Packing for the Cemetery: Genealogy Style

I just LOVE visiting cemeteries. My mom would just laugh if she were alive to hear that. Grow-ing up, my mom and aunt would take my grandma to three cemeteries every year. They made a day of it. I would go sometimes too. My grandma loved it, but I’m not so sure about my mom and aunt! My mom’s gone (d 2003); my grandma’s gone (d 2007, age 101); now I visit the cem-eteries alone and remember those special days.

My purpose for visiting cemeteries as a genealogist is more than just paying my respects, but also research: respectful research. For cemetery research, I need tools. I pack these tools in my cemetery bag in the early spring, and they are ready any time I need them!

  • Tool Bag: Light brush, jug of water, scissors, clippers, trowel, weeder, digging tool, bug spray, sunscreen, towel, gloves
  • Camera with reflector
  • Metal stick with a pointy end
  • Divining rods

Let me explain…

tools for genealogy cemetery visitTools: How many times have you had to dig a stone out of the dirt and grass or clean climbing weeds from the face of a stone? Trowels, weeders, scissors and a digging tool are needed. Sometimes I just want to lightly brush off the dried grass and dirt to make the stone look nicer.

Bug spray: Many of the cemeteries I visit are rural. I hate those horseflies that circle your head and dive for the bite. Don’t you? A hat works well too.

Camera: I take pictures of the whole cemetery, stones I am targeting, and their neigh-boring stones. I put these pictures on Find A Grave with permission to use on my bio page. Some of you might post tombstone pictures on Billion Graves.

water to clear cemetery grave stoneJug of water: The newest addition to my cemetery bag allows me to reveal details in some stones with just a splash of water.

Metal pole: One of the cemeteries I frequent has many missing stones. My husband made a pole for me with a pointed end so that I can stick the pole in the ground to find missing stones. Rocks or tombstones? I’m about 50/50 so far! Just so you know, I also use the pole to chase away snakes. EEEK! I hate cemetery snakes!

genealogy divining rods dowsingDivining rods: One of my genealogy friends just showed me how to “witch” for un-marked graves using 2 brass rods (also known as dowsing). I carry those in my bag now. They’re fun and add a different “dimension” to cemetery research.  For more information and to prove I’m not the only one:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowsing
http://www.genealogy.com/forum/general/topics/cemetery/5118/

Are you ready for your next genealogy road trip? What do you keep in your cemetery bag?

Kim Hanks

Kim has a passion for Genealogy. After retiring from a career as a teacher, administrator and education consultant, she spent the past several years doing extensive family research. She is a newsletter editor for the Illinois State Genealogical Society and the Peoria County Genealogy Society. Kim is also a member of the Peoria Chapter of DAR Daughter of American Revolution and a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.