those who died young, mothers, lost their life in a battle or who were martyred. Here is a link to the Symbols and their meanings: http://tinyurl.com/47zsjfp

Regardless of how a person feels about Cemeteries and burial plots, it would be impossible to work on your Family History without having to deal with them. 

OH, BY THE WAY…..I haven’t “picnicked” in a Cemetery since I was 12 years old!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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Filed under Ancestry, Cemetery, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, History, Mortsafe, Personal Stories, U.S. President