In her 52 Weeks of Genealogy challenge Shauna has chosen Tombstones for her topic for Week 28. She is so right when she says we all get excited if we discover a tombstone sitting over an ancestor’s grave - I know I certainly do. But she is also right when she warns us that "like all genealogical records we should check the information against other documents. There can be errors in dates, spelling of names and just because someone is on the tombstone, does this mean they are buried there? Burial records, funeral directors records and death certificates can all confirm what is engraved on a tombstone. We should get into the habit of checking all of these resources for deaths as there may be new or slightly different information on each."
I have been lucky enough to acquire photographs of the headstones of several family members, some during personal visits and others sent by relatives or located online through sites like BillionGraves. The quality and amount of information on them varies a lot, as does the legibility and the state of preservation of the headstone. As you can see, the tombstone of Susette Beseler (right) has weathered over the years and now some of the text is quite hard to read.
Other tombstones I have found contain the details of several people, such as the one on the left which is primarily for the Morgan family but also includes one of my Beseler clan, as well as 2 more people with the surname Foran. Given the condition of the tombstone photographed, I would also like to know exactly when it was erected, and by whom. Certainly the date range covers quite a time period, and the stone probably dates from the time of death of the last person included - was there an older tombstone in place at some time that has now been replaced, or is this a more 'general' tombstone that commemorates several family members buried in the area over time?? Who erected this stone, and where did they obtain the information they have included on it? I need to delve into the cemetery records for this particular tombstone to find out more - another little project for 2015 to add to my list.
It is worth noting that not all tombstones will actually date from the time the gravesite was actually used - the stones themselves could be installed at a much later date by relatives, or be replcements for older stones which have been damaged or destroyed.
My final tombstone that I will include here it that of my maternal grandmother, Gladys Pummeroy (nee Clark). When she passed away in 1995 she was buried in Brighton Cemetery in the same plot as her father, James Nicholas Clark, who died in 1924. Before this the grave had no tombstone at all - for over 70 years James lay in an unmarked grave - and while I am confident the information my family has included is correct (birth and death certificates, burial records etc all agree) this may not always be the case.
Thanks Shauna for another great topic - click here to read Shauna's full post on Tombstones.