Friday, November 27, 2009

Dating Tombstones

One way to figure out the the year your ancestor was buried is to examine the material from which the tombstone was made.
If your ancestor has a stone made of slate or field stone (except wood used by pioneer) chances are the stone dates from 1796-1830.
If the stone is flat topped hard marble, dates are about 1830-1849.
If it is round or pointed soft marble with cursive inscriptions, look for a date of 1845-1868.
Pylons and column monuments are usually dated 1860-1900.
Zinc monuments date from 1870-1900.
Masonic four-sided stones began in 1850 and are still in use today.
Granite, now common, came into use about 1900.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Surrerrar Cemetery

Surrerar Cemetery is far off the main road it is on a dusty seasonal road that follows the power line in Newaygo County. Several years ago Terry Wantz a local historian and friend ask me to help out trying to find names of people buried there. It is a lonely place but beautiful, it is sandy and forgotten and hard to reach.

The prairie was known as a place that many Native Americans called home and was a large village since it was close to the river where it was narrow and easy passing. It was also a rich hunting ground. Many believe the cemetery started out as a Native American burial ground. We also seen signs of burial mounds in the area. The area was also known as a place where two major trails leading to the Mackinaw area crossed according to maps of Native American trails that were found.

We have the names of about 8 people but that list is uncertain. You can see where several more people are buried by the indentations in the ground. Many people were moved to Oak Grove in Croton when the area was abandoned. Searching in the nearby fields you can see where a old building stood. A lilac tree plated there by someone years ago dreaming of what her new home will become. A few of the families who were the last to leave were English's, Overly's, Saunders and a Mr. Boyd. When looking for information neither the Newaygo County Goverment offices nor the Brooks Township have any records of this cemetery. It is also believe that Mr. Surrarrer was buried here.

Ransom Surrarrer made the first purchase of the land thus its name. On the 1880 atlas shows a Phillip Dickinson and his wife Sophonia Tibbits owning 160 acres on the edge of the prairie. It also shows records that they sold a piece of land for a new school that was to become Dickinson school.

Many families had moved here since it was a logging area and a days trip from Grand Rapids but this area was developing and many families moved on to more fertile land.

Terry has worked for several years keeping the area neat and trimmed up. Cutting the grass over the burial site. Putting a fence along the edge to keep Orv's off the burial area. Building and installing a sign and putting benches to rest on. It was a job that he took on as a sign of respect for his ancestors the Dickinson's.

The spelling has changed many times over the years from Serrarrer, Surarrer, among other spelling hence you will see spelling changes depending on the source used.

Cemetery Serendipity

I find it amazing how often one can be gifted by the spirits of cemeteries.

I don’t mean to sound mysterious, but many times I have driven into a strange cemetery and found, to my amazement that when I look up, there is the stone I am looking for. Or even a family member I didn’t even know was buried there.

When my co-worker and I attended a genealogy conference in Monroe MI several years ago, we left early with plenty of time to kill. We took the scenic route, as boss lady doesn’t like to take good roads or expressways if there is a back way to go. We got to Napoleon in south east Michigan, when we both thrilled to the sight of their cemetery with the dry stacked stone fence all around it. We had to stop. (Sadly, this was apparently just before I got my digital camera as I have none of the great pictures in my computer.)
We got pictures of some great gravestones, and there was a huge Civil War veterans memorial and we were just having a great time. When we went around the newer sections, I saw a stone with the name Cross on it. I laughingly said, maybe that’s my long lost uncle or something, knowing full well I had no one in that area.

Imagine my surprise when I mentioned it to my father later. He replied that my Great Aunt Flossie Allen had married a Cross who was a teacher in that area. I later found her obituary and by golly! She was buried in Napoleon.
It happened in Copemish when I drove in and found “Stiver” staring across from the passenger window.
It happened again just down the road when I saw Hubby’s family in a stone that read “Walsworth” just as I was exiting the cemetery
So given all of that serendipity, why can I never just walk up to my great- and great-great-grandparents graves in Chase? I've been there lots of times, but I have to seach each time I go.
Do they just like hiding?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

cemetery plot costs

I just recieved this email from a friend and had to share:

It is hard to understand how a cemetery raised its burial rates and blamed it on the cost of living.

so true!

Eco Friendly Coffins

Anyone who knows me, realizes that besides genealogy, my second passion is knitting. And I have become a yarn snob, preferring pure wool. And now I find you CAN take it with you when you go.
A company in England, Hainsworth Coffins, has come up with the ultimate in natural coffins: the woolen coffin! And for those who think they are allergic, they even have cotton coffins. When I saw the article in a knitting magazine last night, I could not believe it. But if you follow the link, you will see they are quite attractive, and biodegradable. Apparently the wool coffins are made with a cardboard framework. What a warm and fuzzy way to go.
I only see them offered in Great Britain--I wonder if they would be legal in the US?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hungerford Cemetery

I don't understand why we have such scary views of cemeteries after dark. It must be due to television and movies but I never have felt that fear. I am fascinated by them regardless of the time of day.
Last night driving home from Big Rapids we drove by Hungerford Cemetery Northeast corner of Newaygo County. It is a pretty little cemetery on a gently sloping hill in a wooded area. Very peaceful and serene. I wanted to stop and look around and my Mother and Husband thought I had lost my mind (not the first time). OK so it was dark and opening day for deer season but it looked to pretty and peaceful. I just really wanted to stop. I have gone by it before and always thought how pretty but never felt the urge to stop so strongly. It must of been the time of day. I plan another trip to revisit.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A few symbols used on gravestones

As you walk through the cemetery take the time to stop and look at the stones. The symbols on them signify many things.


bees - resurrection; risen Christ
birds - souls; flight of the soul back to God
descending dove - Holy Ghost
dove - peace; innocence; purity
fish - Christ
lamb - Christ the Redeemer; sacrifice; innocence


angel - messenger between God and man; guardian angel
hands - devotion; prayer


anchor - hope; life eternal; may signify seafaring profession
anvil - martyrdomarch - triumph over death; victory
Bible - resurrection through the scripture; wisdom
branch - severed mortality
Celtic Cross - circle on it symbolizes eternity
cross - salvation
drapery over anything - sorrow; mourning
crossed keys - St. Peter
portraits- photographs of the deceased
rock - steadfastness of Christ; stability
shell - pilgrimage; baptism of Christ; resurrection
skull - death; sin; with crossbones - mortality
setting sun - deathrising
sun - resurrection; life

Trees and Plants

bouquets - condolences; grief
buds - renewal of life
cedar - strong faith
flower - brevity of earthly existence; sorrow; broken, premature death
ivy - abiding memory; friendship
laurel - victory; triumph; glory
lilies - resurrection; purity
oak - supernatural power and strength; eternity
pineapple - hospitality
roses - condolence; sorrow; the brevity of earthly existence
sheaves of wheat - time; the divine harvest
tree - faith; life; the Tree of Life
tree trunk - premature death
willow - weeping; grief; earthly sorrow
wreath - victory in death; eternity

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cremation Plots!

I find it very frustrating, when typing obituaries into the data base we have here at our local library, that so many people are no getting cremated and there is no place internment place noted. What is to become of cemeteries?
I know sometimes the remains are buried and have a stone, but some many obituaries list no place to go to remember them. (And let us not even get into the little shrines springing up along roads, at the sites of fatal accidents. My personal pet peeve.)
However it appears that Riverside Cemetery in Hotchkiss CO is offering an alternative. They are making available smaller plots just for a memorial stone, whether the remains are buried beneath or not. What a novel idea, as well as a way of preserving the cemetery as a place of rememberance, as well as final resting place.

Monday, November 2, 2009


I keep going back to Maggie's grave site it is a small handmade stone of rough cement high up on the river bank on a mound. It is a very lonely place no one around for miles. I always wonder who is Maggie? Was she a wife, mother a child? No dates but due to the area and the way the stone was made it has to be early. I have talked to the people who own the land and his father knew of the stone when he was a boy so it has to be predated 1900. It is a very lonely place forgotten. A story we will never know but a haunting place that lingers in your soul. Who is Maggie what is her story? I would love to know.

The Indian Cemetery

Notes From Yesteryear
The Indian Cemetery
By A. L. Spooner
courtesy of Fremont Area District Library

Sometimes people traveling out east on Main Street, in noting the Monument in the Pioneer Cemetery, assume that it is the Indian Cemetery. This, of course, is not true, as the Pioneer Cemetery is, as the name implies, the last resting place of many of Fremont’s early pioneers.

The Fremont Indian Cemetery is adjacent to the east end of Maple Grove Cemetery and while its origin might be amusing to some it was tragic to those involved.

When the land around Fremont was opened to settlement, a number of Indians took up farms from the government south along what is now Stewart Street and Warner Ave. One of whom was Henry Pego and another was Wab-e-cake. (Stewart Street was named after Wilkes Stuart an early settler, but the spelling got change).

One spring Wab-e-cake’s squaw made maple sugar, which she took to the home of Wilkes Stuart in exchange for two dozen eggs. These she carried home, boiled them and ate the whole two dozen. Within three hours she died in agony, terrible bloated.

At that time no cemetery had been established for the Indians. There were many of the town folk still suspicious of them. They dress different, their customs were different, and they just didn’t understand them. They certainly were not going to be allowed to be buried in the white cemetery, so Henry Pego set aside a plot of ground to be used for the Indians and Wab-e-cake’s squaw was the first burial. Later other Indians were interred and the plot became filled.

When Henry Pego sold his farm he reserved the cemetery in the deed but later owners failed to do so. With no care the plot soon grew up to brush and briers and became a eyesore. In 1932 the City of Fremont decided to clear the place but the owner at that time objected, saying that it was part of his farm.

Gladys Brown, a grand daughter of Eitene Lamarandier (Aiken), made Harry L. Spooner aware of the problem, and together they and other interested citizens obtained quit claim deeds to the city from the heirs of Henry Pego and Fremont became the owner. As stated, the plot is filled. There are Thirty-seven known burials as well as many unknown.