Copying the Details Found on Headstones

HeadstoneAll family history researchers check for vital records, but one source many times overlooked is the headstone of an ancestor. Locating the cemetery and then the headstone of an ancestor just might produce some answers to a few long sought questions.

A popular practice when visiting a family plot at a cemetery is to make some rubbings of the headstones. For decades, many grave headstones had engraved quite a bit of information about the dearly departed. By not only examining such headstones, taking photos, but also producing a life-size rubbing of the actual stone may well lead to some new discoveries.

Over the headstones have been made of different materials. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was slate primarily used and have held up against weather and age very well. In the 19th century it was mostly sandstone or limestone that was used and it does hold up over time. In the 20th century it has been granite and marble mostly used and they have withstood the weather.

When visiting a cemetery take plenty of large white sheets of paper or fabric interfacing is excellent, strong masking tape, scissors, and some rubbing wax cakes (available at art and craft stores) or use very large dark crayons. You first must clean the headstone. Remove any dirt, leaves, etc from the front of the stone. Most important, check the back of the stone, there could be writing there also.

Fit the large white paper or fabric over the engravings on the stone. Using the masking tape and scissors, cut any excess paper from the edges and tape the paper or fabric to the headstone. Make it as smooth as possible.

Begin from the outer edges of the headstone, rubbing the paper to pick up the engravings. Some areas may need to be gone over very heavily. Especially make a good rubbing of any symbols or designs, because these can be studied later.

Besides name and dates; details such as how the person died might be on the stone, their children, spouse and parents. There can about their military service, organizations they were members of and religious denomination.

Take photos of the headstone from all angles, this way you have the actual rubbing and an photographic print image.

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