Monthly Archives: July 2009

Cemetery research: Three valuable reference books

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Flickr Photo by BDegan

Flickr Photo by BDegan

Researching and writing about cemeteries requires good sourcing, to say the least, and on my reference bookshelf there are three books I cannot do without:

 • Your Guide to Cemetery Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack;

The American Resting Placeby Marilyn Yalom;

Stories in Stone: A field guide to cemetery symbolism and iconography by Douglas Keister

Your Guide… is one of the better overall introductions for would-be genealogists or those simply interested in a fine afternoon of cemetery wandering.

The first three chapters explain various death records, how to locate elusive graveyards and the subtler aspects of dating a stone by its rock composition. Chapter 4 explains accurate recording and photography of older stones while Chapter 5 delves into the meanings of the obscure symbols so often found on older stones.

The remaining chapters touch on the general history surrounding cemeteries, a perspective on various burial customs as well as preservation challenges currently facing many sites. Other helpful appendices, such as an historical medical glossary for causes of death (catarrh, ague, King’s evil) and a time line of disease in America, round out one’s  understanding.

However, as far as cemetery visits go, the mother-son team of Marilyn and Reid Yalom took the ultimate road trip when tracking American historical demographics through 250 U.S. cemeteries. Continue reading

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Canada’s plein air art galleries

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Flickr photo: duluoz cats

Flickr photo: duluoz cats

Old Canadian Cemeteries: Places of Memory by Jane Irwin, photographed by John de Visser

In her Acknowledgments section, Ms. Irwin notes two reasons why cemeteries are fascinating.

Cemeteries are set apart from the mundane pressures of our everyday lives, they have an inherent power to provide a brief respite from temporary concerns and a chance to see our own life in a longer perspective.

Her second observation warns that, “Searching out favorite themes…may develop into a kind of addiction,” comes too late for this writer, as finding new carvings has turned into a serious hobby, not unlike bird watching.

Luckily, Old Canadian Cemeteries indulges both of these cravings.

Beginning with the chapter, Changing Burial Traditions, one travels from the 7,500 years-old burial cairn in L’Anse Amour in Southern Labrador to the ghost town graveyards in Ancestral Ties to the six Lawson grandchildren at the Old Burying Ground, Halifax to multicultural Ross Bay Cemetery in Exploring Canada’s Historic Cemeteries. Eventually, the reader brushes up on Canadian history in National Memory.

Irwin also writes on stone inscriptions, the highlight being the Puzzle Stone in Ontario’s Methodist Rushes Cemetery, created in 1865 by Samuel Bean for wives Henrietta and Susanna. It’s meant to be read in a circulating, outward pattern.

Ultimately, the best chapter is Old Canadian Cemeteries, A Visual Tour. Here, the photos speak for themselves through various shades of light and weather. They are best reflected in a shot of the Holy Sepulchre cemetery in  Ontario, where rows of white, cowled figures silently stand guard over their assigned memorial stones.

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Snapshots: A Scandinavian Logger

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The simple, clean lines of the Scandinavian culture are readily seen in Crown Hill Cemetery, Ballard, WA.  But wander around for a bit and a number of surprises will appear, scattered throughout the rows of simple, flat-lying stones.

Here is an overview of one beautifully carved stone, along with a closeup:

      Rust_cropped       Closeup_CrossCarrying

Below is an example of a Woodmen of the World stone (with a dove and olive wreath) memorializing one of the many Scandinavian loggers who lived here. 

Woodmen_overview

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Snapshots: The chess player

Sometimes, it’s not just the historical stones that catch the eye, but a more recent one. Here is a beautifully understated memorial for young a chess wizard.

Chess player_websize

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Snapshots: The Village Blacksmith

This past weekend included a visit to the Woodinville Memorial Mead cemetery. Originally a logging community, Woodinville turned to farming with these roots still seen today in the local wineries and Red Hook microbrewery.

One of the more interesting finds in this cemetery, was a blacksmith’s anvil memorial stone for Johan P. Koch (1877-1952).

Approaching the memorial layout…the anvil can be seen in the left side, behind the main stones.

approaching anvil_websize

And closer views of it…

Blacksmith's anvil Websize        Blacksmiths anvil_up close Websize

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