Thursday, July 30, 2009

Meet: Gale Wall, Author "Digital Cemetery Walk"

The forty fifth in a series

featuring a member of

The Graveyard Rabbit Association


I took my first grave photos on a school trip to Washington D. C. as a fifth grader. I still have the ones for John F. Kennedy and the Tomb of the Unknowns. I remember photographing the grave of George and Martha Washington but I don’t know what happened to it. The historical significance was most likely the reason I took them instead of any attraction.

My love of cemeteries developed through genealogy. It wasn't until the last few years that I really noticed the beauty that can be found in a cemetery. In the beginning my visits were limited to locating specific people, photographing the headstone for my records and leaving. That all changed along the way.

Fast forward several decades from those first 3 photos and I find time well spent walking and discovering the people of our silent cities. Some cemeteries beckon you. Often I am drawn to a particular part of a cemetery or even a particular grave. I need no explanation. How long has it been since some have had a visitor? Or had their name spoken out loud?

I have become very interested in the symbolism found on many headstones. As I stand before a grave I [almost] ask “what am I being told about you?” Many of our ancestors left us a message about those that have departed this life through headstones and epitaphs. What will your headstone tell about you?

Before this online association was developed I knew I wasn’t alone in my interest. Although connected, our blogs reveal our differences. I am inspired by others and hope what I share will do the same from time-to-time.

New Article Available in the GYR Online Journal

Randy Seaver answers the question “What is the job of a Sexton at the Cemetery” in his Digging for Answers column.

I've always wondered about this myself.  My own experiences visiting large and active San Diego area cemeteries is that there is a cemetery staff headed by a manager or director that reports to a government board or to a company board of directors.  I'm not sure that they even have a person with the job title "sexton."

On the other hand, I've visited several cemeteries in rural Massachusetts that had no office or maintenance building on the grounds and there was no person available to answer questions or help people searching for specific gravesites.  In other places, I've found an office in a maintenance building that had a card file of the residents of the cemetery, with a person who was very helpful in providing directions to the gravesite, and apparently supervised a small staff of gardeners and gravediggers.

Read Randy’s answer at the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Meet: Joshua Inayat, Author of "Cemetery Seeker"

The forty fourth in a series

featuring a member of

The Graveyard Rabbit Association


Cemetery Seeker

Greetings to everyone! Let me first say it is an honor to be recognized among such fine people, and I'm proud to call you my peers and friends. There is so much dedication, passion, love and talent among these ranks that I have no doubt this group is something very unique and very special.

Like many of you my interest in cemeteries began at an age too early for me to remember, even at my young age of 25. My driving inspiration however, isn't genealogy or history or architecture. These for me are just icing on the cake. They are all areas of study I love.

Tygh Valley, Oregon. Usually the trip to the cemetery is quite spectacular

Many who don't understand call me things like morbid, though my interest has little to do with the physical death represented in my favorite places. Again not my driving interest, but each time I visit a cemetery I am forced to reconcile with the fact of my own mortality. I would like to think it helps me be a better person in my daily life. My driving interest, why I do what I do, is something I have had a hard time admitting to myself; much less you, my friends. You'll see why.I grew up in Upstate New York and those of you on that end of the country know very well what lush and incredible history there is to be found in the cemeteries. Plentiful, occasionally vast, and chalk full of Victorian style monuments celebrating tragedy, mourning, love, mortality and the great passage into death. How I love those cemeteries! They're so honest, and in their own way vibrant.

I live now in the dead center of Oregon. Pardon the pun, there really aren't all that many dead out here. If you have never been west, all you have to do is visit my blog ( which is complementary to my photography gallery ( There you will see the some of the best cemeteries the west has to offer. In some rare cases, it's everything you would imagine it to be with the abandoned homesteads and cowboy hats to boot.

These cemeteries here in the west are a different sort from the east in every manner. They're small, often hard to find (if not impossible) and dangerous in so many ways. Most pioneer cemeteries were marked out with wooden crosses and often have a dozen stone markers or less. There are no life size angels or family mausoleums of impeccable beauty. These cemeteries, some still in use, are often home to ground hogs digging leg breaking holes concealed by sage brush.

Less frequently an adventurous spirit may run across a rattlesnake, a nest of black widow spiders or belligerent rancher with a rifle. Worse than that, a belligerent rancher's hot-tempered prize bull has charged me. I got away, but barely. That's the reason for my blog. So that I can share my adventures with my fellow citizens so that they need not make the journey and should they feel the need, they could do so safely with my guidance.

Now you're asking, Why? If the cemeteries here in the west haven't the artwork nor depth in history (albeit recent and interesting anyway) that I love in eastern cemeteries. Why bother going at all? What else is there? Surely it's not fun, driving 150 miles in dry heat and dust down roads, which haven't been roads since the Model T, looking at old maps for abandoned mining towns? Actually, it's the time of my life. But not even the adventure is what I'm after. And trust me, it's an adventure when there's nothing in sight in 360 degrees but the dirt path you're on and rolling desert and fallow fields.

Old Wagon Road, circa 1890

The part that I had to admit to myself. The part that took years of denying, fronting and repressing. This is the part you won't believe, and the part that ensures I walk alone but for my lovely soon-to-be-wife. I go for the company. I refuse to use any other words or phrase other than in tune, or perhaps observant.

The big eastern necropolis of the east with angels and death monuments and spirits galore are fantastic because there, no matter the amount of living foot traffic, I can get in tune. The fewer visitors the better as the living seem to for lack of a better word, saturate the area. When there are too many people (living, that is) around they drown out the subtle feelings I get from beyond. Since many cemeteries here in the west that are active are for all intents and purposes almost brand new, many are "Memorial Gardens... With an old section." Even in a place with very little foot traffic, I can in almost no circumstances "tune in" when staring at a manicured lawn with fake flowers. No matter how awesome the view.

So I track down the silent ones so that they need not be silent any longer. Overgrown with nature, abandoned entirely in some cases, virtually nobody visits. In some cases it's like discovering it all anew. Here, with nothing but the sound of the wind sweeping the long open earth, I can hear just a little bit beyond what I'm supposed to. It is in these places where few living ever go, that I can be among those who have come and gone. My connection to this side of our world is at best thin, due to my ability to observe. I don't get along well with most of what our Modern American society has to offer, and I often feel I'm from another time and place altogether. I try not to judge it, or myself, in any sense. I try not to apply any meaning, spiritual, religious or otherwise. I merely observe and accept. I photograph the cemeteries I visit and process the pictures to bring out an artistic rendering. I photograph to capture what I feel with my heart, rather than what I see with my eyes. Though sometimes I just get lucky, and capture something truly authentic and moving that needs no editing at all.

Now I realize that some or all of you are protesting in all different manners. The one I hear the most, aside from It's all in your imagination, is: Why would dead people hang out in a cemetery anyway? First, I cannot convince you one way or another what is real about my experiences. You are free to accept or reject and feel as you wish. You are welcome to stop reading. Either you have experienced or you haven't, either you want to or you don't. Any which way, it's okay! Keep in mind, it has taken me the better part of a decade to get to the point where I feel comfortable sharing. Likewise, for you skeptics out there, I have taken over 20,000 digital photographs of cemeteries and supposed "haunted places," without a single wisp of a hint of a ghost in a single picture. Nadda, zero, zilch. Go figure. Even the places you just know are haunted, like old insane asylums of yesteryear.

Hot Lake Resort, Former Insanitorium & Mayo Clinic. Ghost Free, according to Olympus and Canon

Secondly, "Dead People" aren't dead. They're not like their bodies anyway, and those are dead. "Dead People" are just People. You might say they happen to be neuro-synaptically challenged. And no, they don't hang out in cemeteries Usually.But we do. I do. When you don't have a body of flesh you have a body of thought, in my experience. Our consciousness seems to be our true body. So what are you doing, if those who have passed on are thought; when you see their name and dates and you think about them? Cemeteries are, as far as I can gather, a phone book to the other side. Just like if you start calling random numbers in the real phone book, some people pick up and others aren't home. Some are happy, some are grouchy. Some just assume you're trying to sell them something and hang up, some are hoping you're publishers clearing house. Ectetera, ectetera, extra. Personally, my reception is bad. I almost never get any form of direct auditory communication. I just get feelings. Usually people just want to share their lives or hear the news. There is as much variety as anywhere people gather. My spirit is always lifted when I can lend a shoulder to cry on, or help in any other way. Sometimes I can make somebody's day just by clearing pine needles off a marker so it can be read better. And that my friends, is my story. That is why I visit cemeteries. I simply like to do my best to depart from this world, as completely as possible for a spell. I photograph these journeys in a desperate attempt to share with the world this little secret I know. And I blog about it so that nobody else has to get charged by a bull.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Article Available in the GYR Online Journal

Sheri Fenley talks about the Cemetery and Funeral Home Reviews website in this week’s Educated Rabbit column.

Think about the last time you had interaction with the staff at a cemetery.  Did you have a good experience?  Perhaps the person you dealt with won the "Ms. Crankypants of the Year" award recently.  Well now there is a place to record your experience, good or bad, happy or sad.

Cemetery and Funeral Home Reviews asks the question, "How Responsive is Your Cemetery?"  This website, owned by Sherry Hightower, is set up for people to place comments about services rendered or request for information from cemetery and funeral home staff.  Somewhat like a movie or restaurant review.

Read the rest of the article at the Graveyard Rabbits Online Journal.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Reminder: GYR Carnival Submissions Due 7/25

Don’t forget, submissions for the August 2009 edition of the GYR Carnival are due on July 25th.

The topic for the August 2009 edition of the GYR Carnival is Favorite Photo. Choose your favorite cemetery-related photo and bring it to the carnival. Post the photo to your blog, along with a short description of the photo, where it was taken, and why it’s your favorite.

Submissions for this edition are due July 25th. Please submit your article using the blog carnival submission form.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Article Available in the GYR Online Journal

Julie Cahill Tarr discusses the symbol of the cross in the Photo Monument column this week.

The cross symbol has been around for a long time.  It’s closely associated with Christianity, but according to Douglas Keister in his book Stories in Stone, the cross may actually predate Christianity (page 172).

In general, the cross symbolizes a faith in God.  The cross is often seen in cemeteries either as a gravestone adornment or freestanding marker.

You can read the entire article at the Graveyard Rabbits Online Journal.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Meet Jean Duncan: The Graveyard Rabbit of Aroostook County, Maine

The forty third in a series

featuring a member of

The Graveyard Rabbit Association


The Graveyard Rabbit of Aroostook County, Maine

Why do I love Graveyard Rabbit?

Well, I got the genealogy bug first.

I started collecting my own genealogy after attending a family reunion twenty-five years ago. I always had an interest in history, but it wasn’t until I became engrossed with filling in pedigree charts and family data sheets that I became hooked

Looking back, several people helped bring my interest in family history along. My father’s cousin Olive encouraged me to become the member in my generation to carry on preserving our family history. She fed me obituaries, letters, photos, and many stories before her death in the summer of 2008.

1984 family reunion

My husband’s great-aunt Susie was another encourager. She gave us her genealogy to copy. It was filled with handwritten detailed entries for every cousin, sibling, and ancestor. She illustrated her album with photos that had been sent to her over a lifetime. She included her own memories and also made references to many burial plots for the family.

My husband’s aunt Marietta led us on a once-in-a-lifetime “cemetery tour” in New Brunswick. My husband videotaped the adventure as our vanload of family members meandered the winding back roads of Salisbury. Great-aunt Alberta, the oldest female family member at the time, sat in the front seat and told great tales of growing up as we toured the area.

2004 Woodland, Maine Family Reunion

As a child, I always listened intently to the interchange of stories between my father, my grandfather, and Dad’s uncles, aunts, and cousins at holiday meals. Some of the stories were repeated often, but that did not matter. Usually the stories had a “punch-line” and ended with lots of laughter.

Another more recent influence was the discovery of my great-uncle Harry’s World War I letters. He was killed in 1918 and buried in France. I was given the sixty letters he wrote home.. It was a wonderful mystery revealed as I transcribed the letters. I gained a new appreciation for the sacrifice of those who died in war and its effect on the family back home.

Harry's memorial stone in Evergreen Cemetery, Caribou, ME

I developed an interest in the early settlers of New Sweden in part due to the number of people that would visit the local museum and ask at the gift shop where I volunteered for information about relatives in the cemetery next door. I started collecting the locally published data on the earliest settlers and created a website using Reunion software.

During the last two summers, I spent many peaceful hours silently photographing around the cemetery in New Sweden, Maine. It’s a very pretty place in the summer, nice in its own way during the six months of winter when everything is buried under several feet of snow.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New Article Available in the GYR Online Journal

Diane Wright is our guest columnist for A Rabbit’s Tale this week.  In her article, she discusses the importance of newspapers in both genealogical and cemetery research.

It may seem low-tech, but old newspapers are actually a treasure trove of possible information on genealogy as well as cemetery history. Don't disregard newspapers just because you think they are awkward to search or that they won't offer much beyond an obituary or two. Old newspapers offer a wide range of cemetery stories, facts, and information.

You can read the entire article at the Graveyard Rabbits Online Journal.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Article Available at the GYR Online Journal

Tech T.I.P. columnist, Denise Olson, writes a great article about the Cemetery Portal at WeRelate.

WeRelate is consistently named the best of the best in any list of family history web sites.  Not only does it provide a free platform for building your family tree and documenting the lives of the people who populate it, it also provides facilities to document related information such as sources, places, research guides, and images to help the researcher.  We Rabbits will be especially interested in the growing collection of cemetery pages found here.  Cemeteries are doing so well, a Cemetery Portal has been set up to help users find these helpful resources.

You can read the entire article at the Graveyard Rabbits Online Journal.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Call for Submissions – GYR Carnival August 2009 Edition

gyr-augThe topic for the August 2009 edition of the GYR Carnival is Favorite Photo. Choose your favorite cemetery-related photo and bring it to the carnival. Post the photo to your blog, along with a short description of the photo, where it was taken, and why it’s your favorite.

Submissions for this edition are due July 25th. Please submit your article using the blog carnival submission form.

Upcoming Topics

  • September – Carousel
  • October – Funeral Cards
  • November – Write Your Own Epitaph
  • December – In the News

Looking for Topics for Next Year

Do you have a topic idea for the GYR Carnival? If so, please leave a comment on this post with your ideas for next year’s topics.

Graveyard Rabbits Carnival – July 2009

Welcome to the July 2009 edition of graveyard rabbits carnival. What a great edition we have this month! First, I want to thank the 15 authors who took the challenge and submitted such wonderful posts.

The topic for this edition is Obituaries. Participants were asked to find a gravestone and then find the obituary, or vice versa. There are 16 great posts that share not only wonderful gravestone photos, but a glimpse into the person’s life through their obituary. Some will make you smile and some will make you shed a tear, so grab a piece of Kleenex before you start reading.

Randy Seaver presents David Auble (1817-1894) - Gravestone and Obituary posted at Genea-Musings, saying, "David Auble (1817-1894) lies in a Terre Hauite cemetery resting under a nice stone, and his obituary identifies his living relatives and where they lived. Cool!"

Dorene Paul presents Harry Milner Steen posted at Graveyard Rabbit of Sandusky Bay, saying, "The newspaper obituary, and the ‘card of thanks’ from the Steen and Milner families, give insight into what a special little boy Harry Milner Steen was to his family, and how much they dearly loved him."

Joshua Inayat presents July 09 GYR Challenge: Find a Marker & The Obit posted at Cemetery Seeker. Joshua shares with us the tombstone and obituary for James Terwilliger of Portland, Oregon.

Midge Frazel presents George O. MINER Obituary posted at Granite in My Blood, saying, "Farmer and businessman, George O. Miner, was married to my great-grandaunt, 117 years ago today! I photographed their gravestones in 2004 but didn't receive this obituary until 2007. It is another piece of confirming evidence in this interesting ancestral line."

Jean Duncan presents Tombstone Tuesday: Stella and Bill Buzzell posted at Forget Me Knots: My Ancestors and My Ghosts, saying, "Enjoyed doing this, even though I'm not an official Graveyard Rabbit (but I would like to be one)." Editior’s Note: No need to be a GYR to submit to the Carnival, but Jean, we’d love to have you!

Sue Fitzpatrick presents Charlotte Cunningham Finkel (1912-1996) posted at Madronia Cemetery Graveyard Rabbit, saying, "Here's an older entry - but will be on the lookout for more obits."

Amy Crooks presents Tombstone Tuesday - Greiff Couple posted at Untangled Family Roots, saying, "I chose to find the obituary of a couple buried at the Wild Rose Cemetery. Though I was never able to find his, I did find hers. Their family still lives on the family farm and has created a museum in their honor out of one of the big red barns on the property."

Diane Wright presents Annie. E. Wright for July Carnival posted at The Grave Yard Rabbit Travels Wright.

Henk van Kampen presents An obituary posted at Roots, saying, "An obituary of Theo Pardoen by the NCGOV, the protestant association of the Dutch temperance movement."

Stephanie Lincecum presents Champion Pig Club Member is Dead posted at Southern Graves, saying, "William Wesley Middlebrooks, Champion Pig Club Member, dead at the age of 14."

Lisa Burks presents Mortician, Bury Thyself posted at Adventures in Grave Hunting by Lisa Burks, saying, "While researching the history of Grand View Memorial Park in Glendale, California, for an upcoming local history book about the cemetery, I discovered that a majority of the local mortuary founders were buried or interred there. My entry is a short blog post about William W. Crippen. I discovered his crypt first, then looked up his obituary."

Linda Hughes Hiser presents Graveyard Rabbits Carnival--Alpheus Frum posted at Flipside, saying, "Alpheus Frum lived, died, and is buried on family land outside Morgantown, West Virginia."

Linda Stienstra presents Headstone>Obituary>Obituary>No Headstone posted at Lancaster Pennsylvania's Graveyard Rabbit, saying, "One headstone led to one obituary, which led to another obituary, which led to the spot where a headstone should be. Hartman to Hartman, 200 feet apart! Were they related? Not that I could figure out! Read the story…."

Judith Richards Shubert presents JOHN KENDRICK CONVERSE – Necrological Report posted at Cemeteries of the Covered Bridges, saying, "Visiting Burlington, Vermont, in 2001, I found this beautiful monument to the Rev. John Kendrick Converse in the Lakeview Cemetery. His obituary is included with others in this Necrology Report from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1881."

Julie Cahill Tarr presents two submissions, one for each of her GYR blogs. The first, Hester Vernon BROWN Fell (1819-1906) posted at Cemeteries of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois looks at the life of Hester Fell, wife of Normal pioneer, Jess W. Fell. The second submission, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) posted at Chicagoland Cemeteries talks about the death of Lincoln and the funeral train that passed through Chicago on the way to its final destination of Springfield, Illinois.

That concludes this edition. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page. Be sure to join us for our next edition, where the topic will be Favorite Photo.