Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday: The Rest of the Plot

Photos by Brian Zoldak, 2016, used with permission
(These headstones are much more clearly photographed than mine.)

The Rest of the Plot

One of the challenges that I have faced when teaching others to photograph, research and record gravestones is to examine the headstones and monuments around the one or two you went to find. Every book says to do this but in the moment, it is a hard thing to do.

Plots are often purchased by one person who wanted to set off a section for his or her family. A problem can occur with the unexpected death of a younger family member, a divorce, or a difference in religion. 

My maternal grandfather purchased four plots. One for himself and his wife (as you saw last week) and two more for his son and daughter. 

As you can see, my grandfather's brother, Dudley W. Stewart (Jr.), my grandfather's brother, died first in 1943. Yes, he was married but his widow chose to be buried with her family in another location and it took me a long time to find that out. They were not divorced. She was native to the town she lived in and she did not remarry. I don't think my grandparents cared where she went after great uncle Dudley died.

My grandmother told me that when Dudley died, my grandfather purchased 4 granite headstones and had three set here. My grandparents headstones, had their birth year and the death year was blank. When my grandparents son died (an awful suicide in 1951), they added the inscription on the fourth headstone. My mother, was now left out. But, she married my father in 1946 so they planned to be buried in another cemetery and bought their own stone. So, that solved the problem.

It was intended that the people buried here (behind the big monument), have their information be carved on the reverse side This back side of the monument already had some carving but those names and dates are very hard to read because the stone was not polished in the same way as the front and sides.  It took several trips and many photographs taken at different times of day and the use of a mirror to take clear photos. Notice that my uncle's dates are not full dates. The circumstances of his death and the fact that my grandparents had to bury a their son, stopped them from making a consistent decision. 

My grandmother told me, the worst moment of her life was realizing she had to bury her child even if he was an adult. Parents should not outlive their children.

As a result, she made me promise not to put anymore names and dates on the big stone. "Too much money", she said. New England people don't like big public displays of heartache.

Next week: finding out about my uncle's suicide and burial.

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