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There's A Wealth of Information in Cemeteries - Part 1
Column published: 07 August 2007
By: Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles

If you are like me you probably have been spending some of your free time this summer wandering through cemeteries looking for your ancestors. There is a wealth of information to be gleaned from cemetery research.

Cemeteries have always held a certain fascination for me. They are such peaceful places. They are also the sites of much genealogical research. When I wander through cemeteries, I love to look at the carvings on gravestones. We can learn so much about our ancestors from them. To me is it such a moving and relaxing experience to be standing among your ancestors. It is also interesting to discover who else is buried near your ancestors. Even the choice of a certain cemetery all reflect our ancestors religious beliefs, their philosophies and their ideas about what confers status and prestige. It might even be the only place you would find a picture of your ancestor.

Pictures on headstones are becoming more common

There are several types of cemeteries: Some cemeteries are owned by private corporations which are sometimes called Memorial Parks. Here, the burial records are not considered public records. It is often necessary to pay a fee for information sought.

Types of Cemeteries: We can also learn about special needs or talents that family members might have had. I found the Dierkens family stone very interesting. It would be interesting to find out the reasons behind the sign language symbols on that particular stone.

You will find there any many types of monuments that may have been used in only one part of the country. In our area you find many of the monuments that paid tribute to our ancestors who worked in the lumbering industry.

Churches and synagogues have established cemeteries, usually on grounds next to the group's building. One of the best places for us to find where our immigrant ancestors are buried are in these cemeteries. During much of the 19th century, there were probably as many immigrants buried in church cemeteries as in all other cemeteries combined. The church or synagogue played a very important role in the lives of our immigrant ancestors. For some religions, notably the Roman Catholic, burial in sacred, consecrated, ground was essential to a person's salvation. For many others, burial was a sacrament, to be conducted by a spiritual leader.

At a later time I will do an article about monuments and the things we can find out about our ancestors. [Part two of this article]

This is Part 1 of a multi- part series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Until next time :)

Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email:

Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930

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