I have some rather macabre fond memories from my childhood. Touring the back roads with my dad in his “baby”: a 1959 Karmman Ghia he shipped home after his posting in Germany. A favourite part of the outing was taking my father’s hand as we wandered through old, abandoned graveyards, as he told me the stories of the stones.

Even when we travelled between Ontario and Nova Scotia, the only stop worth making was the same: an abandoned graveyard, tilting tombstones, wildflowers, and so many stories to tell. My father loved history and passed this passion along. Included in that was the stories that a graveyard tells.

As a teacher, I lead field trips to local graveyards, teaching the students how to read a tombstone like a primary source document. Just a sampling of questions: Was there a cluster of deaths? The number of children in a family, and how many died within the first year? Who lived longer – men or women? And the inscriptions (and images carved on the stones) which often listed more than simply born and died. Were these stones home made or professional? What images could be associated with a particular era? What did the size, style, and inscription suggest about the person?

Genealogists, historians, sociologists, archeologists, forensic specialists, curious descendants all can find much in the stones. Unfortunately, acid rain and air pollution has quickened the wearing away of information while the fallen and damaged stones aren’t repaired. Our history is slipping away with each splash of rain, each crack and crumble.

So, welcome to Tombstone Thursday. The idea originated when visiting a genealogic web site seeking out my ancestors. Try using Tombstone Tuesday as a search term.

In loving memory of Wallace D. Haughn

Lost at sea Feb. 1, 1924

Aged 56 years

Also his son

Grover Jerome

Enlisted October 1914

Returned May 1919

Lost at sea Feb. 1, 1924

Aged 28 years

And I saw a new heaven

and a new earth,  for the first heaven

and the first earth were passed away,

and there was no more

sea. REV 21

I know pieces of this story from the Fort Point Cemetery, La Have, Nova Scotia.

What does this inscription tell you about Wallace and Grover? What story runs between the lines?

See Photographylife.com for a stunningly illustrated article on “Exploring the Beauty of Cemeteries.”

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