Virginia Cemetery Records, Part II

6.  Use cemetery inscriptions to fill in vital record gaps for the “shadow years”–1890’s and 1780-1840.  Where county courthouses have burned and marriage records are missing or incomplete, the cemetery can provide dates and evidence of marriage.  Tombstones are one of the few records that supply complete and full dates of birth and death. Side-by-side burials also supply evidence of marriage.

7.  Evidence of occupation, education, and training in skills and crafts. Look for tools carved in great detail out of limestone and mounted on the tombstone: carpenters hollow-handle handsaws, coopers adzes, stone carvers chisels and mallets, blacksmiths hammers and anvils, millers grinding wheels. Trains, pianos, motorcycles, weapons, plows and scythes of the farmer–they are to be found on the tombstones or slabs or even free-standing carvings in the cemetery.

8. Fraternal symbols, military service medals as well as flags and plaques. Marks and logos of carvers or their names and dates–usually carved at the very bottom of the stone or on the back. Watch for all of these and match them through online databases to origins and historical documentation.

9. Some inscriptions will be in foreign languages too: Inscriptions in German scrip, or French, rather than English. In the early twentieth century, other European, Middle Eastern, and oriental languages will appear. If you don’t read the language, rub the stone or take clear photographs of the inscription and get a translation.  Example:

Here rests our father and grandfather, Joseph Knapp. He was born at Oldenburg, Selbach, Kreis Oderweiler, entered the German Army in 1814, served 1816-17 in the 15th Regiment, 8th Infantry Company, in England and France. God grant him eternal rest.

Translated from the German in “Observations in a Cemetery,” by Glenn R. Atwell. It was published by the Western New York Genealogical Society Journal VIII, No. 1 and reprinted in the Federation of Genealogical Societies Newsletter 7 (Mar 1983).

Stay tuned for Part III. Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS I drove to Salt Lake City yesterday evening to see Rogue One. And to my amazement, I discovered that Tremonton and the extreme northern portion of Utah got all the snow! We still have 3-4 feet drifts and piles and piles of snow where the driveways and parking lots have been cleared. Truly amazing! On my patio, I have a mini-skating rink–my Gecko rink I call it–smooth as glass, 3 inches of clear ice.

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