Help Preserve Our Cemeteries
When you visit a cemetery, remember...
- Monuments are fragile:
- Do not sit or lean on monuments. Often monuments are not
securely attached to their bases and could topple over causing
injury or damaging the monument. Believe it or not, people have
been killed when monuments have toppled over.
- DON'T EVER, EVER, DO TOMBSTONE RUBBINGS!! The practice of
taking rubbings from monuments has been made illegal in many
localities - and for good reason. The physical act of attaching
the paper can leave tape residue and the rubbing of pencil or
charcoal over the monument will, over time, wear down the edges
of inscriptions. Also, stone often deteriorates from the inside
out as moisture is drawn up from the ground by the porous stone.
There may well be on empty cavity inside a monument which looks
stable. This space will collapse if you try to rub over it. Taking
rubbings of a monument is a selfish, destructive activity: in
a word, it's vandalism.
- Don't spray or rub anything into monuments in an attempt
to make the inscriptions more visible. Believe it or not, I have
actually heard of people who rub shaving cream or chalk into
tombstones so that the inscriptions stand out. Again, this is
vandalism. There are many non-invasive ways of reading an inscription.
Often a simple white card to reflect the light at an angle, or
waiting for the right time of day, will make the inscription
jump out. It is better to wait a couple of hours rather than
risk damaging an historic monument.
- For your own safety:
- Watch your step! The ground in cemeteries is subject to subsidence.
Long grass often hides holes and uneven surfaces.
- Don't drink the water. The water taps found in cemeteries
are usually for watering the plants and the water is often not
drinkable. Take a bottle of water along with you when you visit
- Wear proper clothing. A hat and good walking shoes are a
must for tramping around cemeteries.
- Be careful if you pick up garbage. Because of their isolated
locations, cemeteries are often frequented by some of the less
desirable members of our society. Although cemetery staff are
very good about picking up garbage, one can still find broken
glass, needles, and condoms on the ground in inner city cemeteries.
- Do your bit:
- Report all vandalism and suspicious activity. The evidence
of vandalism encourages even more vandalism: it's called "The
broken window syndrome".
- Share your information. If you are transcribing inscriptions
or doing historical research, inform your local historical society
or family history group. Knowledge should belong to everyone.
Better yet, put it on your website!
- Help others find graves. I am sometimes asked to look up
graves in my area for people who live far away (often in different
countries). People are very grateful when you do this and are
usually willing to reciprocate. I was once contacted by someone
in England seeking more information about someone on my website.
when I asked them to do a lookup for me, it turned out we were
- Be respectful:
- Do not approach or question people who may be there to mourn
the passing of loved ones. Even finding the grave of a distant
ancestor can be a very personal and touching experience.
- Treat each person's grave as if they were a member of your
- Enjoy yourself:
- Make a day out of visiting family graves. Make sure they
are in order and nothing is broken. Bring the kids along, kids
love cemeteries when you show them how interesting they really
- Get a decent camera and learn how to how to use it (it's
not that hard). Cemeteries are designed to be picturesque. They
are a photographer's paradise.
- Don't be afraid to bring a picnic lunch. I have seen cemeteries
that actually have benches and the odd picnic table. Just remember
to clean up after yourself.
- Bring your binoculars. Cemeteries are havens for all sorts
of wildlife, even in the inner city.