Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meet Tess Conrad, "The New Orleans Graveyard Rabbit"

The forty seventh in a series
featuring a member of
The Graveyard Rabbit Association


The New Orleans Graveyard Rabbit

Hello everyone, and thank you for the opportunity to introduce myself: I'm Tess Conrad, New Orleans Graveyard Rabbit. I'm originally from New York, and fell in love with NOLA on my first visit in 1994, finally moving down with my fiancee and daughter in 2002. The time has flown by and I've just sent my kiddo off to her first semester at college, so I've found lots of time to be re-allocated to my other loves- writing, photography, our menagerie (2 parrots, 3 dogs and various wandering cats) & garden- and of course, the Graveyard Rabbits blog! I work for the Preservation Resource Center here in New Orleans, helping to save our amazing architectural history and also have recently begun volunteering for RAOGK and, but unlike many Rabbits, my interest has not been so much genealogical as cultural. Like the homes I deal with in my day job, the tombs have their own architectural styles with fantastical detail work and are worthy of their title of "cities of the dead."
St. Louis No. 3 - City of the Dead
From the very beginning I loved them- how could I not? More than any other place in the US, death continues to be a comfortable part of life here, filled with unique rituals and a genuine joy that I've never seen anywhere else. There is an acceptance here of the yin and yang of life- sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down, but you're only here once, so you might as well make the most of it while you can.
Given that philosophy, there's always a reason to have a party in New Orleans, and funerals are no different. To the usual wake and mass we add jazz and second lines- parades to and from the grave site to see your loved ones off with a smile and a good hip-shaking, soul-affirming boogie. From the most affluent citizen to the very poorest, everyone has a different unique tradition, and death truly is a family affair.
For instance it definitely pays to make nice with your annoying Uncle Bill before he dies, because you'll likely be spending eternity with him in a very real way, given that most burials here are in family tombs. Most have just 2 vaults inside, but they're used dozens of times with the remains of the previous occupants moved down into the base to mingle with those of their ancestors.
Crumbling Cuban Society Tombs and wall vaults
For those too poor to afford their own tombs, there are several options, from Society Tombs (death guilds, basically, with a very specific sort of 'clubhouse') or wall vaults (essentially apartments for the dead where you're welcome to stay as long as you like- assuming your family's kept the rent paid up- another reason to make nice with them before you die), or as a last resort there's the New Orleans version of Potter's Field, and even there people carve out and personalize a niche for themselves and their families, returning to that same spot for generations to bury their dead. Plus, of course, there are all the strange things only found here. Voodoo Queens. Pirates. Jazz greats, heroes and revolutionaries, to say nothing of all the tall tales and hauntings courtesy of romantic fancies by the likes of Anne Rice. We have a bumper sticker here: We put the FUN in funeral. My goal to do the same for my Graveyard Rabbit blog, and I hope you stop by and dance along with us!

New Article Available in the GYR Online Journal

Randy Seaver tackles the following question in his Digging For Answers column:  What are the best online databases for cemeteries?

There are quite a few online databases for cemetery records.  Some records are in large databases for completely surveyed cemeteries, and other databases have only partial compilations.  Many of these records were generated by volunteers working with the cemeteries, or by just "walking the cemetery" and noting the inscriptions.  In many cases, genealogical and historical societies have sponsored projects to collect inscriptions and/or cemetery burial records from cemetery files.  Of course, there are many cemetery inscriptions and burial records that are not online. 

For Randy’s list of online cemetery resources, read the entire article in the Graveyard Rabbits Online Journal.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reminder – GYR Carnival Submissions Due 9/25

Just a friendly reminder that submissions for the October 2009 edition of the Graveyard Rabbits Carnival are due on September 25th.

The topic for the edition is funeral cards.  Posts could talk about the customs and traditions related to funeral cards or you could share a card from your collection.

Please submit your article using the blog carnival submission form.  Be sure to include a short description of your post in the “remarks” section of the submission form.

Hope to see you there!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Article Available in the GYR Online Journal

Educated Rabbit columnist, Sheri Fenley, shares with us a great story about a restoration project in San Joaquin County, California.

When a fellow member of the San Joaquin County Genealogical Society told me about a man who was restoring a cemetery in San Joaquin County, I jumped to investigate. Not since the Harmony Grove Church Cemetery Restoration Project in Lockeford has there been such an undertaking.

Mr. Bob Anglin has been spending much of his spare time at the Collegeville Cemetery located at the corner of South Jack Tone Road and East Mariposa, about 6 miles east of Stockton.

Be sure to read the entire article in the Graveyard Rabbits Online Journal.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Meet: Teresa Elliott, author of "Rutherford County, Tennessee Cemeteries"

The forty sixth in a series
featuring a member of
The Graveyard Rabbit Association


I grew up in Antioch, TN. I had the advantage of being raised as an only child in a way, because my only brother had cerebral palsy and could not do the things that other brothers and sisters could do, like run and play games. But at the same time, my parents raised my youngest three aunts and uncles and numerous cousins lived with us as I was growing up, so I also had the advantage of being raised in a large household. I grew up on the family farm with aunts, uncles, grandparents as neighbors. It was the best of both worlds. I married my husband in 1985 and we moved to Alabama, where we still live with our three children. My ancestors are all from Rutherford County, TN, so that is where I do my research.

I got interested in genealogy around 1989, when my great aunt asked me to help her find the father of my third great grandfather, George L. Gee. That man remains a mystery to me and her today. But it opened a world of opportunities to me. I became interested in photographing cemeteries soon thereafter, when I visited my first cemetery, the Bennett Cemetery in Rutherford County, TN looking for my ancestor, Stephin Bennett, whose body had been stolen and taken by train to Burlington, VT in a box marked books. Stephin's grave robbing was what got me totally hooked on genealogy. I photographed that cemetery and from then on, when I'd find a new ancestor, Dad and I would find the graveyard and I'd photograph the entire cemetery.

Soon after my second child was born in 1991, I bought a computer and Roots III and began doing my genealogy seriously. When we finally got on the internet at home, my husband suggested that I start a cemetery site and put all the pictures I had taken online. I did, and soon others were sending me their images as well. That original website is still online at

Though we are no longer adding to that site and are currently moving all the images from that site to our Graveyard Rabbit blog at

Since starting the blog, I have partnered with Patsy Paterson, who lives in Rutherford County, TN and she takes pictures and I put images online from people who send them to us of individual cemeteries. It's fun to watch the blogs grow and to read what people write to me about the cemeteries.

I love using the blog format, because people can comment on a blog and that comment will stay with that cemetery. Before if someone sent me a comment, only I could read it. Now anyone can see the great genealogical information that is sent to me.

With progress, something has to be lost, and Rutherford County, TN has seen great progress in the 1990s. With it, our old cemeteries have been lost or destroyed. Hopefully we can preserve them online, so that future generations can at least see what they looked like in 2009. It saddens me to be putting up a blog of a WWI soldier and his tombstone is already missing. This is a man who fought for his country less than 100 years ago, and already his memory is gone. His great grandchildren have no record of where he is buried.

What advice would I give my photographers?This is what I tell anyone who asks if they can do a cemetery for us:

· Tennessee has snakes. Wear good protective shoes. Don't forget bug spray.

· Take plenty of water.

· Take a cell phone, but also take a buddy, because many rural areas don't have cell phone service. Also let someone at home know where you are going and when you plan on being back.

· Take snacks, because it's sometimes a long way to the nearest convenience store.

· Take plenty of batteries for your camera.

· Always let the people at the nearest house know what you are doing. They tend to not release the hounds or shoot if they know why you are in the cemetery.

· If you remove something from a headstone (flowers, ceramic figure, toys) put it back where you found it. Do not pick up trash, unless you are doing a cemetery cleanup or you see a trash can on site. (Most states have open container laws, best to leave that beer can where it lays)

· Take a first aid kit.

· Try to take every stone in the cemetery, unless it puts you in danger.

· Have fun.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Call for Submissions – GYR Carnival October 2009 Edition

The topic for the October 2009 edition of the Graveyard Rabbits carnival is funeral cards.  Posts could talk about the customs and traditions related to funeral cards or you could share a card from your collection.

Submissions are due September 25.  Please submit your article using the blog carnival submission form.  Be sure to include a short description of your post in the “remarks” section of the submission form.

Hope to see you there!!

Upcoming Topics

  • November 2009 – Write Your Own Epitaph
  • December 2009 – In the News
  • January 2010 – The Final Resting Place (idea submitted by Colleen McHugh)
  • February 2010 – Cemetery Critters (idea submitted by Diane Wright)
  • March 2010 – Forgotten Cemeteries (idea submitted by Tina Micheal Ruse)
  • April 2010 – Anonymous Graves (idea submitted by Henk van Kampen)
  • May 2010 – Cause of Death (idea submitted by Matt Hucke)
  • June 2010 – The Interesting, The Odd, The Beautiful (idea submitted by Gale Wall)

Graveyard Rabbits Carnival – September 2009

Welcome to the September 2009 edition of Graveyard Rabbits carnival.  This is a “carousel” edition, where submissions are about anything cemetery-related.  We have 15 wonderful articles, so grab your favorite beverage, sit back, and enjoy.

Evelyn Yvonne Theriault presents St.Simon & St.Jude Cemetery: Grande Anse, New Brunswick posted at A Canadian Family, saying, "After 6 months of blogging I've decided to finally start focusing on the information I've collected through cemetery visits."

Linda Hughes Hiser presents Graveyard Rabbits Carnival--Carousel posted at Flipside, saying, "A graveyard carousel of trees."

Elyse presents Laid to Rest at Sea posted at The Graveyard Rabbit Student!.

Randy Seaver presents The La Vista GAR Memorial and Civil War soldiers posted at South San Diego County Graveyard Rabbit, saying, "One of my missions as a Graveyard Rabbit is to document the resting place of Civil War soldiers in South San Diego county. Here is one part of that work."

Dorene Paul presents Second Lieutenant Dolsen Vankirk of the Ohio 65th posted at Graveyard Rabbit of Sandusky Bay, saying, "Second Lieutenant Dolsen Vankirk, buried at Oakland Cemetery in Sandusky, Ohio, died in the line of duty on December 31, 1862 at the Battle of Stone River."

John Thomas Grant presents A Favorite Photo posted at "Cemetery" - Photography by John Thomas Grant, saying, ""Forever My Love" - one of my sweetest."

Linda Jean Limes Ellis presents Gilboa Cemetery - Paint Township - Highland County, Ohio - New Book published by Marianna Kerns Morgan posted at Exploring almost forgotten gravesites in Ohio, saying, "Announcing a newly published book for the Gilboa Cemetery - Paint Township, Highland County, Ohio."

Midge Frazel presents Traveling Photographer posted at Granite in My Blood, saying, "Grab the brass ring on the Carousel by visiting the gravestone of the "Traveling Photographer" who took many of my family's "Scholfield Bros" photographs. A man of adventure, Everett Scholfield even traveled to the West Indies!"

Teresa Elliott presents Graveyard Rabbit Carnival-September 2009 posted at Rutherford County, TN Cemeteries, saying, "This post is about grave robbing."

Gale Wall presents Library Shelf: Cemetery Resources posted at Digital Cemetery Walk, saying, "My personal research library contains resources for genealogy and cemeteries, among many other books. This is my list of cemetery resources.

Denise Olson presents Huguenot Cemetery – 1892 Inventory posted at The Graveyard Rabbit of Moultrie Creek, saying, "The 1892 inventory of the historic Huguenot Cemetery in St. Augustine, Florida, is a researcher's dream. Now that inventory has been transcribed and is available here."

Sean Lamb presents Finding the stones posted at Finding the Flock, saying, "I describe some of the successes I've had this week and one large caveat of using Find A Grave to locate cemetery and gravestone inscription information."

Janet Iles presents Graveyard Rabbit of Grey County, Ontario: Memorial to Rev. Fr. Granottier at St. Mary's Cemetery, Owen Sound posted at Graveyard Rabbit of Grey County, Ontario, saying, "I chose to feature the memorial at the local Catholic cemetery. While researching something else, I found the information about the dedication of the memorial."

Henk van Kampen presents Who is Private Riley? posted at The graveyard rabbit of Utrecht and Het Gooi, saying, "Private J. Riley, from the East Lancashire Regiment, died in 1919— shortly after the great war—and was buried in Amersfoort. Who was Private Riley and how did he end up in Amersfoort?"

Sheri Fenley presents The Great Restoration - Collegeville Cemetery, San Joaquin County posted at The Educated Graveyard Rabbit, saying, "The great restoration project in San Joaquin County, California."

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