For years now, I’ve spent long afternoons strolling through cemeteries, both in the U.S. and abroad, learning about those interred and searching for signs of the effects of illnesses, social trends, and wars. One cemetery had a mass burial of lost souls affected by a small pox epidemic. Another lost much of their county’s population to the Revolutionary War as skirmishes tore through the area over a devastating three year period. Another cemetery interred those lost over a ten century period with only remnants of headstones marking their time on earth. One had plots that were merely rented, and if the family could not or would not pay, the plot was cleared for the next guest.

Some of my favorites are those with special cemetery art: an intricately carved skull with wings, a three dimensional race car, and a recliner with just a single rose laid on the seat (all carved in granite, mind you). Every cemetery tells its stories not only by those who lived there but by how they died, who they died with, and how they are celebrated in eternity. Those stories make up a significant piece of a family’s genealogical history. So, the next time you’re passing through a town with ties to your ancestors, why not stop at the local cemetery, take a stroll, and bring a notebook and camera. You may find a missing link to your family tree, or you may just be the voice that tells their story.

Interested in learning more about cemetery research? Join MGC for classes on cemetery mapping on April 13th and burial customs on April 26th at 10 a.m. Classes are free but registration is required.   

Wendy S.
Midwest Genealogy Center