On the search . . . .

For many years now I've been searching my past in an endeavor to unfold the tales of my family. I've traveled (via the internet) to England, Denmark, Norway, Ohio, Nebraska, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. I've spent time personally visiting historic Boston and their wonderful cemeteries and, or course, visited my ancestors right here in California. My ancestors have touched the world in many places... and I hope to enjoy some of their experiences. I want you to join me as I travel through my past... and uncover their stories..

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sentimental Sunday - Graveyards & Headstones Facing East

I really enjoy visiting graveyards - as I'm sure many do.  There are some who find it odd but I don't think they understand the abundant stories that a graveyard tells.  All those lives from the past ~ the nostalgia.  I feel for all that are buried.  I wonder about their lives.  The babies and children that have been buried and what their mother's must have been feeling at the time of their death.  The impact that a child's death had on the entire family.  I wonder about those that have died at various times of their lives.  Sometimes I pick an interesting grave marker and research the person.  I find out about their family and see if I can learn a bit about their life.  It's fascinating to me.  It makes me feel a bit connected to them.   It gives me such a sentimental feeling. 

While doing some research I found an interesting article at "The Association for Gravestones Studies" website  www.gravestonestudies.org   I found this very interesting and something I wasn't aware of ... so I thought I'd share it.

What is the origin of the practice of all headstones facing east?
In many, but by no means all, early New England burying grounds the graves are positioned east/west.  This east/west orientation is the most common orientation in other parts of the country and world as well.  The earliest settlers had their feet pointing toward the east and the head of the coffin toward the west, ready to rise up and face the "new day" (the sun) when "the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised"  or when Christ would appear and they would be reborn.  If the body was positioned between the headstone and the footstone, with the inscriptions facing outward, the footstone might actually be facing east and the decorated face of the headstone facing west.  If the headstone inscription faces east, the body would most commonly be buried to the east of it.  Much depends on the layout of the graveyard -- if there was a church or other building in the center of the burial site, where the high ground was located, the location of access roads, etc.  Early graves were seldom in the neat rows that we are used to seeing.  Burials were more haphazard, more medieval in their irregularity; families didn't own plots and burial spaces were often reused.  The north side of the cemetery was considered less desirable and is often the last part of the burying ground to be used, or you may find the north side set aside for slaves, servants, suicides, "unknowns," etc. In many burial grounds graves face all four points on the compass. Sometimes a hilly site will have stones facing all four directions.  With the coming of the Rural Cemetery Movement in the 1830s and 40s, an entirely new style of burial became popular.  The ideal of winding roads and irregular terrain dictated the orientation of the monuments to a large degree.

Warm Regards,


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