Monday, January 16, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - And the Tombstones are Slowly Eaten by the Ground

I've seen pictures of graveyards with tombstones leaning to and fro.  They actually have a unique beauty too them, but as those tombstones lean they are coming closer to the end of their lives.  I have a few tombstones like that in my family.  You can still read the stones very least for the part that is still above ground.

I come from a coal mining town.  I don't know if these graves start to sink because of the labyrinth of mines beneath the city (that's actually a fairly disturbing thought after living there for 20+ years) or if it's just soft soil and lots of rain over the years.  Either way, it's happening and it's hindering some of my research.

As you can see the tombstone for my 3rd great grandparents, Edward and Susan Lee nee Phillips, is sinking and leaning (well maybe you can't tell that it's leaning but take my word for it).  As a result I can see Edward's information just fine (1820 - 1904), but Susan is not so easy to read (1821 - 188?)  It looks like it's 1882, but I can't be sure.  I have quite literally danced on my ancestors' tombstone here trying to trample down the earth far enough to see her death date.  My funny little Irish jig did nothing for my research, but it did tick off a small ant hill that was there (that was not a good experience).  I suppose I could have dug away a bit of the earth to check, and maybe I will do that this year, but I try not to make a habit of walking into graveyards with a shovel.  You tend to get strange looks....

So I suppose what I really need to do is to contact the church and ask what the burial date is for Susan.  They don't always have it and I may only be able to find out when the plot was purchased, but I suppose this is my next step.  Unfortunately for Susan she was a woman that died in the 1880s and the chances of me finding on obituary for her are somewhere between slim and none.  I'm hopeful only because her husband's death 20ish years later (if memory serves me correctly, because my filing system right now isn't) actually was front page news and his obituary called him one of the town's most highly respected citizens.

Edward and Susan are two of my brick walls, but I'll keep chipping away at them and hopefully find out more about them and their journey.


  1. While some of it is the stones sinking (remember that a coffin is essentially an air pocket in the ground that eventually is compromised), a lot of it is that dirt builds up around the stones, allowing the ground and vegetation to overcome the stones. This is done by wind and precipitation, since the stones act as a block allowing particles to build up around the stones.

  2. Thanks, cuz! This area of the Saint Gabriel's cemetery seems to have much "softer" soil than other parts and more of the stones have suffered. All excellent points, but still a bummer. I believe my mom and step-dad actually reset some of those stones years ago too. Can't fight mother nature!