My husband and I had dinner with some good friends the other night. They know about my obsession with all things Genealogy so the talk quickly turned to their search for ancestors. During the conversation, I whispered to my friend “I love visiting cemeteries, especially old ones”. I wasn’t sure how she would respond as most people think it is creepy to do this. Her face lit up and said, “Me too!”. The next hour was devoted to “Cemetery” talk. Ancestor Hunters have no problem discussing this topic so in honor of that, here are 10 interesting facts about cemeteries.
♦ Located on Route 80, near Tombstone, Arizona, the Boot Hill Graveyard became the final resting place to over 250 gunslingers, miners, and other fearless wild west pioneers. Humorous headstones are scattered over the hill. Those like “Here lies George Johnson, hanged by mistake 1882. He was right we were wrong. But we strung him up and now he’s gone.” and “Here lies Lester Moore, Four slugs from a .44, No Les No more.”
♦ What is the difference between a cemetery & a graveyard? Graveyards are in the “yards” of churches and is always adjacent to and part of a church.
♦ Arlington is the only national cemetery to hold servicemen from every war in U.S. history. Although the first military burial at Arlington National Cemetery didn’t occur until 1864, the burial ground holds the remains of those who fought in every war since the Revolution. In 1892, soldiers killed in the Revolutionary War were re-interred from a Georgetown cemetery, and casualties from the War of 1812 have been reburied at Arlington as well.
♦ In 1876 a handful of mobsters botched a morbid plan to kidnap the body of Abraham Lincoln and hold it ransom. The hapless grave robbers were arrested just a few days later. Fearing another attempt, the government secretly hid the body of the sixteenth president in an unmarked grave for 25 years. Then in 1901, under the urging of Robert Lincoln, the president’s only surviving child, Lincoln’s body was dug up and placed inside a steel cage, lowered into a 10-foot-deep vault, and buried under tons of concrete. He’s still there today, in his tomb, on the grounds of Oak Ridge Cemetery.
♦ Cemetery tours are now big business. One such cemetery, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood California has maps to the Star’s graves available for tourists. This is also an old cemetery – established in 1899, and filled with tall, old-fashioned headstones and towering monuments, including a few unusual ones shaped like obelisks and a rocket ship. Many tour companies in Los Angeles offer tours of the many “celebrity” graveyards in the area.
♦ Family (or private) cemeteries were a matter of practicality during the settlement of America. If a town or religious cemetery had not been established, settlers would seek out a small plot of land, usually in wooded areas bordering their fields, to begin a family plot. Sometimes, several families would arrange to bury their dead together. While some of these sites later grew into true cemeteries, many were forgotten after a family moved away or died out. Therefore, some of our ancestors’ graves from the 1600’s may never be found.
♦ Visitors to loved ones interred in Jewish cemeteries often leave a small stone on the top of the headstone. There are prayers said at the grave site, and the stone is left on the visitor’s departure. It is done as a show of respect; as a rule, flowers are not placed at Jewish graves. Flowers are fleeting; the symbol inherent in the use of a stone is to show that the love, honor, memories, and soul of the loved one are eternal.
♦ Columbarian walls are a common feature of many cemeteries, reflecting the increasing use of cremation rather than burial. While cremated remains can be kept at home by families in urns or scattered in some significant or attractive place, neither of these approaches allows for a long-lasting commemorative plaque to honor the dead nor provide a place for the wider circle of friends and family to come to mourn or visit. Many cemeteries now provide walls (typically of brick or rendered brick construction) with a rectangular array of niches, with each niche being big enough to accommodate a person’s cremated remains. Columbarium walls are a very space-efficient use of land in a cemetery compared with burials and a niche in a columbarium wall is a much cheaper alternative to a burial plot. A small plaque) can be affixed across the front of each niche and is generally included as part of the price of a niche.
♦ Stamps Cemetery (Witches Cemetery), Tennessee. This cemetery is old, unconventional, creepy, located around backwoods and less popular. The tombstones are lined in Zig-zag pattern and some of those stones are marked with pentagrams. It is believed that that cemetery belongs to dark witches. There are lots of eyewitness who saw strange appearance around the area
♦ Meaning of symbols on Headstones:
- Arch: Rejoined with partner in Heaven
- Book: Faith, wisdom
- Peacock: Eternal life
- Tree trunk: The beauty of life
- Crossed swords: Life lost in battle
- Garland: Victory over death
- Anchor: Steadfast hope
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.