Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Article on the GYR Online Journal

This week in our Rabbit's Tale column Tammi Thiele, of Escape to the Silent Cities, shares with us about the folklore associated with Lilacs.

"The lilac plant is one of many beautiful plants that has been given a bad reputation because of its original uses during the Victorian era and the many beliefs held about it."

Hop on over to the GYR Online Journal to read the entire article.

Note from your Editor:
I am working on the 2011 schedule for the GYR Online Journal and will be seeking authors for our new columns. If you have an interest in providing an article for the following columns, please contact me at Each column will run 4 times in 2011. I have specific dates if you are interested in that information.
  • The Rabbit’s Tale A - little of this, a little of that
  • The International Rabbit - Our cemeteries abroad
  • Cemetery Spotlight - Your favorite cemetery featured
  • Mausoleums or Columbariums - A look inside or out
  • Famous File - Local or national
  • Cemetery Art - Beauty you see in the cemetery
  • Final Word - Epitaphs to share
  • [title pending] Publications & Websites Reviewed [formerly The Educated Rabbit]

 Hoppy Summer!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Meet Robert J. C. Baca, Author of "Socorro and the Beyond Graveyard Rabbit Blog"

The sixty eighth in a series
featuring a member of
The Graveyard Rabbit Association


I want to say that I was one of those people who loved to do tombstone rubbings as a child, but that would be a lie. As a kid, I wasn’t interested in cemeteries, or for that matter genealogy. As a teenager, my father tried to get me interested in researching my family tree, but I would not have any part of it. In fact, it wasn’t until after my father’s passing that I actually became interested in looking for dead people.

One of my first experiences with cemeteries was early on in my family history quest. A gene buddy of mine, Sam Padilla, mentioned to me the San Miguel Cemetery in Socorro, New Mexico needed to be surveyed. Sam, who was one of my first contacts in the genealogical community, had been transcribing tombstone inscriptions in Socorro County for over a decade. He believed that the San Miguel Cemetery was too large for one person to survey. Therefore, Sam, my sister Janis, a few other volunteers and I transcribed all of the names in the cemetery in just one day. Our efforts may be found at this
link. The New Mexico Genealogical Society was the original sponsor of the project. Currently, I am the president of that organization.

My primary focus on genealogy has always been on researching documents, rather than strolling through cemeteries. However, I have always used cemetery research to glean information about my relatives. Birth and death dates can be found on tombstones. So can relationships. I have often used cemetery records or actual on site research of cemetery markers to find distant cousins, uncles and aunts. Finding this information on the ground first, and then confirming it through documents later has always been a satisfying part of my work.

I began my
“Socorro and the Beyond Graveyard Rabbit” blog when I realized that I needed a specific place to post my cemetery research. I had been posting everything genealogical on “The Baca/Douglas Genealogy and Family History Blog”. However, it had now become my intention to develop my cemetery research, and I needed someone specific to publish it.

Before finishing off my profile, I would like to mention a few of my favorite tombstones and memorials. In my opinion, the best memorials are not the huge monstrosities that can be found in some cemeteries. Large crypts and obelisks do not impress me. What I find fascinating are those tombstones that have family history behind them. The list below includes just a few that I enjoy for their genealogical value:

Philip Bourguinon – my 2nd great-grandfather’s remains were buried in an almost unknown cemetery in Lemitar, New Mexico called the Camposanto Viejo (“old cemetery” in Spanish.) The cemetery is located in a place that was probably not too far from where Bourguinon’s store and the town post office was located. The tombstone itself is a Civil War era tombstone – he had served in the Union Army prior to and during the early part of the Civil War. Link.

Maria Guadalupe Torres is a 4th great-grandmother of mine of whom I wrote about in the New Mexico Genealogist, a print journal for our society. Although she herself was not a history maker, she did give birth to a number of remarkable individuals. Her sons included mayors of Socorro, state legislators, and founders of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. One of her sons was the sole administrator of the Socorro Land Grant during the late 1800s; a man who had a considerable amount of power over 1000s of acres of land. She also raised one of my 2nd great-grandfathers, Crespin Torres. This man, her nephew, shows up on a completely separate line of my family tree. One other remarkable fact about my 4th great-grandmother Guadalupe: her memorial plaque probably marks the spot where she was buried, which is within the six foot thick walls of the San Miguel Church! Link.

Three rocks. This memorial proves that you don’t have to be big to make an impression. My aunt Theresa once showed my three rocks on the ground that had initials written on them. They were located in the San Miguel Cemetery. She told me that these three rocks were placed where three of my father’s siblings had been buried. One of my uncles, Robert Lewis Baca, had been stillborn before my father’s birth. My father was given his deceased brother’s first name when he was born. My grandmother had two other children who were stillborn: Lily Florence and Raymond Eugene. As is often the Catholic tradition, stillborn children are named and remembered. Therefore, these rocks - with their initials - were placed in this empty spot in the cemetery. I did not take a photo of the rocks, nor have I been able to find them since then. Therefore, they may be lost to posterity. However, I discovered abstracts of their death certificates online, which confirms the existence of these children and helps my family to continue to remember them. Read about my uncles and aunt
here and here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Meet Kimberly Sawtelle, Author of "On A Grave Subject"

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


I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology (which, these days, comes with a paper hat and cue card that reads: “Do you want fries with that?”). Gravestone studies are a way for me to use my degree when I’m not at my day-job earning money to pay the mortgage.

My interest in cemetery research is in seeing how people depict identity through public display and mortuary practice. Every cemetery I visit is my favorite. Each cemetery has as much to offer as the residents had to offer in life, because graveyards are reflections of community characteristics and belief systems.

One fantastic location I recommend to anyone interested in cemetery research, however, is Roslyn, Washington. In pop culture, Roslyn is known as Cicely, Alaska, home to the beloved characters populating the 1990-1995 television show Northern Exposure. A lesser-known fact is that Roslyn contains a 15-acre complex of 25, mostly ethnic and fraternal order, cemeteries. There are an estimated 5000 graves within the cemetery complex. The site as a whole is designated as Roslyn Historical Cemetery and was placed on the National Register of Historic places in the late 1970s.

Among the cemeteries are: Mt. Olivet (Black Miner’s Cemetery); Old City Cemetery; the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF); Knights of Pythias Lodge; Soloka Lodge; Wanapum Tribe 28, Improved Order of Redmen; Caccia Tori D’Africa (Hunters of Africa—an Italian Lodge), the Croatian Fraternal Union Lodge No. 56, SNF Lodge No. 79 (Serbian); Saint Barbara Lodge No. 39 (Greek); and Dr. David Starcevich Lodge No. 56 (Croatian) cemetery. Each cemetery is identified with a carved wooden sign that provides visitors with a brief historical background.

This carved wooden sign reads: “The Old City Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Roslyn, founded in 1886. The cemetery contains the remains of miners who died in the coal mines and young children who died from numerous epidemics here.” (K. Sawtelle Photo: 05/19/2003)

Graves for at least four children of L. & A. Savage are still tended at Old City Cemetery. Far left, a small, rustic stump cross with an oak leaf cluster and a vandalized lamb marks the grave of Charles [illegible] Savage born April 1906 and died September 1906, aged 4 months and 16 days. The central cross marks graves for Johnnie, died April 1903, aged 15 months and Annie, died May 15, 1905. The second small stump, right of the cross, is not inscribed but marked only with a Christian cross. (K. Sawtelle Photo: 05/19/2003)

Although cemeteries are places for the dead, in my eyes, they are not dead places. Cemeteries and graveyards are ceremonial places where funerary and memorial rituals are carried out from season to season. Cemeteries are places where identities and memories of individuals and lives lived, are shared through verbal, written and artistic expression. For me, cemeteries are places of strong emotional release and the peace that descends following catharsis.

One of my favorite gravestones is quite ordinary in design but the inscription speaks volumes. In an era of stones that provide a man’s name in full, followed by the phrase “and wife” (frequently with only the woman’s first name), Ellen Hackett Doherty’s stone stands out.

When I first encountered the stones for Ellen and her husband, Neal, they were laying prone on the ground, the white marble blackened by soil and lichen and sod starting to creep up the edges. Brushing away lawn clippings and dried leaves, I looked upon Ellen’s marker and for the first time read, “Of your charity pray for the soul of Ellen Hackett / wife of Neal Doherty / A native of Russeltown / County Waterford Ireland / Who died May 3, 1891 / Aged 63 years.”

Grave markers for Ellen Hackett Doherty and her husband Neal Doherty lay prone for a number of years as grounds crew mowed around them. A change of cemetery administrators brought about the resurrection and repair of stones throughout the cemetery, including those of Ellen and Neal (K. Sawtelle Photo: 10/14/2001)

From the grave, Ellen reveals her identity and background in a way few women were memorialized in late 19th Century America. She was no mere “wife of…;” in her final statement to the world, Ellen claims her maiden name, native Irish home and heritage, and expresses her strength of faith. Bidding each passerby to consider their own humanity, Ellen calls for the charity of prayers for her soul. Having been pre-deceased by her husband by 18 years, it is a strong likelihood that Ellen was responsible for the choice of matching grave markers and the inscriptions they bear. Therefore, it is possible that it was actually Neal’s soul for which she expressed greatest concern.

For all these reasons, each time I visit this particular cemetery, I take time to visit Ellen and Neal and do the best I can in my own clumsy, non-denominational way, to abide by the plea for charity.

The stones of Ellen Hackett Doherty and Neal Doherty were restored in 2009. Neal’s full inscription reads: “Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends, for the hand of the Lord is upon me” — Job. Of your charity pray for the soul of / Neal Doherty / A native of Carndionagh [sic] / County Donegal Ireland / Who died Feb. 2, 1873, / Aged 55 years. May he rest in peace. Sweet Jesus, have mercy on him. We have loved him in life, let us not forget him in death. (K. Sawtelle Photo: 4/6/2009)

My introduction to cemeteries was through my family, first through Memorial Day visits to decorate graves and later traveling with my mother as she did genealogical research. No one in my family finds it particularly odd that I research gravestones and graveyards. My co-workers initially found it peculiar but I think the greater mystery for them is how I can possibly find research—something akin to actual work—relaxing!

Death is part of life. Most people prefer to spend time cooing at newborn babies, marveling at the miracle of birth and happily speculating over the promise of a life yet to be lived. I prefer to spend my time in cemeteries looking for clues about lives already lived as well as joys and sorrows long-since passed. It’s my feeling that at the moment of birth and the moment of death, we are closest to experiencing fully our shared humanity. For me, it isn’t two opposite ends of a spectrum but the point at which beginning and end join. Cemeteries are the ceremonial centers where we pay homage to our humanity, our mortality, our belief systems and the shared life experience.

Honestly, I became a Grave Yard Rabbit because I needed something to kick me in the butt and motivate me to start writing articles. Creating my blog as one of the conditions of membership spurred me to actually produce some outcome from two decades of research and yak-action about “the depiction of individual identity in a public space…, blah, blah, blah.” I found the organization through the ubiquitous technological entity, Facebook, and am glad I did because the group has inspired me to make serious progress in turning research into product.

Being part of GYR has been helpful in the study of specific gravestone designs and styles because it provides me with a ready network of people who share a similar interest and are willing to respond to inquiries about what they see and experience on the landscape. Since it isn’t economically feasible for me to travel the U.S. searching for similar styles of stones, by posting questions either on Facebook or in my blog, On a Grave Subject, I am able to get feedback and input from researchers everywhere. Truly, I think that ability to communicate with other researchers and share resources is the most valuable tool the group affords.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Article on the GYR Online Journal

This week in our Photo Monument column Gale Wall shares a link with us to Lettering in Marble from the Vermont Marble Company, published in the 1920's. Hop on over to the GYR Online Journal and read the booklet and the next time you see a marble headstone you just may look at it a little longer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gloom and Gleam Newsletter: June 2010

From your Editor:
There is always something new to discover in the world of cemeteries. Recently I traveled to Texas in my car stopping anywhere that I saw even a hint of a cemetery. I found that searching in areas that are not familiar present new dangers. The one that comes to mind is fire ants. In every cemetery there seemed to be fire ant mounds around the graves. Warnings should be posted. "Attention Tourist. Watch for Fire Ants." There were also several unusual graveyards to discover. The discovery is the fun part, then to photograph the cemetery and write about it makes me feel as though I accomplished something important to history. Does anyone else feel like this?
Another discovery is Grave House Legends. This is a newly published book about buildings that are made to look like a house, but are built over underground graves. I can't wait for another trip to see one of these houses.
Have you made any unusual discoveries?


News, Resources & News:
Dred Scott's wife, Harriet, honored

Featured GYR Blog Hop in and visit a while.

Featured GYR Photo See what the camera captured.

GYR Carnival 2010

July – Scavenger Hunt - (idea submitted by Julie Cahill Tarr)

August – Favorite Season - (idea submitted by Henk van Kampen)

September - Tombstone Genealogy, family history written on the stone (idea submitted by Diane Wright)

It’s not too early to submit ideas for 2011.

We encourage your ideas, tips and feedback. You can reach us at

Get out your summer hat and sunscreen and visit your favorite cemetery. Oh yes! and write about it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Article on the GYR Online Journal

This week in our Tech T.I.P. column Denise gives us tips on managing our blog archives. Hop on over to the GYR Online Journal and read the article.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Oops! The Call For GYRabbit Carnival Submissions


The topic for the July 2010 edition of the Graveyard Rabbits Carnival is: Scavenger Hunt.

This topic was submitted by Julie Cahill Tarr, who authors the blog, Chicagoland Cemeteries, and I think it's going to be a very unusual carnival. What can you dig up? Come on Rabbits, show us.

Submit your post to the carnival using the submission form. Submissions for this edition are due by June 25. Be sure to include a short description of your post in the “remarks” section of the submission form.

Scavenger Hunt Item List

Like a traditional scavenger hunt, the object is to find as many items as you can from the list below. In our case, those “items” are to be found in the cemetery, giving us a chance to explore it with a different set of eyes. Then share what you found and where you found it on your blog. Happy hunting!

Fraternal symbol
Four-legged animal
Military gravestone

Can you find them all? Be creative!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

New Article Available in the GYR Online Journal

In many cultures, men and women were treated differently at death.

The Cochieans buried their women,
but suspended their men from trees.

The Ghonds buried their women
but cremated their men.

The Bongas buried their men with their faces to the North
their women with their faces to the South.

Obituaries, The Woman’s Movement, & Humor

While researching women’s obituaries recently I came across a very interesting article written for Harper’s Magazine in 1921.

Have you heard of the National Women's Obituary Association?

You'll find the rest of this article from the History Hare in
the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Call For Submissions - Graveyard Rabbits Carnival July 2010 Edition


The topic for the July 2010 edition of the Graveyard Rabbits Carnival is: Scavenger Hunt.

This topic was submitted by Julie Cahill Tarr, who authors the blog, Chicagoland Cemeteries, and I think it's going to be a very unusual carnival. What can you dig up? Come on Rabbits, show us.

Submit your post to the carnival using the submission form. Submissions for this edition are due by June 25. Be sure to include a short description of your post in the “remarks” section of the submission form.

Upcoming Topics

  • August 2010 – Favorite Season
    (idea submitted by Henk van Kampen)

Graveyard Rabbit Carnival - June 2010


The topic for the June 2010 edition of the Graveyard Rabbits Carnival is: The Interesting, The Odd, The Beautiful. This topic was submitted by Gail Wall, who authors the blog, Digital Cemetery Walk .

In this edition of the GYRabbit Carnival we share those interesting, odd, and beautiful experiences we've stumbled upon in our cemeterywalks. Let's begin our virtual cemetery walk to see what you've found!

Dorene Paul presents Graveyard Rabbit of Sandusky Bay: Anne Hubbard Butler's Memorial Monument by Tiffany Studios posted at Graveyard Rabbit of Sandusky Bay."

Denise Olson presents Heretics posted at The Graveyard Rabbit of Moultrie Creek, saying, "A pristine beach hides a mass grave of French Huguenots massacred by the Spanish. They had already surrendered to the Spanish forces so why were they killed? They died because the Spanish considered them heretics."

Midge Frazel presents GYR: Rocks with an Owl posted at Granite in My Blood.

Henk van Kampen presents Odd, interesting, beautiful posted at The graveyard rabbit of Utrecht and Het Gooi.

M. Diane Rogers presents The Heartfelt - Graveyard Rabbits Carnival, June 2010 posted at CanadaGenealogy, or, 'Jane's Your Aunt'.

Elizabeth O'Neal presents The Beautiful and Unusual Headstone of Jim STULL posted at The Graveyard Rabbit of the California Central Coast.

Tina Micheal Rsue presents The Interesting,Odd, and Beautiful posted at Campo Santo-holy ground.

Carol Yates Wilkerson presents GYR Carnival: The Interesting, The Odd, The Beautiful posted at iPentimento | Genealogy and History.

Kimberly Sawtelle presents Gifts From The Heart: Homemade Monuments and Memorials. From plastic pelican planters to wire wheel rims, homespun grave markers and memorial displays provide a rich source of "The Interesting, The Odd, The Beautiful" to be found in cemeteries on the contemporary American landscape.

Pat Salt presents Best headstone yet! posted at The Genealogy Gals.

Tammi Thiele presents Soaring Like An Eagle - The Interesting, The Odd, The Beautiful...For the Graveyard Rabbit Carnival posted at Escape to the Silent Cities.

Gale Wall presents GYR Carnival The Interesting, The Odd, The Beautiful at posted Digital Cemetery Walk.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Graveyard Rabbit Carnival using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

And while you're here, take a look at past carnivals, there's so much interesting information to be found when you explore cemeteries with a Graveyard Rabbit:

Meet: Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman, Author of "Over Thy Dead Body"

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


What sparked your interest in cemeteries?

My interest in cemeteries was first sparked by my dad. When I was thirteen my parents took me back to Ireland for the first time, and I spent a lot of time wandering through old cemeteries across the countryside with my dad. As a young man he had cycled throughout Ireland and was well versed in the history of his homeland. Our mutual interest in cemeteries gave us an odd point of connection.

Do you have a favorite cemetery or headstone and why is it your favorite?

My favourite headstone is that which stands over the grave of my paternal grandmother Anne Magee, her brother Michael, and my great-grandparents Patrick and Mary Magee in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, Ireland. This stone is very special to me because it marks the first time I 'met' my grandmother and great-grandparents, and the first time the existence of Michael Magee was confirmed for me. When my family left Ireland the grave was unmarked; years later my dad and his siblings bought the headstone for it, but on our trips home my dad had never been able to locate it. There are over 1 million people buried in Glasnevin, and even though every plot has a corresponding number, finding a specific grave is not always an easy task. Dad died in 2000, and I found the grave in 2008, so I felt as though I had done it for him.

How does your family feel or what do they think about your interest in cemeteries?

My husband thinks it's great; he's even come 'rabbiting' with me. My mom says she thinks it’s weird, but I’ve seen the little twinkle in her eye when I talk about exploring cemeteries with my dad, so I believe she thinks it’s okay, as long as I am always respectful, which I am.

Why did you become a Graveyard Rabbit?

I became a Graveyard Rabbit because it offers me an opportunity to take something, a cemetery or graveyard, that some people might view as a sad or negative space and turn it into something positive, a space in which we can acknowledge both the poignancy and the beauty that we find.

For all would be Rabbits, how about some words of encouragement.

After my recent fall, the first thing I would say is be careful where you're walking. The second is immerse yourself in it. When you go to a cemetery stay for several hours and photograph everything you see. Also, take time to contemplate the lives of those individuals whose stones and markers you photograph. Just like us they were part of a family, wanted joy in their lives, may have suffered hardship, and probably wondered about "the great beyond". Sometimes I think about the family members as they were burying their loved one, how they felt, whether they liked the place where the plot was located, that sort of thing. When I see a grave that’s untended it makes me feel sad, because I imagine that those who used to care for the grave are gone now too.

Meet Stephen Mills: Author of “A Land of Deepest Shade”

The sixty fifth in a series
featuring a member of
The Graveyard Rabbit Association


My interest in genealogy began pretty early, at the age of 12, and I quickly found that cemeteries and funeral memorabilia are part and parcel of genealogy research. When I began asking my grandmothers questions about the family history, they both went to their dressers and pulled out their old “keepsake” boxes. They opened them up to reveal their personal archives of obituaries, funeral and memorial cards, and old letters. The most private, and cherished, of these keepsakes were photographs taken at funerals and burials. I was fascinated by the wealth of historical information to be learned from these items, and duly began making photocopies and incorporating them into my research notes.

One of my fondest memories of my Grandpa and Grandma Watson is going with them on Memorial Day in the late 70’s to tend our kinfolks’ graves at the Shamrock, Texas Cemetery. Shamrock was about an hour’s drive from my hometown of Pampa, Texas. A week or two before Memorial Day, we’d go to the dimestore and buy lots of cheap plastic flowers and ribbon, then go home and fix them into 11 arrangements, one for each grave. At that time, this municipal cemetery was not well cared for, and we took shovels and yard tools, as well as flowers. My grandpa frequently filled in and leveled graves, especially around my great-grandfather’s grave, which featured a large stone grave cover. I helped and, of course, my Grandma directed all our work! After working all morning in the cemetery, we stopped for lunch at the local diner, then drove back home.

In 1978, I bought my first funeral notice in an antique store and have been going strong with that collection ever since. I frequently find funeral memorabilia at estate sales and antique shops, and I feel that these items need a caretaker. I enjoy sharing and writing about funeral photos and memorabilia on my blog, A Land of Deepest Shade, and I hope to contribute to everyone’s understanding of the role these items played in the mourning process, as well as their value to genealogists and historians.

My blog title comes from an old Methodist hymn And Am I Born to Die, written by Charles Wesley (author of the famous Easter Hymn), which has beautifully dark lyrics. The tune is really nice, too, and you can listen to the hymn through a link on my blog. Sadly, this hymn apparently no longer “fits” and it was dropped from the last hymnal revision.

I love spending time in old cemeteries, especially the ones where my ancestors are buried. I now live in Austin, Texas and I frequently drive about 400 miles across Texas to the Lubbock area to visit family. I always plan the trip so that I can stop at various cemeteries, to “check on” my ancestors and relatives. Some of these relatives have been dead so long and/or they didn’t have descendants, and I doubt that anyone ever visits some of these old graves, especially the ones out in country cemeteries that are off the beaten path. I’m glad that I was born to be my family’s genealogist, and I see it as one of my responsibilities to visit the old graveyards. One of my great-great grandmothers was buried in an unmarked grave in 1924 in Southland, Texas. I recently confirmed the exact location and I’m working on a project to collect donations and mark the grave. I hope to have a dedication ceremony sometime in the next couple of years. I also plan to raise money to re-mark some old family graves at Dexter, Texas, as the original markers have deteriorated beyond repair.

I was thrilled when I found the Association of Graveyard Rabbits and I’m honored to be part of this group. All of the GYR bloggers are doing unique and important work in their respective parts of the country. I appreciate having this opportunity to share a little about myself and I hope to hear from you!