Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Article on the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal

Hop on over to the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal and delve into our latest article, Warm Southern Wind, by Stephanie Lincecum.  With a blustery spring, the title warms the soul and the article is sure to please!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Meet John Grant, Photographer and Author

The eighty second in a series
featuring a member of
The Graveyard Rabbit Association


Hello, I’m John Thomas Grant, and I photograph cemeteries. Perhaps not in the usual genealogical or architectural fashion familiar to most, nor in the fashion of other cem/art photographers, but in the only way I know how – truly intimate moments in life and death.

My best guess is that this recent interest in cemeteries originated from the years of collecting antique letter documents and letter lots from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Anyway, for many years prior, I collected handwritten letters passed down through the ages by family members that would then neatly place these short stories in the caring hands of, for the most part, antique dealers, from whom I would then purchase them. I would read each and every one. I would picture myself looking over their shoulder as they wrote personal passages to loved ones. I tried to imagine the feel of life in their time. My senses reached for the smells, the sights, and the decorative textures of the place they called home, from which many were written. Many others were penned, or penciled in some cases, in a hotel, or college dorm, while visiting a friend, or from a battlefront, and still I tried to imagine myself beside them as they wrote from the heart.

Sometime later, genealogy came to my attention, and into my life. I began the journey in search of my family roots. Naturally, as I was about to find out, this new avocation brought me in touch with cemeteries. Once the living told me everything I wanted to know, it would be the dearly departed that would next be the easy subject of my intense interrogation. So, with pencil, paper, and camera in hand I marched off to the cemetery.

Back in the day, my family would go to the cemetery in Flushing, New York, every Sunday; drop a few flowers on the old folks, say a few prayers, and off we went to the relatives for dinner. Cemeteries weren’t important to them, they were not important to me……….until now.

I would continue here, but the rest you will have to wait for. I cover the balance of the story in the introduction of my book “Final Thoughts” due out in the fall of this year, published by Schiffer Publishing, my sincerest apologies. “FT” will be a coffee-table styled book of my cemetery photography synthesized with epitaphs. I was further honored when Doug Keister accepted my request to write the Forward.

Suffice it to say, I love these places and will do everything in my creative power to preserve them and the stories they tell.

Currently, I’m partnered with the Victoriana Lady – Lisa Griffiths-Lewis – creatively and in life, in the Passion Projects, our little company dedicated to publishing, marketing and promotion, photography, organizers & presenters of Tea events, and whatever else we can get ourselves into. The Victoriana Lady Lisa is a living history speaker and reenactor of Victorian history, fashions and etiquette. She, too, has a book in production with Schiffer due out in 2012.

My thanks go to those at the Association of GraveYard Rabbits, for permitting me the opportunity of presenting myself to all its members. It’s been long in coming, but finally realized.

There are a few places that my work can be viewed. They are:  My Home Page , My Facebook Page, and The Passion Project.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Post on the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal!

 As the days get longer many Graveyard Rabbits are out and about exploring cemeteries near and far.  Don't miss this week's Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal Article, Cemetery Art,  by Tammy Thiele, as she demonstrates the fine art of photo editing your favorite cemetery markers or funeral goods.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blog Interview with Douglas Keister

Gale Wall of Digital Cemetery Walk recently interviewed Douglas Keister.
Photographer-writer Douglas Keister has authored and co-authored thirty-eight critically acclaimed books. He also writes and illustrates magazine articles and contributes photographs and essays to dozens of magazines, newspapers, books, calendars, posters and greeting cards worldwide.

Most of us, cemetery bloggers, know of him for his cemetery books: Going Out In Style, Stories in Stone, Forever Dixie and Forever L. A. His 5th cemetery book, Forever New York, will be published in the Fall. I hope he will continue to author cemetery books because they fill a void for those of us that love the beauty and historical aspect of a cemetery.
Doug was very kind to agree to this informal blog interview. Let’s learn a little more about him.
Read the blog interview at Digital Cemetery Walk.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Post on the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal!

Don't miss today's Famous File article at the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal! This week Kim Sawtelle honors one of America's heroes, a Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient from Maine whose bravery and valor we still admire today.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Meet Jacquie Demsky Wilson, Author of "Stone Gardens"

The eighty first in a series
featuring a member of
The Graveyard Rabbit Association


"All cemeteries are extremely valuable archives of history, as well as memorials to the people who are buried there."

Hello, my name is Jacquie Demsky Wilson and my blog is Stone Gardens.

My blog is basically a photo blog of all the cemeteries I have visited with local history and genealogy mixed in.  Although most of my blog entries concern Texas (near 100 cemeteries visited), I have photographed over 100 cemeteries in 15 other states and three foreign countries. I want to show viewers that cemeteries are great places full of history and architecture.

I try to visit cemeteries on a regular basis. Even when I go out-of-state, I try to find cemeteries along my route. Several times, I have turned around in the middle of the road if I passed by a cemetery. A fun, yet at times, dangerous obsession!

I have not always been drawn to cemeteries. As a child, I went to cemeteries for the occasional family funeral but never gave a thought about the surroundings. At the age of seven, my family moved to Wells, Vermont, where our house was directly across from the town cemetery. It was a small town with not much for kids to do, and so my siblings and I would play in the cemetery. We enjoyed tracing the headstones (that dated back to the 1700s) and playing hide-and-seek at night.

In 2007, I went out with a photographer friend to do some Texas landscape photography. We stopped at one cemetery and that is when and where my fascination with cemeteries truly began!

4 generations - me, my mother, grandmother & great grandmother

Since I am the unofficial family historian; I see it as one of my responsibilities to visit cemeteries. I have been interested in my family’s history since I was a young child. I remember badgering my grandmother with “who was who” and “how are they related” questions. I take great pleasure in looking at photos, especially old family photos. Searching for and discovering my ancestors and learning about their lives is another thrill for me. Over the past 35 years, I have researched, compiled, printed and distributed over four volumes of information on the Cooke and Demsky families.

I work as a redactor and archives technician at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, in Austin, Texas. I have a B.A. degree in Historical Studies, and three months ago, I received a M.L.S. degree in Library & Information Studies. My dream is to become a genealogy and local history librarian. At this time, library jobs, especially those pertaining to genealogy, are extremely difficult to find. So, I have been joining local, county, state and national historical and genealogical societies as a way to network, volunteer and learn. When I do experience any free time, I enjoy traveling, scrapbooking, the metaphysical and reading.

I am a member of the Association for Graveyard Studies, Save Austin's Cemeteries, GenealogyWise, Austin Genealogical Society, Texas State Genealogical Society and the Williamson County Genealogical Society.

I am also a Find a Grave photo volunteer, Family Search indexer, Flickr photo contributor and subscriber.

Texas German Cemetery

The older cemeteries, especially those from the Victorian era, are of great interest to me. I enjoy photographing the unique gravestones, especially the angels. The newer memorial parks, with the flat markers, are not so appealing. In Texas, there are many ethnic cemeteries to explore, from Scandinavian to German (the sense of order and no wasted space) to Hispanic (the most colorful and, if I can say, liveliest).

Colorful Hispanic Cemetery

With my blog, I feature gravestone symbolism on Mondays; Wednesdays deal with historical gravestones; cemetery crime stories on Thursdays, Fridays show the unusual stones I have come across in my travels; and, Sundays are “silent” with only photos of especially moving gravestones. I weave in blog entries regarding genealogy, when I can.

My family accepts my cemetery obsession but friends think it’s a bit odd. I have always been strange in one way or another, so I just say, "to each their own". What interests one doesn't always interest the other. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have bribed my 11-year-old son to come exploring with me!

My 11 year old son

My husband has told me that I enjoy dead people more than those still living! As a mother of two children and with the craziness of everyday life, I have found that cemeteries have a calming effect on me. And in a cemetery, no one talks back to me! Sometimes, I stop by a cemetery on my way to work just to relish the peace and quiet for a few minutes (which can turn into an hour or more, if I’m not careful). I like to visit the graves of those long gone and forgotten, as a way of telling them someone is thinking of them.

Speaking of family, I have a great story to share. Last summer, the Save Austin’s Cemeteries group decided to come up with a 2011 calendar, in order to gain awareness of the five city-owned cemeteries. The group asked for photo submissions, which would be voted on by viewers of their website. One of the five cemeteries is my local favorite - Oakwood Cemetery, one of the largest cemeteries in Austin, with gravestones dating back to the 1800s. I went through my photos of Oakwood and decided to visit once more. This time, however, my 16-year-old daughter came along. You can imagine how she felt, stuck in a cemetery with Mom! She did not want to get out of the car but after a bit of nudging, she got out and I remember telling her, “Just think, you may submit the winning photo.” Well, guess what? One of her photo submissions garnered the most votes in the contest (photo on right) and was put on the inaugural calendar’s cover! She was absolutely thrilled, as was I. The photos we submitted (I even persuaded my husband to take a few) grace five pages of the calendar!

Calendar Cover - Daughter's Winning Shot

What advice do I have for would-be cemetery rabbits? Connect to other blogs (there are many!), learn from the others, and blog what feels best to you. I enjoy reading the blogs of other GYR members who have the same interests as me. I never thought there would be so many others in the blogosphere that enjoy cemeteries. Some days, all I want to post are photos, but then I feel guilty if I don’t post information of specific individuals buried in the cemetery. If you’re not into posting obituaries, death certificates, etc., then don’t do it. Another suggestion: If you desire constant feedback on your blog, you may rethink blogging. There are times my blog goes for weeks without viewer comments. It’s great to know someone is looking at your blog when they comment, but don’t worry about the number of comments. You must enjoy what you’re doing!

I was thrilled when I found the Association of Graveyard Rabbits and I’m honored to be a part of this group, all of us are doing unique and important work in our own areas. I appreciate having this opportunity to share a little about myself and I hope to hear from you. I hope y’all will stop by my Stone Gardens and say hello! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal Article

Spring is in the air!  Be quick like a bunny and hop on over to the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal for today's fascinating Mausoleums or Columbariums: Looking Inside and Out article about the Society Tombs of New Orleans. Our very own (and bride to be) Tess Conrad shares with us a story for the ages, as these monuments stand testament to a legacy long past.  The GY Rabbit Online Journal extends our heartfelt congratulations to Tess!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Congratulations GYRabbits

The Association of Graveyard Rabbits has again been selected as one of the 2011 Best Genealogy Blogs by Family Tree Magazine in the cemetery category. Bless them! The category is described as: "Graveyard blogs bring cemeteries alive (figuratively, of course). Learn from cemetery lovers how to appreciate and understand the final resting places of your ancestors."

This is how Family Tree Magazine described the Reason for the Rabbit award:
"This unique blog and online journal represents the efforts of several 'graveyard rabbit' cemetery enthusiasts. Weekly posts introduce fellow members and link to all their articles. The journal promotes graveyard research and preservation. You'll see names of other top 40 bloggers here: Gale Wall of Digital Cemetery Walk (see below is the managing editor and footnoteMaven is the creative director.)"
Special shout-outs to Sheri Fenley (The Educated Graveyard Rabbit) for her weekly "Meet A Rabbit Column." To Gale Wall for her deft hand at editing the Journal this past year and to Robin Simonton (Graveyard Rabbit of the Triangle, N.C.) for her hit the ground running start as our new Journal Editor. And to Henk Van Kempen ( Graveyard Rabbit of Utrecht and Het Gooi) for presenting such a good rabbit face on Facebook.

And to the Journal staff of writers - you are the best group online.
Robin Simonton
Creative Director
History Hare
Tech T.I.P.
Denise Olson
Graveyard Guru
Stephanie Lincecum
Photo Monument
Digging For Answers
Randy Seaver
A Rabbit's Review
LisaMary Wichowski
Rabbit's Tale

Thank you! We are so very honored that you our readers, our members, Family Tree Magazine, and its expert panel felt us worthy. Somewhere, Terry Thornton is smiling down on us.

And if that weren't polish enough on the old granite, the following Graveyard Rabbits and their individual blogs also won in this category. Please stop by their blogs and congratulate them.
  • Digital Cemetery Walk: "Every stone has a story. And they are waiting to be told." This is Gale Wall's motto for a blog that shares images of gravestones and cemetery plots, the stories behind them, and thoughts inspired by traipsing through cemeteries. Her posts are informative, inspiring and often poignant. See her Cemetery Bookshelf page for a great list of resources.
  • Escape to Silent Cities: Tammi Thiele's lifelong passion for cemeteries shows in her writing and photography. Her young but prolific blog boasts near-daily entries with beautiful images and plenty of cemetery lore (such as tombstone trivia) and biographies of the deceased. If you aren't already a fan of cemeteries, Thiele will make you one. As she states on her site, "The best way to learn about neat cemeteries are from the [people] who love them."
  • Granite in My Blood: "Graveyard Rabbit" Midge Frazel blogs about family gravesites and her ancestors' stories, but her posts often have wider appeal. She freely shares lessons learned (do your research before cemetery visits) and opinions on genealogy products. One fan writes, "The blog contains beautiful photos and interesting tips and info on cemeteries, genealogy and family."
  • Gravestoned: This anonymous blogger is fairly new to the scene, but gives expert commentary on gravestone iconography and epitaphs. Gravestoned takes beautiful photos of markers, researches the origin of poetic inscriptions, and offers examples of similarly themed stones. The author participates regularly in the GeneaBlogger daily theme "Wednesday's Child," with posts on infant and child graves.

"Choosing this year's Family Tree 40 was a group effort -- by the readers who nominated and voted on their favorite blogs, as well as a panel of blogging veterans. These four leaders of the "geneablogging" community (who weren't eligible for the Family Tree 40) provided oversight during the nomination process and input on the final list. They also selected a Panel Pick in each category to highlight exemplary blogging.

Lisa Louise Cooke is the voice of the Genealogy Gems Podcast and the Family Tree Magazine Podcast. Cooke writes for several blogs, including her own Genealogy Gems News Blog, My Salt Lake Blog and the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast.

Thomas MacEntee is a social media expert on the genealogy community who speaks around the country about the role technologies such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs play in family history. He runs three genealogy websites, including the GeneaBloggers network. He's been doing genealogy research for 18 years and blogging since 2006 at

DearMYRTLE is the nom de plume of Pat Richley-Erickson, a popular blogger and lecturer at genealogy conferences. Her online genealogy life started in 1984, working with AOL's Genealogy Forum, and she was genealogy's first internet radio broadcaster. Today she hosts the Just Genealogy area in Second Life and is a force behind BetterGEDCOM.

Randy Seaver is a prolific blogger whose projects include Genea-Musings, The Geneaholic, South San Diego County Graveyard Rabbit and the Chula Vista Genealogical Society's Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe. A 22-year family history veteran, he belongs to several genealogical societies and teaches a beginning computer genealogy class in San Diego."


Descriptions of Panel Experts and Winning Blogs courtesy of Family Tree Magazine.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Meet Carl Aldrich, Author of "Taphophilia: Investigations of Our Heritage "

The eightieth in a series
featuring a member of
The Graveyard Rabbit Association


Chronicling the adventures of a history student in Utah,  on a cultural resource management internship to document cemeteries in Northern Utah and Southeast Idaho

Thank you for the opportunity to talk a little bit about my blog and myself. My topic is very important and interesting to me, and I love sharing it with others. I realize that I am rather young to be interested in cemeteries; in my travels I’ve talked to many people who are my parents age or older. I give myself hope, though: my generation does not seem to value history, our heritage and culture, or the artisanship of bygone years. Being in the minority is a tough spot, but as long as there is a minority the hope of humans returning to an appreciation of humanities is still alive.

What Graveyard Rabbit site(s) do you run?
Taphophilia: Investigations of Our Heritage.

What first interested you in joining the GYR Association? 
I was just looking for other blogs about cemeteries, as well as a way to get folks reading what I have to say. I actually started the blog because of one friend who kept asking why I wasn’t blogging about my cemetery adventures so that he could follow them… But I figured there would be more than one person interested in reading about my adventures with dead people! I was about to give up, and then I found Graveyard Rabbit’s website and the list of other blogs. Everyone wins from my joining: people will have a way of finding my blog, and I have an easy reference list of others.

Did you always have a fascination with cemeteries? Or did this develop out of your genealogy work?
I have always been fascinated with history and folklore pertaining to our built world in general. My mom would always take me to the cemetery, but not the cool one with huge trees and rocks sticking out of the ground; my relatives are mostly buried in a “flat-marker-only” cemetery. I made my big break into cemeteries in Cheyenne, Wyoming, when my family moved into a house two blocks from a very nice and historic cemetery. At that point, I really gained an appreciation for the different styles of markers, statuary, and even the way in which cemeteries are laid out.
Here in Logan, Utah, I live across the street from one of the best cemeteries in the West! People here really appreciate their ancestors with beautiful markers and fun decorations, and the city keeps the grounds in impeccable shape. I walk through every day on my way to classes at the university and always see something new and great. I am in my final semester now as a history student and got an internship with a local heritage area, documenting the 150-ish cemeteries and pioneer burial sites throughout Northern Utah and Southeastern Idaho.

Do your family members think you are a “little off center” with respect to your cemetery obsession?
As I said before, my mother would regularly take me to the cemetery. She loves them and helped me get started. Therefore, my parents are supportive of this personal interest and excited for my internship. In fact, my mother recently decided that I could be useful for something and research some Native American burial grounds for her. My wife faced a period of getting used to the whole cemetery thing. She was raised with the philosophy that you visit graves of people whom you know on Memorial Day and never walk around the graves. It was an especially awkward moment for her the first time I sat in a grave marker/bench combo in her presence! Most people are very interested in what I do and (at least to my face) want to know more about the things that I’ve learned.

Which situation evokes an immediate response of “Oh! Oh! Stop the car!”
- you spy a yard sale in the distance
- you notice a cemetery from 1⁄4 mile away
- you see a sexy man on the side of the road
- from afar you spy Elvis with your eye
I’m a bit young for Elvis… I like the guy and all, but my mom was a kid when he may or may not have died!
I think I am more of a sucker for historical markers on the side of the road than anything else. I have made plenty of side trips for yard sales and cemeteries, though I am fairly sure there isn’t a historical marker within 200 miles that I haven’t seen.

What advice do you have for anyone considering joining GYR and creating their own GYR-affiliated blog?
I am fairly new to the whole blogging thing myself, so I don’t know that I am the person to go to for advice. The only thing I should say is this: if you have a cemetery blog, or you have things to say about them, sign up for GYR. The interest for our topic is low, and if you want to have more than two people read your blog in a year you need to get into a network like this!

What advice would you have for would-be cemetery dogs?
Figure out how serious you want to be and let that guide you. When I started out nine years ago, my only focus was looking at all the cool stones, mausoleums, and statues. I moved on to taking photos and finding the graves of locally significant people. After visiting a few older cemeteries in poor condition, I realized how important it is to preserve these sacred places that have been forgotten and, in some cases, lost.
Now that I am a pseudo-professional, I have a way of preserving cemeteries and documenting them in a way that actually makes a difference. As part of my project (a major part for the heritage area, but a secondary one for my personal fulfillment), I will be developing a travel itinerary for heritage tourists to see some of the great cemeteries that we have here in the West. I am purposely a bit vague and don’t provide a ton of photographs of individual cemeteries on my blog. Since I am working for a government agency, it would be perfectly fine and legal for me to post every picture that I take and every write-up that I write onto a blog. However, I would hate to do all of the work that I am and not have people take advantage of my final product. I also don’t want to be in a position of competing with the heritage area when people are angry about government spending and put humanities (including heritage/cultural resource preservation) very high on lists of “wasteful spending.”
Anyway… Aside from documenting and researching the cemeteries, I have the difficult task of taking 150 known burial grounds and paring it down to a dozen or less of the most significant. To make educated choices I checked out a stack of books from the library, read several articles, and became proficient in cemetery history, grave marker history, styles, symbolism, and historically significant people buried in the area. I also found very valuable primary resources in my library’s archives, which includes one of the premier folklore collections in the country.
There is definitely room to take a grave interest as lightly or seriously as the potential “dog” sees appropriate. Just be careful; it’s addicting!

How about photography; any advice there?
Get a decent camera and learn how to use it! Pictures taken with your cell phone camera will not be useful for documenting. Most higher-end point and shoot cameras are fine, but for maximum control and quality, you should invest in a DSLR. I received two pieces of advice related to cemetery photography that I have used regularly:
1. Use your camera in aperture priority or full manual mode (if your camera features either). This is a good way to maintain some control over the quality of your pictures.
2. Use your camera’s bracketing mode, if available. I have found that if the sun is behind your subject, you should overexpose slightly; if the sun is blaring on it, underexpose. When in doubt, bracket. This way you get three photos: one overexposed, one underexposed, and one right in the middle. This can be a lifesaver if you drive three hours to a cemetery and aren’t sure of what to do with the light you have. Plus if you have Photoshop, you can put the three photos together to make one that is properly balanced.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New Post on the GYRabbit Online Journal

Be quick like a bunny and hop on over to the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal for our newest column!  A Rabbit's Tale- Cemetery Spotlight!!  This moving article touches on whimsy and paints a romantic view of the past. Don't miss it! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Meet Jeannie Miyama, Author of "The Northern California Graveyard Rabbit"

The seventy ninth in a series
featuring a member of the 
Graveyard Rabbit Association


I’ve always been history buff.  It was my favorite subject when I was a kid in school.  But it wasn’t until my dad casually mentioned that my aunt has visited their birth father’s grave that I became interested in my own history.   I’ve heard this man’s name only a handful of times in my life.  But who was he?  What was his life like?  What began as a simple curiosity has now turned into one of my greatest passions in life: genealogy.

And so I began researching my dad’s paternal side.  A few months into my research, I received a picture of my grandfather’s gravestone; it is a simple flat stone on which is carved:

JUNE 19 1916
DEC 5 1948

I didn’t know that my grandfather had been in the Second World War.  It turned out that dad was also unaware of this fact.  It was in that moment that I realized there is a lot to be learned from cemetery research. 

My own family research has dried up over the years, but unwilling to give up my passion, I’ve turned it into a way of helping others.  I’ve seen a lot of gravestones over the years and I’ve discovered that cemeteries often provide a bit of personal information about an individual or a family that often does not exist in other genealogical records.  I’ve found out information like whether or not a person was religious, had a sense of humor (I’ve seen some, dare I say, fun gravestones), if a family had experienced a great deal of loss, and the relative wealth of a person or family compared to others in the area.  This kind of information helps paint a picture of a person and their family.  More than just providing a name and a couple of dates, gravestones are a way of saying, “I was here and my life mattered.”

I want to take this opportunity to thank Sheri for welcoming me and kindly offering to feature my blog.  I hope I do you and the other Rabbits proud.