Genealogists are lucky to have graveyards! Strange but true.
Cemeteries have been the focus of many field explorations by family historians and have yielded substantial information about our ancestors. Memorial information often gives researchers valuable data concerning people: name (particularly spelling); birth dates (sometimes); death dates (naturally); spouses; children; places of residence; occupations; religion (occasionally); etc. Some of the verses and poems engraved on headstones are also interesting and may offer a personal glimpse into how the deceased was viewed in life.
Almost every family history society have organized committees to record burial data, including photos of headstones. The local society in Calgary has published 15 volumes of cemetery records (available in electronic form) and allows visitors to their website to search thousands of entries of basic data of those interred, for free.
The oldest stone recording the lives of members of my family dates from the 1790s. Shown on the memorial is:
the Body of
RICHARD SHEPHEARD Junior
who Died Nov. 23d 1794 Aged 32 years
also MARY SHEPHEARD
who died Sep. 4h 1797 Aged 62 years
Now here we lie as you may see;
As you are now so once were we;
As we are now so Must you be;
God give you Grace to follow we.
also RICHARD SHEPHEARD Senior
who Died May 23d 1803 Aged 76 years
Richard Jr. was my 4th great-granduncle. His parents, Richard Sr. and Mary were my 5th great-grandparents. All were born in Cornwood, Devon, England. Richard Jr. did marry a lady named Catherine Watts, in Cornwood. They had two children together who also went on to marry in Cornwood and have children there. After Richard’s death Catherine remarried a man named John Northmore. They moved to a nearby parish where they had seven more children. That explains why she is not on the memorial.
The above example is a little different as it starts with a child and then adds the parents’ names, although the death dates are in chronological order. The one below has the father first, the son second and the mother third. The death dates are again in order. Harriet (nee Shepheard) was my 2nd cousin, 4 times removed.
The inscription reads:
BORN JANUARY 27TH 1830,
DIED SEPTEMBER 13TH 1902.
ALSO IN LOVING MEMORY OF
THE BELOVED SON OF
GEORGE & HARRIET HAYNES,
KILLED IN ACTION IN FRANCE,
AUGUST 12TH 1917,
INTERRED IN FOSSE 10 COMMUNAL
CEMETERY, EXTENSION, SAINS-EN-GOHELLE.
ALSO THE ABOVE
WHO DIED SEPTEMBER 8TH 1930,
AGED 82 YEARS
The memorial indicates the son was killed in France during the Great War. He was buried there, not in Cornwood, as the information on the stone says, but he is remembered on this grave marker. Interestingly, he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force (28th Canadian Battalion, Saskatchewan Regiment), not the British Army. We are not sure why but his attestation form showed a birth date two years later than his actual birthday – another curious fact. The memorial is correct in that it indicates his birth took place in 1885. Looks like another family story to chase down. There is quite a lot of information on this marker.
The headstone for the grave of my 4th great-grandparents shows he was “for many years a carpenter” in Cornwood parish.
And this one for another 4th great-granduncle, Arthur Shepheard, says he lived at Middle Rook in Cornwood parish.
Cemetery memorials and headstones have proved to be important sources of information about ancestors. Wouldn’t it be great if they went back further?