The New Hampshire Old Graveyard Association was founded in April 1976
and incorporated in April 1977. Our mission is to discover, map, maintain,
record and preserve our New Hampshire graveyards before they are irretrievably
lost. These burial places are an integral part of our history and an invaluable
resource for genealogists, historians and scholars of New England's cultural
This booklet was originally
published in 1985 under the name Graveyard Restoration Handbook. We would
like to thank the original members of the Handbook Committee for their
dedication and hard work. This committee included Louise H. Tallman of
Rye, Philip Wilcox of Durham, Bonnie Dunton of Farmington and Nancy Van
Doorn also of Farmington. Valuable assistance was also received from James
Garvin then of the New Hampshire Historical Society, David Watters of
the University of New Hampshire English Department and Tom Morgan of the
Rockingham Planning Commission. The Cole Brothers of the Exeter Monument
Works were also supportive of the careful restoration work that can be
done by amateurs.
The Handbook Revision Committee
of the New Hampshire Old Gravestone Association now includes Doris Ashton
of Ossipee, Clark Bagnall of Nashua, Joan Casarotto of Tamworth, Jean
Mertinooke of Kensington Trina Purcell of Manchester (Editor), and Louise
Tallman of Rye. We also wish to express our thanks to David Watters, whose
encouragement, expertise and advice were invaluable to this project.
The purpose of this guide is
to promote correct methods of identifying, recording, maintaining and
preserving New Hampshire's old graveyards. There are many reasons why
the members of a community should be interested in preserving these historic
places. Our old graveyards are an integral part of our history and an
invaluable resource for genealogists, historians and scholars. There are
many challenges involved in graveyard preservation. The sites may be overgrown
with brush. Markers may be leaning, broken or vandalized. Many stones
are succumbing to acid rain, harsh New England weather and age. In addition,
family members may be widely scattered, making it difficult to secure
permission or funding for maintaining the site. Nonetheless, it is critical
that these sites be preserved as the epitaphs on the stones may well be
the only source of primary documentation recording a person's life and
death. In many cases, this valuable information has been irretrievably
lost. Restoration, recording and maintenance of local graveyards is, thus,
one form of historical preservation.
In addition to providing an
invaluable resource for genealogists and historians, old gravestones also
serve a cultural interest. Changes in the style of stone used and the
symbolic icons engraved on the stones reflect changes in religious and
social attitudes of their times. The slate stones of colonial times are
now recognized as fine examples of folk art. Victorian monuments often
include finely carved artwork and statuary. And though epitaphs may be
stock verses, they may also make personal statements about the men and
women they memorialize.
Gravestones also promote tourism,
encourage learning and protect our open space. We encourage people to
explore roadside graveyards, or join the many local historians who offer
tours. We ask that these old burial grounds be treated with care. Please
stay on the paths if there are paths available. Do not touch the stones
or attempt to take rubbings--old stones are fragile and easily damaged.
Do not litter. Your effort to treat these burial grounds with respect
helps preserve our cultural heritage.
Graveyard documentation, restoration
and maintenance are subjects of some magnitude. This handbook is not intended
to be a comprehensive guide to restoration and preservation, but will
point interested parties in the right direction for further research.
A note on terminology: Historically,
the word graveyard was a Puritan term and described a small plot of land
where family or community members were interred. The use of the term cemetery
was a Victorian innovation. Cemetery comes from the Greek word for sleep
and dovetailed with the Victorian penchant for describing death as an
eternal sleep. Typically, the term graveyard is used for older burial
sites, while cemetery is used to refer to modern, public sites. For the
purposes of this handbook we use the terms graveyard and gravesite as
general terms to describe any burial ground regardless of size, location
or inhabitants. We use the word plot to describe a piece of land that
contains multiple graves and lot to describe a single burial place.
Graveyards may be found on
either publicly or privately owned land. The legal issues surrounding
these burial sites are not always clear. Though this handbook provides
some guidelines, we encourage you to explore the State of New Hampshire
Revised Statutes Annotated (RSAs) that pertain to these sites, and to
work with property owners, local selectmen and cemetery trustees before
starting on any type of restoration or preservation project.
Commonly asked questions about
Who is responsible for the
care of a family graveyard when the family is scattered, or no longer
Maintenance is required only for sites which have established trust funds.
There are no laws compelling either the community or the property owner
to care for an unfunded site. Conversely, if the cemetery is not specifically
under the care of either an individual or the community, neither has the
right to uproot the markers, graves, or fencing.
A town may vote funding for
the care of an "abandoned" graveyard. In this case, the funds must be
expended under the direction of the selectmen or the cemetery trustees.
Should an individual or community
have an interest in preserving a site on private land, the interested
party must have the landowner's permission. If the site is on public land,
the interested party must have permission from the selectmen or cemetery
trustees. Descendants have the right to maintain gravesites, as does the
town if the site has been abandoned. It should be remembered that a graveyard
is a form of permanent land use. Any work at these sites by individuals
or the community is a form of adopting care on behalf of the family.
Are family members responsible
for the site's upkeep?
Families may be scattered or no longer extant. If the family is still
extant they have the right to care for the gravesite, but they cannot
be compelled to maintain it.
Does an individual have
the right to be interred in a family graveyard that is on private property?
In the case of a deeded lot or plot, the owner has the right to determine
who can be buried on the site. If the original grantee is deceased, the
RSAs may provide guidelines for determining ownership. These RSAs can
be found at your local library or at the New Hampshire State Library.
If no deed exists, the legal issues may not be clear and may need to be
determined by a court of law. In terms of preserving the site, allowing
new burials tends to promote maintenance and preservation of the graveyard.
However, it could also be argued that new burials change the "character"
of the site.
What if I want to visit
a graveyard on private land?
Though descendants have a perpetual easement allowing them access to the
graves, access to a graveyard on private land may still pose a problem.
This is especially true in the case of a rear location where the site
can only be reached by crossing private property. In this case, even descendants
must have permission from the owner of the surrounding property. In the
rare instance that this permission cannot be obtained, the selectmen may
issue a permit for a temporary right of entry.
to Conservation and Preservation
Preservation is a means of
preventing damage due to age, handling, or outside elements. Conservation
is a means of restoring an artifact to its original condition. Because
gravestones are historical artifacts, any conservation or preservation
should, ideally, be done by a professional conservator. However, simple
repairs can safely be done by volunteers and non-professionals if a few
simple rules are followed. Here are the primary things to know before
you attempt any kind of work.
- Gravestones are irreplaceable
primary source documents. Thus, the less tampering you do to them the
better. Protect the original historic value and integrity of the stone
by altering it as little as possible.
- Gravestones of the 17th,
18thand 19th centuries are extremely delicate. Damage is easy to do,
difficult to undo.
- Inappropriate conservation
techniques, such as the use of bleach to clean a stone, weaken the stone
and shorten its lifespan. This damage is not always immediately apparent.
- In terms of preservation
and conservation, it is better to do nothing than to do the wrong thing.
- · Before beginning any
restoration or conservation project, take time to research the project.
This will ensure that the project is completed in a manner best suited
to both the stones and the site itself.
- Any repairs must be done
using reversible techniques. This will allow us to take advantage of
better techniques as they are developed in the future.
One of the most commonly
asked questions is where to begin a restoration or conservation project.
A good way to start is by documenting the site. However, regardless
of where you begin, research is an important first step. When documenting
the site, first determine if any prior documentation has been done.
If so, these records may have been deposited at the local library, historical
society or town hall. There may also be a copy at the New Hampshire
Historical Society, the New Hampshire State Library or the New Hampshire
State Archives. It would be unfortunate to duplicate work that has already
been done. However, all prior transcriptions should be verified for
accuracy and completeness.
Before beginning any restoration,
preservation or maintenance, several questions must be asked. First,
has any attempt been made to locate descendants who can authorize the
work? If no relatives can be found, you must check with the selectman
or cemetery trustees for any ordinances related to your local graveyards.
Some towns claim jurisdiction over all burial grounds, both public and
Another important consideration
is the issue of continued maintenance of the site. Will volunteers be
able to sustain this work, or can funds be voted by the town? Is there
a possibility of trust funding from a relative?
Prior to beginning the work,
it is also important to notify the local police so they will not consider
your work vandalism. The nearest neighbors also need to be informed,
or they will call the police. Newspaper publicity can aid in explaining
your project to the community. Whether the work is done by an individual,
or as a community project, it is critical to work with the community
and within the law.
We stress the importance
of research on the best methods to restore old graveyards and the stones
they contain. Though non-professionals can do good work, it's critical
to understand and use best practices. Poor restoration methods can be
extremely detrimental to the life of the stone.
Finally, some towns or individuals
may elect to consult with or hire a professional conservator regarding
gravestone repair. Identifying a reputable and knowledgeable professional
can be a challenge. Good guidelines for this can be found in A Graveyard
Preservation Primer by Lynette Strangstad. In New Hampshire, one may
also contact the Division of Historical Resources for advice (see Section
V for their contact information).
Documenting a graveyard is
one of the most important ways to preserve the information contained
there. This is best done using inventory forms and photographs. Using
standardized forms ensures that the information gathered is accurate
and complete. One of the biggest problems we've experienced is that
many of the graveyard inventory projects previously done are missing
vital information such as epitaphs, type of stone, and location. We
have also worked with many records that were alphabetized by surname
rather than by burial location. This makes it difficult for researchers
to locate the gravesite. In addition, this may obscure the relationship
between family members with different surnames. To avoid this problem
in the future, The New Hampshire Old Graveyard Association has developed
two forms to aid in the gathering of information.
The first form is the Graveyard
Survey Form. This form is used to record the name, location and
condition of the graveyard as a whole. The second form is the Monument
Survey Form. This is used to record information on the individual
stones including the type of stone, material used, motif, condition,
epitaph, problems and repairs. We encourage you to photocopy, use and
In addition to ensuring
that records are complete and accurate, these forms dovetail with the
format of a database being developed by The New Hampshire Old Graveyard
Association. The database will be a comprehensive, fully searchable
tool containing information on gravesites in New Hampshire. This includes
not only information on the graveyards themselves, but also on the individuals
buried in them. The database will allow researchers to locate individuals
by name, date of birth, date of death, town and cemetery name. It will
also contain information on the gravestone itself: its condition, appearance,
the epitaph and icon it bears, the material it's made of and its location
within the given cemetery. We hope the database will be useful to genealogists,
as well as historians and scholars interested in early New England gravestone
art. Because the forms and the database follow the same format, the
forms make it easier to enter information into the database.
Once your graveyard inventory
is complete, we recommend that a copy be filed with your local library
or historical society, and with the New Hampshire Historical Society
in Concord (see Section V for their contact information). NHOGA does
not recommend rubbings as a means of documenting the stones. Old gravestones
are surprisingly fragile and any pressure on the stone can easily cause
it to snap in half. Because of this, gravestone rubbing is often prohibited
by law. Photography is a much safer option. Instructions for creating
sharp photographs with clear and legible epitaphs are provided in a
technical leaflet entitled "Making Photographic Records of Gravestones"
by Daniel and Jesse Lie Farber. It is available through the Association
for Gravestone Studies (see Section V for their contact information).
Before beginning any type of cleaning or repair, it is important to
know what not to do and why. Here are some of the techniques to avoid.
Proper techniques will be addressed as well.
Sand Blasting and High Pressure Water Washing. Neither of these
methods should ever be used. They remove a surface layer of the stone
itself, a form of mechanical erosion.
Bleach. Using bleach to clean discolored marble stones is a temptation
to many people. However, it's one of the most detrimental cleaning techniques
that can be used. Bleach causes invisible, irreparable damage by eating
away at the surface of the stone and exposing a softer at-risk under
layer. The exposure of this under layer to the elements causes the monument
to decay much more rapidly than it would normally. Bleach also leaves
a residue behind that no amount of rinsing can remove. Other commercial
cleaners such as Ivory soap and Fantastic pose the same danger. This
is because calcium ions in the stone cause the cleaning agent to become
insoluble in water. Chlorides are inevitably left behind and these cause
migrating salts to form beneath the surface of the stone. As the crystals
grow and exert pressure from below, they cause the surface of the stone
to slough off. Other harmful cleaners include muriatic acid, phosphoric
acid (such as Naval Jelly and Lime Away), alkaline cleaners and corrosive
biocidal cleaning materials.
The best way to clean a gravestone is to begin with the least damaging
product. Start with plain water and a soft brush. Patience and perseverance
are the keys to this technique. Remember that whenever two objects (such
as the brush and the stone) are rubbing against each other, some abrasion
occurs. To minimize this, scrub as gently as possible. Scrubbing from
the bottom up prevents streaks. If water alone does not work, conservator's
supply houses sell non-ionic detergents that are safe to use on granite,
marble, limestone, sandstone and slate. Brand names include Photo-Flo,
Triton-X 100 and Igepal. Directions for the proper use of these cleaners
can also be provided by the supply house. Soapstone should never be
cleaned with anything but water.
Even if a detergent is necessary,
begin by thoroughly wetting the stone with water. Pre-wetting the stone
prevents the cleaning solution from penetrating too far into the porous
surface of the stone, and may improve the efficiency of the cleaning
agent. Gently scrub it with a soft brush. Scrubbing from the bottom
up prevents streaks. Always dilute the cleaner with the recommended
amount of water and rinse often with plenty of clean water. Never let
any detergent dry on the surface of the stone.
A wooden stick such as an
ice cream stick or tongue depressor will help clean crevices on slate
or granite stones. Don't use anything other than a toothbrush on softer
stones such as marble or sandstone. Never use metal implements of any
Household ammonia can also
be used to clean stones with biological growth such as lichen, but should
be used as a second choice when non-ionic detergents don't provide effective
results. If you use ammonia, do not exceed one cup ammonia to four cups
water. Some conservators recommend not removing lichen as the procedure
can open the pores of the stone to a new, and worse, invasion. However,
some forms of lichen are acidic in nature, not only obscuring the epitaph
and icon, but actually eating into the surface of the stone. Lichen
removal must be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Other types of biological
growth, such as stubborn black algae, can be removed by using calcium
hypochlorite. This is available as swimming pool disinfectant. This
is a granular product not to be confused with other swimming pool disinfectants
such as "liquid chlorine" or sodium hypochlorite. Dissolve one pound
of calcium hypochlorite in four gallons of warm water. Use only to remove
biological growth. Follow the cleaning procedure described above.
Finally, never attempt to
clean a stone that appears to be distressed. This is indicated by cracks,
flaking, scaling, or a "sugary" (granular) surface. Tap the stone gently
to make sure there are no internal hollow areas. If you have any doubt
about the stone's ability to withstand the cleaning procedure, don't
Gravestone repair is a difficult
subject to address because we have not yet established perfect preservation
or conservation methods. Best practices are still being developed, and
there is still some debate over which techniques can safely be used.
For instance, though we know for certain that cement is detrimental
to old stones, we don't yet know what the long term effects of epoxy
The information presented
here is the best available to our present knowledge. In general we recommend
that only reversible methods be used. This will allow us to take advantage
of better techniques as they are developed in the future. And above
all, the best rule of thumb is to do no harm.
Cement. The use of
cement in any type of repair is detrimental to the stone. Despite this
fact, it is one of the most commonly used methods. Sometimes broken
or fragmented stones are encased in cement. This has two unfortunate
results. First, the chemicals in the cement can affect the stone. They
may eat away at the stone or cause yellowing. The second is that most
of the materials used to create historic gravestones (slate and marble
for instance) are much softer than cement, and often brittle. As the
New England weather gets warmer and cooler the gravestone expands and
contracts. Because the slate is weaker than the cement, the stone cracks
while the cement remains in pristine condition. Furthermore, the process
of embedding stones in concrete is irreversible. If in the future we
find a better way of repairing these stones, we won't be able to remove
them from the concrete. Sometimes fallen stones are set in a base of
concrete in order to get them upright. Unfortunately, the cement provides
a conduit allowing the stone to absorb water from the ground. Lime from
the cement wicks into the stone as well. The water then freezes and
expands, sometimes causing damage to the surface of the stone, often
causing it to snap off at the base.
Never apply any type of sealer to a gravestone. The sealer will
eventually fail and cause a layer of moisture to form between the surface
of the gravestone and the (supposed) protectant. Because the stone cannot
breathe, the moisture builds up and causes the surface of the stone
to discolor and eventually flake away.
Steel Supports and Pins.
Never drill into the stone in order to affix supports. Drilling weakens
the stone. Steel supports rust and cause irreversible and unsightly
damage and discoloration.
Some professionals feel that epoxies and resins may be used safely.
Others are concerned about the reversibility of this method. Because
there is some doubt as to whether it is an appropriate repair method,
we recommend that epoxy only be used as a last resort. Keep in mind
that there are specific formulas developed for different types of stones.
For instance, epoxies designed especially for granite work best with
granite. Polyester resins are typically most suitable for marble. In
both cases, sunlight causes the material to deteriorate, and discoloration
of the stone may occur.
and Techniques. There are two basic methods of caring for broken
gravestones. Stones which are broken in half horizontally, with the
base still grounded can be repaired using high quality stainless steel
sleeves that hug the vertical edges of the stone. The sleeves are held
in place with small amounts of epoxy. There are some nice examples of
this method in Forest Hill Cemetery, East Derry, New Hampshire. Another
method is the aluminum Nelson Stone Brace which was developed in 2001
and which provides support without the use of pins, cement or epoxy.
(For more information on the Nelson Stone Brace see Section V). Keep
in mind that both aluminum and stainless steel expand and contract with
changes in temperature. The sleeve (or brace) must be carefully fitted
so that the support does not crack the stone.
Fragmented stones, and stones
that are vertically broken need a different preservation technique.
We do not yet have a suitable method of repairing these stones. We recommend
the following procedure to protect the fragments and keep them together:
build a wooden frame that is six to eight inches deep depending on the
thickness of the stone. It must be large enough for the stone to lay
flat. The bottom of the frame should have a stainless steel screen for
drainage. Place a layer of clean gravel in the bottom of the frame.
Place the stone fragments on top. Use additional gravel to hold the
fragments in place. The frame assembly may be slightly slanted to facilitate
drainage. It should be noted that the frame will eventually rot and
will need to be replaced.
In the case of a stone that
is unbroken, but leaning dangerously, we recommend the following method.
Dig down into the soil until the stone has been loosened enough to gently
pull it into position. This can be a sizeable undertaking as the base
of the stone may be nearly as large as the portion that's above ground.
Hold the stone securely in place with gravel or small stones and brick
fragments as shown in the diagram below. Never pack the base of the
marker with cement. As temperatures fluctuate, the cement will exert
pressure on the base of the stone and cause it to snap off below ground
level. The gravel provides both adequate support and good drainage.
A similar procedure can
be used for stones that have sunken and need resetting. Dig gently to
loosen earth on one side of the stone only. Leaving the earth in place
on the other side will provide much needed support, as well as a firm
surface against which to reset the stone. The next step is to lift the
stone out of the ground. Sometimes this can be done by four strong people.
At other times, bars and levers must be used, much the same way they
were originally placed in the ground. Lay the stone gently on level
ground. This is a good time to explore the base of the stone for identifying
marks such as the carver's initials. Prepare a bed for the butt of the
stone using bricks. Level them carefully and cover them with a bed of
sand as a cushion. Reset the stone against the compacted soil and fill
the hole as indicated in the diagram below
the case of a marble stone that has slipped out of its slot, simply
clean the slot and put it back in. Use existing pins if possible, and
epoxy only if necessary. If the base of the stone has broken off and
is still in the slot it may need to be chiseled out, or you may want
to consult a professional.
Plant Growth in the Graveyard
Control of plant and tree
growth is critical to graveyard restoration. The objective is to prepare
the site for regular maintenance by equipment such as a small mower
and trimmer. We suggest a listing of all plants found in the graveyard,
both woody and herbaceous. Then, decide what you want to keep and what
you want to remove. Plan carefully. It's important to study and evaluate
each species. For instance, cutting down a softwood tree is an easy
procedure. But cutting down a hardwood tree will lead to endless sprouting.
In order to avoid this, the stump and major roots must be removed. Other
challenges include sumac, lilac, sassafras and some wild roses which
spread by underground stolons. Cutting these at the ground level only
encourages more sprouting. Poison ivy must be removed while wearing
protective clothing. It cannot be burnt as the smoke carries toxins
through the air.
Trees need particular consideration.
Leaving the deep shade of forest conditions will ensure minimum undergrowth,
but falling limbs and trunks can shatter brittle stones and ruin fencing.
Trees growing too near the gravestones will cause dislocation. Conversely,
grassy sites require the regular maintenance of a lawn mower and trimmer.
Keep in mind that any type of power equipment is a potential danger
to the stone--care is needed during maintenance.
Keep in mind that an old
graveyard may contain old-fashioned plant materials that are worth preserving.
Even wild herbaceous plants on the site may be of interest. The Foss
Graveyard in Rye illustrates the range of old garden plants that may
be found. Pink Scotch Roses filled the entire front end. Also found
were Lily-of-the-Valley, Orange Day-lily, Double Soapwort, Star-of-Bethlehem,
and Turk's Cap Lily. Wild materials included Tansy, Virginia Rose, and
Carrion Flower. Samples of each were retained while unwanted woody plants
Though herbicides can be
very effective in removing unwanted plant growth, it is illegal to use
these chemicals unless you are either licensed to do so or own the property.
Therefore, in most cases, controlling plant growth is largely a matter
of cutting and digging.
Simple repairs to stone walls
and other historic enclosures (such as granite posts and chains) can
often be done by amateurs. We encourage this maintenance as the enclosure
is often the only remaining feature of an old gravesite. In addition,
the New Hampshire RSAs require suitable fencing in the case of municipal
cemeteries. However, since stone wall conservation sometimes requires
taking the whole wall down in order to rebuild it, you may need to contract
with a professional.
Gates are also an important
feature of old graveyards. We recommend that the restoration of iron
gates with decorative metal work be done by a professional.
Maintenance is an important
part of graveyard restoration. Brush grows back quickly, protective
wooden frames rot and must be replaced, stones continue to be affected
by age and the elements. Sites may be kept up by neighbors, community
members or scouts performing community service projects. Funding may
be possible through grants or trust funds established by descendants.
Towns may be willing to take responsibility for the graveyard's upkeep.
Consultation with town officials and family members will determine which
options are open to you in terms of providing routine maintenance to
Each town will deal with
its graveyards in a different manner. The restoration may be done as
a paid project by town workers, or it may be done entirely by volunteer
labor. Some towns have been able to coordinate both paid and volunteer
work. In other towns, scouts or other community groups have undertaken
projects to compile records or maintain sites. Either way, the project
will require careful planning and supervision.
for Further Research
The past few years have given
rise to a wealth of reliable information on how to care for our historic
graveyards. We encourage the use of these resources in addition to the
guidelines provided by this handbook.
The New Hampshire
Department of Historic Resources
The Department of Historic Resources was originally known as New
Hampshire's "State Historic Preservation Office" and was established
in 1974 as the Division of Historical Resources. The DHR believes
that the historical, archaeological, architectural and cultural
resources of New Hampshire are among its most important environmental
assets. They promote the preservation, use, understanding and
conservation of such resources for the education, inspiration,
pleasure and enrichment of New Hampshire's citizens.
The New Hampshire Department of Historic Resources
19 Pillsbury Street, Box 2043
Concord, NH 03301-2043
Association for Gravestone Studies
AGS is a non-profit international organization founded in 1977 for
the purpose for furthering the study, understanding and preservation
of gravestones. Through its publications, workshops and conferences,
AGS promotes the study of gravestones from historical and artistic
perspectives, expands public awareness of the significance of historic
grave markers, and encourages individuals to record and preserve
gravestones. The Association's publications include Markers, an
annual scholarly journal featuring articles on all aspects of gravestone
research, and a quarterly newsletter.
Association for Gravestone Studies
278 Main Street, Suite 207
Greenfield, MA 03101
Association for State and Local History
AASLH is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to advancing
knowledge, understanding and appreciation of local history in
the United States and Canada. The Association supports a broad
educational program and publishes a series of books on state and
local history as well as a newsletter, technical leaflets, and
reports designed to help members work more effectively.
The American Association for State and Local History
1717 Church Street
Nashville, TN 37203-2991
A Graveyard Preservation
by Lynette Strangstad Published in cooperation with the Association
for Gravestone Studies and the American Association for State
and Local History, this book is a comprehensive guide to gravestone
preservation. Her purpose in writing the book was to "tell eager
would-be restorers what they must not do, what they can do, and
how to do it properly." Key topics include strategic planning,
working with volunteers, public awareness, documenting graveyards,
cleaning and repair, working with professional conservators, ethical
issues and more. Repairs to specific types of stone, such as sandstone,
are also addressed. Strangstad is the president of Stone Faces,
in Charleston, North Carolina. Her company offers service in stone
conservation and specializes in gravestone conservation.
"Review and Evaluation
of Selected Brand Name Materials for Cleaning Gravestones"
by Tracy Walther. An
article originally published in Markers, now available through
the Association for Gravestone Studies.
The Nelson Stone
For further information
on the Nelson Stone brace write to: Lars Nelson 76 Old Province
Road Goshen, NH 03752
Records of Gravestones"
by Daniel and Jesse Lie Farber. This technical leaflet provides
useful instructions on creating sharp, legible images that highlight
delicate carving and render epitaphs clear and legible. The leaflet
is available through the Association for Gravestone Studies. ·
New England Stonecarving and Its Symbols by Allan L. Ludwig
Considered a classic in its field, this book features New England
stone carving and symbolism, an exploration of Puritan theology,
religious history, folklore and anthropology.
||The Masks of Orthodoxy:
Folk Gravestone Carving in Plymouth County Massachusetts, 1689-1805
by Peter Benes. An interesting exploration of gravestone carving
as folk art in 17th, 18th and 19th century Massachusetts.
on a Hill: Landscapes of Memory and Boston's Mount Auburn Cemetery
by Blanche Linden-Ward. A fascinating look at the Victorian
garden cemeteries which became showcases of fine art and architecture
in the mid 19th century. The book also explores the Victorian attitude
toward death, which is often reflected in symbolic carvings on the
monuments they raised to honor their dead.
Gravemarkers: Voices of American Culture by Richard Meyers. A
good source of information on ethnic traditions in American culture.
||"Symbolism in the
Carvings on Old Gravestones." A leaflet available from The Association
for Gravestone Studies. ·
||The best source for
funding is the Foundation Grants Index which is a
comprehensive list of grant sources. This index is available at
many larger libraries.
I--Symbolism in Gravestone Art
Anchor-hope ("Hope is the
anchor of the soul.")
Angel-messenger between God and man; guide
Angel (flying)-rebirth Angel (trumpeting)-a call to the resurrection
Arrows or darts-mortality, the dart of death
Birds-the soul (rare)
Clock-passage of time (these are rare, but there's a fine example in
Peterborough, New Hampshire) Coffins-mortality
Column (broken)-sorrow, life cut short
Flower-the frailty of life
Flower (broken) -death
Garland-victory in death
Gourds-the coming to be and the passing away of earthy matters; the
Hand (pointing upward)-ascension to heaven; may also be a fraternal
Hand (pointing downward)-calling the earth to witness; may also be a
Handshake-farewell to earthly existence; may also be a fraternal symbol
Heart-the abode of the soul; love of Christ; the soul in bliss
Ivy-memory and fidelity
Lamb-Christ; the Redeemer; meekness; sacrifice; innocence.
Palm-victory over death
Picks and Shovels-mortality
Poppy-a symbol of sleep, and therefore death (Victorian)
Portals-passageways to the eternal journey
Rose-sorrow Scallop shell-the Resurrection; a pilgrim's journey; the
baptism of Christ
Scythe-time or time cut short
Skull (winged)-the flight of the soul from the mortal body
Skulls and crossbones-death
Star of David-a Jewish tradition
Sun (rising)-renewed life
Sun (setting)-eternal death
Torch (inverted)-life has been extinguished
Torch (burning)-immortality; truth; wisdom
Urn-mortality (a receptacle for the bodily remains)
Wheat-time; the divine harvest (often used to denote old age)
II--Graveyard Inventory Forms
for Monument Survey Form
(you will need Adobe Acrobat to read these forms. It's free, easy to
install, and can be found here.)