Cemetery Records << Teacher's Guide <<
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Main Idea No.1 |
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Main Idea No.2 |
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IN THIS LESSON, YOU'LL
- EXAMINE tombstone inscriptions
- RECORD family history information on a research log
This lesson includes opportunities for class discussion and a video presentation. Vocabulary words are included at the end of the lesson, though not specifically brought into the lesson in the form of an assignment. Resulting measurable assignments include a research log filled out with information found online. While the lesson's main ideas logically build on one another, the activities and assignments suggested can be adapted or omitted according to your needs.
MAIN IDEA NO.1
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
Think quick: what kind of information would you expect to find on a tombstone? Of course, you find the name of the person who died and usually birth and death dates. You may also find the names of the person's parents, spouse or children, or where the person died.
This information is invaluable when you're trying to confirm or find out birth, marriage or death dates. Sometimes, especially in cases where vital records have been destroyed or don't exist, a tombstone is the best information available. This is particularly true for women, who often don't show up on early vital or census records.
Some people considered their tombstones as a final chance to have the last word. "I told you I was sick" can be found in a Centerville, Utah cemetery, and the tombstone of Rab McBeth, who was hanged in Larne, Ireland, reads: "Who died for the want of another breath." You can find this and other amusing epitaphs at www.alsirat.com/epitaphs. It's these kinds of surprises that make cemetery searches uniquely fun.
There are various kinds of cemeteries. Some are civic, while others are connected to a church or other place of worship. In most secular cemeteries, the sexton, or cemetery caretaker, keeps the records of the burials in his or her office. A religious leader will do the same for cemeteries adjoining churches. Older records, however, are often housed in larger church or civic repositories.
VIEW ANCESTORS EPISODE 207: "Cemetery Records"
To Beth Uyehara, her great-grandfather's life was a mystery. The family didn't even know where he was buried. After years of searching, Beth travels cross-country to discover the one tangible marker of her great-grandfather's life- his tombstone. Experts tell what to look for in cemeteries and discuss the kinds of records kept there. A British preservation society shares their methods of preserving information found on deteriorating tombstones.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
What type of information can be gained from a tombstone?
How do you find out where your ancestor is buried?
Other than tombstones, what kinds of records can be found at a cemetery?
Prior to 1850, what types of people were rarely accounted for in written records?
What can be used to make a worn engraving readable?
At http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Prairie/1746/boren.html you can find biographical information on people buried at the Boren-Reagor Springs Cemetery in Texas. Click on "Biographical Information of Individuals Buried in the Cemetery."
Choose a biography from the site above and write a newspaper obituary. Don't forget to include the date of death and any surviving family members, if they are known.
MAIN IDEA NO.2
Include a list of the information learned from the source. For example, you may write that a particular source contains information about an ancestor's:
COVERING YOUR TRACKS
By now, you've had a chance to see many different kinds of records. As you continue gathering information, you'll need to keep track of every place and record you've searched.
Even if you think you've written down every scrap of information found in a record, chances are, at some future time, you'll want to refer back to it. The more records you search, the easier it is to forget which records contained which pieces of information.
A research log that will allow you to re-trace your steps-
At the top of the research log, write the name of the ancestor for which you are trying to find information. Next, write the objective of your search, and under "locality," write the library, archive, or other repository in which you found the records below.
Each time you get a new source of information about an ancestor, write it on your research log as follows:
FINDING A TOMBSTONE
Choose a tombstone from one of the following sites. Note that these online databases are essentially compiled records, since information from a particular cemetery's tombstones has been gathered into this one resource. Search one of these databases for one of your ancestors and then record it on your research log.
FOR AN ANCESTOR
If you know where an ancestor is buried and his approximate date of death, you can check online resources to see if someone has already posted the information available on your ancestor's tombstone.
Perhaps the most complete index of online cemeteries can be found at Cyndi's List, http://www.cyndislist.com. Click on "Cemeteries and Funeral Homes" found in her "No Frills Category Index" to find out how to access the information you're looking for.
Visit this cemetery and select a person from their tombstone inscription. Use clues from the tombstone to check out church and funeral home records for the same cemetery. Exhaust these sources for extra information. Top it off with a look at the cemetery's online map. If you visited the cemetery, could you find the grave? Write what you discover on your research log.
FIELD TRIP!: TOMBSTONE APPRECIATION
A tombstone is truly a work of art. In a way, the tombstone was your ancestor's last chance to leave something of him or herself to the world.
Take a field trip to a cemetery to examine the tombstones. Are there differences among the markers? What are some similarities?
Before you go, check out these helpful tips for successful cemetery searching:
http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~maggieoh/tomb.html will get you to Maggie Stewart-Zimmerman's page, which lists tombstone carvings and their meanings. For example, she notes that a butterfly may signify an early death while oak leaves or acorns mean maturity or old age.
http://www.mindspring.com/~mooregen/tombstone.html. If you want to preserve the information found on a tombstone, you may wish to make a rubbing of it. Pat Dupes-Matsumoto's site teaches you how to properly make rubbings.
WHAT HAVE I LEARNED AND . . .
Cemeteries are great places to learn vital information about your ancestor. A tombstone can provide dates as well as clues to information about other family members. While many cemeteries are posting information online, most cemetery research is still done on site, through compiled records, or by writing a letter to the cemetery sexton's office.
. . . WHAT'S NEXT?
But how do you find out where someone might be buried? And what if you have no idea when an ancestor might have died? What are some of the records that could reveal this kind of information? In the next lesson, you'll learn about the United States Census and why it's been called a family history detective's best "people finder."
Research Log: A document that helps a researcher keep track of sources searched and where those sources are held.
Repository: A place, room or container where something is stored.
Epitaph: The engraving on a tombstone in memory of the person buried there.