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 Place: by 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