Category Archives: photo

Oldest town in Missouri

This month, we had a chance to visit Ste. Genevieve, billed as the “Oldest Town in Missouri.”  It may well be.  The original town was founded ca. 1735, but was washed away by a flood in 1785.  At that time, the town was moved to its current location.  The oldest structure still standing in town is from 1790.

The French history of Missouri is on display in town, from the artifacts in the small museum, to the use of the fleur de lis everywhere, to the language on the tombstones.  Here is just one example.


If you can read French, ponder this stone, and let me know if you can translate it.  I have a shaky knowledge of German, but not of French.

Ste. Genevieve offers more than some interesting epitaphs — of the five known examples of French Colonial vertical log construction in the United States, three are in town.  The town also boasts many small shops and restaurants.  We always make a point to eat at the Anvil because their onion rings are the best.

In fact, here’s me with an onion ring.



If you travel around the area to the town of Kaskaskia, you can also find the Liberty Bell of the West, which was rung on July 4, 1778, to commemorate the capture of the town from the British by George Rogers Clark. Though you might not realize that this area of the United States played a part in the Revolutionary War, it did. The western side of the river was under Spanish control, but everything east of the Mississippi was claimed by Britain, even though most of the residents were French.  Today, the river’s course has moved east so that Kaskaskia is accessible by road from Ste. Genevieve without crossing the river.  It is, in fact, a tiny of slice of Illinois on the Missouri side of the Mississippi.

But for the taphophile, the cemetery is the main draw.  It’s small but well-maintained and offers plenty of shade and intriguing stones.  It’s just a little interesting slice of early French-American life and, of course, death.


To be unique like everyone else

The National Funeral Directors Association states on their website that baby boomers see funerals as “a valuable part of the grieving process and are seeking ways to make them meaningful.”  And unique: everyone these days wants to be an individual in death as much as they were in life.

Personally, I like that.  While I can appreciate the regimented order of a military cemetery, the haphazard spread of markers of different materials, fonts, and symbols is much more interesting, and much more inviting.  This particular marker, in a cemetery in Arrowtown on the South Island of New Zealand, shows a lovely uniqueness.  I’ve never seen a marker of this particular green stone, and the way it has been left rough is quite attractive.

I’m not a baby boomer, but I have a preference for uniqueness as well.  What about you?  What sort of marker would you prefer (assuming you want one at all)?


Waving to Lady Liberty

Last Friday, we visited Green-Wood Cemetery, a 478-acre cemetery in Brooklyn.  It was founded in 1838 and, within thirty years, became a significant tourist attraction.  I could spend days there looking at all the various angels and columns and interesting inscriptions.  As it was, we had only about 1 1/2 hours, so we couldn’t see much.

Besides tours of the cemetery, other events, such as plays, are offered there.  While we were in New York, the weather was rainy enough in the evenings that the productions were canceled.  And what play were they offering at Green-Wood last week?  If you guessed Our Town, you were right.

Sadly, the rain and clouds meant the morning we were there was hazy and overcast, so our pictures are not that impressive.  Tempus fugit, and so does good light and propitious weather for the photographer.

If you have time while you are in New York to visit Green-Wood Cemetery, I would highly recommend it.  Spend more than 1 1/2 hours there if you can — it’s beautiful, even on a dreary overcast day.  And sweetly, many of the sculptures face northwest so that they, like this little angel, can spend eternity with an unobstructed view of Lower Manhattan, including the Statue of Liberty.


An accidental veteran


So on Memorial Day, my husband took a picture of this stone, thinking he was taking a picture of the marker of a veteran.

As it turned out, not so much, actually.

If you look carefully, this person’s name was Ida, and she died at the age of five weeks.  Her heartbroken parents have had engraved on her marker (admittedly in German): “Her life was a moment, a spring dream, an earthly happiness.”

I don’t begrudge her the flag.


150 years and still serving

Arlington National Cemetery turned 150 years old this week.  The cemetery holds over 300,000 graves and adds roughly 25 graves per day.  It is, of course, the location of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as being the final resting place of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Edward “Ted” Kennedy, and thousands of others, including:

Ruby Bradley, most decorated woman in U.S. military history

Roger Chaffee and Gus Grissom, astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire

Juliet Opie Hopkins, known as the Florence Nightingale of the South

Mark Matthews, last Buffalo Soldier

Francis Gary Powers, U2 pilot shot down over the Soviet Union

Thomas Selfridge, first person to die in the crash of a powered aircraft

Charles Young, first African-American colonel in the U.S. Army

150 Years at Arlington

Oblique messages from the past

I was wandering through a cemetery when I spotted this little gem.  Three words, “More Than Conquerors,” sitting all by themselves on a stone.  On the surface, it seems very martial in tone, but I realized it was taken from one of the hymns we used to sing during our church services — Thine is the Glory.  Perhaps you grew up singing that one as well.

The last verse goes like this:

No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love:
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above. 

The lyrics were written by Edmond Budry (1854-1932), and clearly, if you see the entire verse, the “conquerors” part is about defeating death.  That may or may not be clear to the visitor who sees the stone if they don’t know the hymn, though I suspect everyone in this person’s family, their friends, and their acquaintances, knew it.

Currently, we sing an updated version in our church.  Lyrics that sound like the church is advocating conquest have been edited out. The words now are:

Am I still frightened? One whom I adore,
Jesus, lives again, gives peace forevermore.

Jesus is my victory, life and strength and head;
Jesus is my glory, nothing shall I dread.

In the future, will it be obvious to anyone where these three words came from?  I wonder.


Green Space

One thing I’ve heard from people who either don’t like cemeteries or just feel like complaining is that cemeteries are a “waste of space.”  Which, I suppose, means that once you dedicate a cemetery, you won’t be using that land for shopping malls or highways.  You know, the responsible way to use “space.”

I think that point of view is exactly backward.  Cemeteries aren’t wastes of space — just take a look at the photo below.  This photo shows the majority of Bellefontaine Cemetery (314 acres) and the southern portion of Calvary Cemetery (477 acres) from the air.  That’s nearly 800 acres of real estate set aside for over one hundred species of trees, as well as many varieties of shrubs, grasses, and flowers.  The cemeteries have ponds and provide homes for many species of wildlife. The cemeteries may be a place to lay our own to rest, but they also are spaces for the natural world to live and grow and thrive.

When you fly over the area at night, you see a dark pool of blackness in the midst of millions of streetlights, car headlights, residential areas, and parking lots.  When you fly over during the day, you see the welcoming green areas completely hemmed in by industry and residences.

Is it a poor use of land, to have hundreds of acres of green space in our city?  To have wildlife continue to share the world with us?  To foster the growth of trees and host the songs of the birds?

I don’t think so.


A small corner of Georgia

War memorials can be found in many places.  One that I went specifically to find was this memorial for the 51st Ohio Volunteer Infantry at Chickamauga, Georgia.

One of my ancestors, Thomas Elliott, was in the 51st Ohio and was wounded at Chickamauga.  The following is a transcription of a statement by one of his officers, which was given when Elliott applied for an invalid pension. The end of the statement is missing on my copy.  Although the officer here states that Elliott was wounded on the 20th, other documents I have show he was wounded on the 19th, listed as MIA, and discovered on the battlefield on the 20th.  One can only try to imagine the horror of lying wounded on the field all night among the dead and dying.

“I, William Moore, do hereby certify that I was Captain of Company I of the 51st Regiment of Ohio Volunteers, and am acquainted with Thomas Elliott, who was a member of my Company, and as I am informed is an applicant for an Invalid Pension.  That the said Thomas Elliott was mustered into service on or about the 3rd day of October, A.D. 1861, and discharged about the 17th day of October 1864 having become disabled from doing duty as a soldier from on or about the 2nd day of January A.D. 1863 while in the service of the United States, and in the line of duty as a soldier, in the manner and at the place as follows: at Battle of Stone River was shot and wounded by the enemy in the left leg above the knee, the ball passing through thigh it wholly disqualified him from further duty and sending him to the hospital causing an absence from the Co. of about five months. Also at Chickamauga Ga. in battle he was wounded again Sept 20, 1863 the ball entering his right side below the armpit passing around or through and making an exit on right side spinal column wholly disqualifying him from further duty and sending him to hospital causing his absence about seven months, all of which wounds were recd under my command as aforesaid being his comdg officer at the battle of Chickamauga. Was Lieutenant only at battle of Stone River.  That the said soldier was in good health at the time he entered the service, and the disability above referred to affected him while in the service, and at his discharge as follows: he was by his wounds wholly unfit for further service and should have been discharged by . . .”

25_51st ohio memorial

The more information on a stone…

…the happier you make your friendly neighborhood genealogist.

For much of the twentieth century, grave markers showed a name and two dates — and the dates may or may not have included month and day.  Chances are, the entirety of the information on the stone was this:



But eventually, the trend ran to giving more information.  People started placing short statements like “Always Missed” or “Forever in our Hearts” on markers.  That trend has taken off these days to include additional information like marriage dates and the names of a couple’s children.

And then there’s this stone, which should make any local historian happy.  It even lists the names of all the grandchildren.  Now that’s thorough.


Remembering with ceramics

Many options for personalized grave markers have become available in the past ten to twenty years.  One of those options is having a portrait of your loved one emblazoned on a ceramic oval and then affixed to the marker.  These can be very nice, but they do have their issues.

For one thing, if water gets behind the ceramic memorial piece, it can freeze and pop the portrait right off the stone. We have seen these memorials lying rather forlornly in the grass near the marker they were previously affixed to.  Also, if not done correctly, the image will fade in only a few years and you will be left with just a blank white oval.

To help compensate for this, some companies inset the memorial photo into the granite of the stone, thus helping avoid the problem with freezing.  And to help avoid both freezing and fading issues, the company can inset the ceramic piece into a metal frame that comes complete with a lid, and then can secure this frame to the stone with screws.  To view the portrait the visitor must move the lid aside.

Putting a portrait on a stone can be a relatively inexpensive way to personalize something that is often very generic and bland, and can be a nice addition to a headstone.  Just keep in mind their limitations!