Column: The Connection of Stone and Graves

Between today and Wednesday, my genealogy column, Roots to the Past, is available in the following Atlantic Canada newspapers:

Saturday: The Citizen (Amherst)

Saturday: Times & Transcript (Moncton)

Wednesday: The Lunenburg County Progress Bulletin (Lunenburg County)

Title: The Connection of Stone and Graves

Snippet: I can’t recall the first time I visited a grave. It was long before I became interested in genealogy. But even then, I knew—from movies, books and photographs—most graves were marked with headstones. Many resting places had wooden crosses, but they didn’t last generations. Stone—whether marble, granite or limestone—could withstand centuries of abuse from environmental conditions.

A large cemetery might have hundreds of graves that were once marked with pretty, white crosses, but after a decade or two, the wood decomposed, leaving the graves unmarked. The graves marked with stones remained and dominated the landscape.

I learned the life span of wood compared to stone when I was a youth. By the time I was twelve, I had a pet cemetery beneath a broad-top birch in my backyard. Every animal we owned or tried to save (robins, blue jays, mice) found a home there when it expired. I even buried my friend’s gerbil when it died.

I outlined the small graves with stones the size of tennis balls and placed a cross with the name of the pet painted on the wood. A good, healthy winter could destroy a cross or two, but the stones remained to mark the spot, and I’d make up another cross.

. . . To read more, pick up one of the above noted newspapers.


4 thoughts on “Column: The Connection of Stone and Graves

  1. Well your article hit my interest today as I am a person who loves to visit my hometown cemetery.I have to say that I must have been 7 or 8 when Papa brought us children to church on Sundays and since we didn’t,t have a car…we arrived way before the mass started so Papa gave us a grand historical tour of our deceased close relatives .since his mom had passed away when he was only 14…I do believe that was the reason we visited so much in my early childhood…and yes you are so right about wood and stone monuments…stone lasts forever …or almost..
    I have to add this part…stone lasts for a long time …but the lettering on the monument can get unreadable with time…moss,weather,etc…can affect this…
    In the last two years this cemetery is not recognizable any more…a lady started out to clean a friend,s monument and decided to paint it and redefine the lettering …well the monument came to life!! And guess what ,this woman decided to do some more with people’s permission of course…in the period of less than two years…the whole cemetery was redone…with the help of volunteers of course…the old monuments were all painted in either white or grey…but what was so astonishing were the detailed decorations on the monument…either a cross,a flower or whatever…they painted these in color…what a difference this cemetery is now!!
    If you ever drive through my hometown Cap Pele N.B. Not far from Shediac…do not forget to stop and have a visit at our cemetery…

    • Giselle, thank you for visiting and for leaving a wonderful comment.

      I have a strong connection with stones. It must be in my DNA. My house is full of stones. There is not a corner, a shelf or a drawer that doesn’t have a stone.

      I admire headstones in a similar manner. And I agree: some of the writing on stones gets blurred or lost through time. It is wonderful when it is reclaimed by someone’s caring hands. Bravo to that woman who not only took the time to ‘rebirth’ these stones but to inspire others to help.
      Someone did this to my great-grandparents stones in Newfoundland. The first time I visited them in 2008, I was amazed by the restoration job.

      I’ve never been to Cap Pele, but who knows, I’m might some day pass through now that my travelling shoes are almost ready to hit the road again (aka, kids almost grown).

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