Cemetery Impressions


A cemetery might seem like an odd place to visit, but if you have never been to one just to investigate, ask your family to plan a time when you could all go. A great deal can be learned about genealogy in just one visit to a cemetery where some of your ancestors are buried. You can also bring home some treasures that you create yourself—gravestone rubbings.

If you will remember, a pedigree chart begins with one person’s name (it could be yours) and his vital statistics: date and place of birth, marriage date, and date and place of death. Next, the chart shows that person’s parents and lists the same kind of information for them. After that, it goes to the first person’s grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on as far back as there is information.

Visiting a cemetery where one or more of your ancestors is buried can make that pedigree chart more interesting to you. Also, because some of the information on the chart might be incomplete or incorrect, going to a cemetery with a notebook and pen allows you to do genealogical research firsthand.

Some of your ancestors might be buried in a cemetery in or near your town; others might be in faraway places. While planning your vacation, you can arrange to stop at cemeteries that are important to you.

One of the highlights of our vacation last summer was a stop at the old cemetery in Ephraim, Utah, where many of the Peterson family are buried. The younger family members had never met any of these relatives, although they had heard stories about them and had seen some of their pictures. When we read on the gravestones the birthplaces of these Peterson kin—Sweden, Norway, and New York—we imagined those days long ago when they heard the missionaries, joined the Church, and then traveled to Zion. We all feel a greater appreciation for our heritage since that day and have an increased interest in genealogy.

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    Soft brush or broom to sweep dust or dirt from gravestone.

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    Large sheets of butcher paper or newsprint or rice paper that can be purchased at art supply stores.

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    Masking tape to hold paper flat against the gravestone.

  4. 4.

    Wax crayon with wrapper removed. Large crayons work best.

First, clean the gravestone with your brush or broom so that particles of dirt won’t show up in your rubbing. Next, tape the paper tightly over the stone, making sure that you have plenty of margin. Then, using the side rather than the end of the crayon, rub carefully and evenly across the paper. The impression of the words and design will soon appear on your paper. When you have finished, remove the tape and take your gravestone rubbing home. You can put a protective covering over it and keep it in your Book of Remembrance, or frame the rubbing and hang it in a special place in your house.

[photos] Photos by Dick Brown