Sunday, November 24, 2013

Something to watch out for

Isn’t it exciting when you find a grave marker that has a full name, full date of birth and full date of death!  Of course you know that this information is always a little suspect because you normally don’t have any way of knowing who the informant was unless you have some really good Sexton records.  There is something else you need to be watching out for when you are looking at grave markers and that is, does the type of marker/condition of the marker match the date of death? 

It is very common for markers to be erected long after a person died.  The more time that has passed from the time the person the person died to when the grave marker was carved makes the information more suspect.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t correct.  The person that gave the information might well have had a credible source such as a family Bible but there is usually no way to know this.  When you see a modern marker for someone that died a very long time ago your radar should go up.  You should definitely make a note of this in your file.  You need to show that you are aware of it and that you have considered it.  This is one reason that it is really good to have a photo of the marker and not rely on a transcription alone.  Here is an example:

Watts, Almeda 1881Copyright © 2009 Gene Phillips, used with permission


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. One of the awesome things I found recently was the tombstone in Trinity Churchyard, NYC that was for two of my ancestors. I went with very little hope because they had died in 1816 and 1820. Tombstones from that time period don't generally fair well with NYC conditions. I found the tombstone in better condition than I thought (leaning over quite a bit but still very readable.) While I was taking photographs I walked over to the back and noticed an inscription that said the stone was restored by their grandchildren and great-grandchildren in 1903. Instead of replacing the stone it looks like they had another layer somehow added to it, preserving the original stone underneath. The top layer unfortunately is starting to crumble off. If it hadn't been for that the stone would have been either destroyed or unreadable by now.

  2. That is really cool because the original information was preserved!