Records are meant to be broken

Over the weekend, my friends and I went on a cemetery road trip.

We had it planned and mapped out for a while now and were excited to spend the day together while exploring cemeteries. We started bright and early and fully caffeinated.

I just finished going through all the photos I took on our adventures, all 957 of them. The first thing I always do after a cemetery adventure is, upload my photos to my computer and file them accordingly and get the number of cemeteries visited.

If you have been following me for a little bit now, you may remember that our record for cemeteries visited in one day is 13. Well, Saturday was a full day of adventures, and we have a new record!

15!

A personal best. I have the best friends and travel companions a taphophile could ask for! I love that they love exploring cemeteries as much as I do, and enjoy a good challenge too.

It will take me a while to sort through my photos and get them posted. But they should be popping up on my social media channels and website soon. I will most likely write a more in-depth post about our day of adventures in the future as well. There were some fun surprises!

Thanks for reading!

Cemeteries and Summer Vacation

Summers in Northern Ontario are very short, so you need to make the most of them. Before long we’ll be knee-deep in frozen snow. But let’s not think about that right now!

I just got back from a lovely two-week vacation. My fiancé and I were finally able to visit some family and friends we haven’t seen in 3 years, due to COVID-19. It felt almost like a normal vacation. We traveled a wee bit, and of course, I visited some cemeteries! 

My vacation was split into three different trips. I went camping at Algonquin Provincial Park with my 80-year-old mother. She hadn’t been camping in about 40 years. We only stayed for one night, but we had all the camping experiences; cooking on a fire, making s’mores, sleeping in a tent, and spending some time at the lake. We also took the opportunity to try finding the grave of Tom Thomson, a famous Canadian painter, who died mysteriously on Canoe Lake. You’ll be able to read more about that adventure in an upcoming blog post. 

My fiancé and I, also took some time to visit Southern Ontario and visit family and friends, that we haven’t seen since before the pandemic. We toured the city a little bit, had some great food, and spent some quality time together. We even got a chance to visit some cemeteries. My fiancé is not very interested in visiting cemeteries, but he is very supportive of my love for cemeteries. I think he may have enjoyed hunting for them as we drove back home. We stopped at a few interesting ones that were along our route. 

I also took some time to visit St. Joseph Island, the historic fort, and the bird sanctuary. My mother came along with me for that little trip as well. We toured the island and explored. We did some hiking and visited the beautiful Adcock’s Woodland Gardens. We also visited a lot of cemeteries, including a pet cemetery. That was a first for me. You’ll be able to read all about that adventure in an upcoming blog post as well. 

I made sure to plan some buffer days to just relax and recoup between heavy days of driving, where I could spend some time with my fur babies and get ready for the next adventure. I also scheduled some days just to do nothing—but those days filled up fast with spontaneous things. Overall, it was a great vacation! I managed to visit 16 cemeteries, reconnect with friends and family, and recharge my batteries. 

It was a wonderful break from work and my normal routine, but now it’s time to get back to it! I am feeling refreshed and am looking forward to writing about my vacation adventures and editing the hundreds of photos I took. I am also really excited about an upcoming special project and am currently playing around with some new ideas for the blog. I was starting to feel like my creative juices were stalling a little bit, but having a break has helped me reset and look at things with fresh eyes.

I hope you can take some time for yourself this summer if you haven’t already. Even if it’s only a long weekend. It’s so important to take the time to refresh and revitalize. To take your mind off work and just enjoy your family, friends, and nature or whatever else that makes you happy!

Thanks for reading! 

On Vacation

It’s that time of year again!

For the next two weeks I will be taking some much needed time off. I am hoping to disconnect for a little while taking advantage of the summer weather. I plan on visiting a few cemeteries while also visiting with family & friends and doing a little sight seeing.

That being said, I will not be monitoring my social media channels while I am away, and I will reply to all questions and comments on my return. Regularly scheduled posts will continue to go up as normal, except for my weekly blog posts.

I hope everyone takes some time for themselves this summer to recharge. See you when I get back!

My Favorite Cemetery Bloggers

Since bringing my cemetery photography online, I have searched around for others who are interested in cemeteries. I was curious to see if there were others like me. I was pleasantly surprised that there is a large community of cemetery bloggers around the world.

For me, my cemetery blog is something I have wanted to do for years. Amassing a large archive of cemetery photos only to hoard them for myself seemed odd, and what about all the interesting stories that go along with finding these beautiful places? I have wanted to share them for a long time. I had tried on multiple occasions to start a regular blog to share my thoughts but I couldn’t be consistent with posting, until about last year. I had made some changes in my professional life that gave me more time for myself and my passion projects. I’m still working on making time to create blog content, but posting my photos is second nature now, and I enjoy seeing people’s reactions to my work. 

The cemetery community is vast and a great resource of information, as well as being full of really nice folks. Here is a short list of some of my favorite cemetery bloggers:

Adventures in Cemetery Hopping blog by Traci Rylands. Traci has a great blog filled with great photos and lots of information on the cemeteries she visits. My favorite thing about Traci’s blog is her running tally that lists all of the cemeteries she has visited—it’s a lot! Something to aspire to, for sure.

A Grave Interest by Joy Neighbours. A self-proclaimed tombstone tourist, Joy’s blog is full of cemeteries and history, with a little spooky thrown in. On her blog, you can find in-depth histories of cemeteries as well as hauntings. One of my favorite posts she wrote is about spirit photography.

Cemetery Travel – Your take-along guide to graves & graveyards around the world by Loren Rhoads. Loren is the author of 199 Cemeteries to see before you die and Wish you were here. On her blog, she keeps us up-to-date on projects she is working on and offers insightful cemetery book reviews. She also has a series called Cemetery of the week, in which she highlights cemeteries from around the world.

Goth Gardening – Using gardening as a metaphor for living by Sharon Pajka. Sharon is a professor of English at Gallaudet University and the author of Women Writers Buried in Virginia. On her blogshe keeps us up-to-date about her current projects and her many cemetery adventures.  

Shadows fly away by Carole Tyrrell. A self-proclaimed graveyard girl, Carole shares cemetery symbols of the month. She explores in-depth the history of their meanings, accompanied by gorgeous photos. 

Spade & the Grave – Death and burial through an archaeological lens by Robyn S. Lacy. Robyn is an archaeologist, death scholar, archaeological illustrator, burial ground conservator, and heritage consultant. One of my favorite things on her blog is the Curious Canadian Cemeteries series. In it, she showcases unique historic graveyards and cemeteries across Canada. 

The Cemetery Traveler by Ed Snyder. Ed is a photographer, specializing in cemetery statuary. On his blog, you can find beautiful cemetery photography, updates on what he has been up to, and entertaining stories about his cemetery adventures. 

Witchcrafted Life by Autumn Zenith. Where witchcraft meets papercraft. Along side her beautiful handcrafted cards, Autumn also posts a cemetery journeys series. Her posts are incredibly well-researched, accented with beautiful photos. 

Last year I was featured in the article: 13 Awesome Cemetery Focused Blogs Every Taphophile Should Be Following by Autumn Zenith, over at witchcraftedlife.com. It was an honor to be featured! It also gave me the idea to share my favorite bloggers.

Do you have a cemetery blog that should be added to this list? Tell me about it in the comments. 

Thanks for reading! 

AGS Conference 2022

For the last two weeks, I have been virtually attending the 2022 AGS conference. This was my first time attending this annual conference and I wanted to share a little about my experience. I am kicking myself for waiting so long to attend one!

If you’re not familiar with the Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS), they are an international organization that was created to further the study and preservation of gravestones. They promote the study of gravestones, expand public awareness and encourage gravestone preservation. AGS offers many cemetery-related publications, like Markers and the AGS Quarterly, as well as holding numerous workshops, exhibits, and the annual AGS conference. I wrote about AGS earlier this year, you can read more about them here.

The annual AGS conference takes place in a different location each year. It features events like field trips, conservation workshops, hands-on sessions, panels, evening lectures, and late-night presentations. It’s often referred to as Cemetery Camp. Last year’s conference was held entirely virtually, due to the pandemic. This year, the conference was a hybrid of virtual and in-person attendance. The in-person portion was held at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts. The in-person portion was also broadcast live and recorded where possible for those attending virtually. The virtual portions were all done over Zoom and Slack. 

The 2022 AGS Conference logo was designed by Lynne Baggett

Fun fact: This year’s AGS conference logo (above) is from the gravestone of Josiah E. Woodberry in Central Cemetery in Beverly, Massachusetts. The heart-in-hand symbol represents “charity given with an open heart”. You can also see the three rings of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows on the cuff.

I enjoyed this year’s conference, and hope to attend in person, in the future. I regret not attending previous conferences! Everyone I met and chatted with was very welcoming and friendly. It was a great experience meeting like-minded people. There was a great variety of topics presented, along with opportunities spread throughout for attendees to mingle and connect. The topics ranged from histories and overviews of specific cemeteries and cemetery mysteries to how to use Kickstarter and similar platforms to fund cemetery-related projects. Some workshops went into detail on how to preserve gravestones. That’s something that has piqued my interest lately, so I was very interested in that session. 

In addition to the interesting presentations and workshops, there were also bus tours offered. I was not able to watch those live, but I am looking forward to watching the recordings. I was able to see some of the photos that attendees took on the tour, and I have to say I was a little jealous. Those tours look like so much fun! As someone who often visits cemeteries with only a friend or two, being able to visit with a large group of taphophiles looks like it would be so much fun! The cemeteries that they visited also looked beautiful. That is very much a bonus to having the conference in a new location every year—new and different cemetery tours!

A great aspect of the conference, especially for virtual attendees was the sessions that encouraged more open discussion and socializing, like the Gabbing at the Gravestone meet and greet and the Cemetery Swirl cocktail hour, which included cemetery-themed cocktails. I love that the cocktail recipes were provided, and they even had a mixologist join us to lead us in a mixology course of sorts. These kinds of opportunities are great to foster new relationships within the cemetery community—and they are super fun! 

Monument Mojito – I may have over did it on the mint.

I hope that the AGS considers making the virtual aspect of the conference a mainstay, even though there were some technical difficulties. Unfortunately, there will always be technical difficulties. The benefit of the virtual component is that members from all over the world are given a more accessible avenue to attend. I know it’s not the same as being there in person though. I hope within the next few years I will be able to attend and meet everyone in person. That may be a little ways off, considering the state of travel at the moment, but I hope things will return to a more normal level soon. 

Have you ever been to an AGS conference, or thought about attending? Do you know a good cemetery-themed cocktail? I would love to exchange recipes in the comments.

Thanks for reading!


References:

Stories in the Stones: An online course by Atlas Obscura 

Last Sunday was my last session of Stories in the Stones with Dr. Elise Ciregna. I enjoyed this course so much and wanted to share my experience and thoughts with you. I met some interesting and like-minded people and learned some very interesting things about cemeteries and gravestones. The last four weeks have been filled with presentations, discussions, readings, and visiting cemeteries, so I thought writing about it would be a great way to cap off the experience.

Stories in the Stones is a four-part seminar with Dr. Elise Ciregna. Dr. Elise is a historian specializing in social, visual, and material culture. She has a master’s degree in the history of art and architecture from Harvard University.1 She has worked for historic cemeteries and is the former President of the Association for Gravestone Studies. Elise is a fountain of knowledge and shares it eagerly. I enjoyed getting to know her over these last four weeks. There were 14 people in my seminar, all connected by a love and interest in cemeteries, and all with varying backgrounds. It was great to meet other taphophiles. 

The course is broken down into 4 sessions:

  • The Colonial and Early National Period: Stones and Crossbones
  • The Nineteenth Century The Rural Cemetery Movement and the Age of Marble
  • Cemeteries as Spaces for Specific Communities
  • The Twentieth Century to the Present + Genealogical Research.1

Everything was done over Zoom and Google Classroom. I have never used Google Classroom before but it didn’t take long to figure out its functionality. Dr. Elise posted all her slides there, as well as resources, suggested readings, and the optional homework. I didn’t get a chance to read all the suggested readings during the duration of the course, but I found the readings I did have a chance to read, helpful to follow along with the slides. I plan to finish the suggested readings, as well as follow up with the other resource links that were provided. I also enjoyed the homework assignments, although I didn’t share them with the class. We did have the opportunity to share, either before the class presentation or in Google Classroom. The optional homework was a great tool to further my understanding of the material.

As I mentioned before, I enjoyed this course immensely. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into it, being a Canadian in an American-based course, but I found all the information interesting and useful. Elise expertly walked us through the history and evolution of gravestone symbols, the background of stone carvers, as well as the evolution and distinctions between different types of cemeteries. Not only is Dr. Elise a repository of information and experience with historic cemeteries, but she also loves to share that knowledge. If you have a question that she doesn’t know the answer to, she will take the time to try and find the answers.

I feel that I truly learned a lot from this course. After just the first session, I visited some cemeteries with some friends and found myself putting the teachings into action, by explaining symbols and tombstone attributes to my friends. They joked that now they didn’t need to take the course. My only complaints are that it was too short! I feel like they could have added a couple of extra sessions to delve into some of the subjects, like specific community cemeteries. I also would have liked to get a certificate of completion at the end. I personally think it would have been fun to have and frame for my wall.

So, if you have been thinking about signing up for this course, here is your sign! Taphophiles, historians, and genealogists alike will find something interesting in this course. Regardless if you have a little or a lot of knowledge of gravestone studies, I think you would learn something new and love this course.

Have you taken this course? Did you enjoy it? I would love to read about your experience in the comments.

Thanks for reading! 


References:

  1. Stories in the Stones: How to Read a Gravestone With Dr. Elise M. Ciregna

25 Cemeteries in the City of Greater Sudbury

A couple of weekends ago I was able to cross something off my cemetery bucket list—visiting all 25 cemeteries in the care of the City of Greater Sudbury. For today’s blog post, I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at some of these cemeteries. 

The City of Greater Sudbury is centrally located in Northeastern Ontario. It sits on the Canadian Shield in the Great Lakes Basin and is composed of a combination of urban, suburban, rural, and wilderness environments. Greater Sudbury is 3,627 square kilometers in area, making it the largest municipality in Ontario, geographically.1 Making up this municipality are many small communities that over time, have been amalgamated into the City of Greater Sudbury. Almost all of these little communities have their own cemeteries, that now fall under the care of the city.2

Each of these cemeteries has their own charm and has been very interesting to visit. Some are newer cemeteries with very modern stones, that are still very active, like Valley East and Park Lawn cemeteries. Some of them have tombstones marking persons who are still living. Those always make me think—do the owners visit their gravestones? Other cemeteries are pioneer cemeteries, like Ruff Pioneer Cemetery. Those types of cemeteries hold a lot of history. I wrote about my visit to the Ruff Pioneer Cemetery, you can read it here

Two of the oldest of these cemeteries, I believe, are the Eyre and Anglican cemeteries. They are directly beside each other, and there is no distinct line to separate the two. The earliest grave is from 1890.3 Both of these cemeteries can tell you a lot about our city. You can find the namesakes for the Gatchell and Lockerby areas of town, as well as the grave of Frederick J. Eyre, who discovered one of the first mines for the Canadian Copper Company.3 Sudbury, at its roots is a mining and railroad town.

Some of these cemeteries were a challenge to find and can be hard to access. Ruff Pioneer Cemetery would be more easily accessible with a four-wheeler. Make sure you have plenty of water with you for that adventure in the woods. The Coniston Cemetery is a little bit more accessible now, as a cemetery trail has been created, linking it to the Jean Tellier hiking trail. The first time I visited that one, we searched for a while before deciding to ask for directions from some locals at a convenience store. They were more than happy to help and even drew me a map. They also shared some stories from their childhood, of how they would play in the cemetery and nearby woods. Coniston Cemetery is particularly interesting because there are no more headstones. There may have originally been wooden markers or fieldstones there that have since deteriorated or have been moved. It was an active cemetery from 1914 to 1926, when the parish that was taking care of the cemetery announced they could no longer do so.4 In 1997 a memorial plaque was installed honoring the deceased known to have been buried there. Another hard-to-find cemetery is the Wahnapitae Public Cemetery. This one is located on a hillside with seemingly hidden access. I tried to find it again recently, but with no luck. 

There are a few cemeteries on this list that I have visited many times, either due to their size or proximity to me. Lasalle Cemetery for instance is one of the largest cemeteries in the area. So large in fact that every time I have visited I have focused on a different section to photograph. Another large one, that just so happens to be down the street from me, is Civic Cemetery. This is an active cemetery, and I think has changed the most over time. It has a large columbarium, as well as some lovely winding paths. It’s a lovely rural cemetery. I have many friends of the family that are buried here.

I have enjoyed seeking out all these cemeteries. I feel like I can now say that I have truly explored my city. All these cemeteries hold small threads, connections, that all lead to the creation and growth of my hometown. I have learned a lot about the history of Sudbury, like the stories of some of its founders, the history behind street names, and much more. I would love to spend more time in some of them, to fully explore the grounds, look for specific graves and to see what else I can learn. 

Thanks for joining me, as I look back on this bucket list milestone. Do you have a bucket list? What’s on your list? I would love to read about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading! 


The full list of cemeteries:

  1. Anglican Cemetery
  2. Beaver Lake Cemetery
  3. Blezard Valley Cemetery
  4. Capreol Cemetery
  5. Chelmsford Protestant Cemetery
  6. Civic Memorial
  7. Coniston Cemetery
  8. Eyre Cemetery
  9. Good Shepherd Cemetery
  10. Grassy Lake Road Cemetery
  11. Lasalle Cemetery
  12. Long Lake Cemetery
  13. Maplecrest Cemetery
  14. McFarlane Cemetery
  15. Ruff Pioneer Cemetery
  16. St. Jacques Cemetery
  17. St. John’s Cemetery
  18. St. Joseph Cemetery
  19. St. Stanislaus Cemetery
  20. Valley East Cemetery
  21. Wahnapitae Catholic Cemetery
  22. Wahnapitae Public Cemetery
  23. Waters Cemetery
  24. Whitefish Catholic Cemetery
  25. Whitefish Public Cemetery

References:

  1. Greater Sudbury
  2. Greater Sudbury – Cemeteries
  3. Tales of lives lived | Sudbury.com
  4. Historical mystery: Just how many people were buried at the old Coniston cemetery? | Sudbury.com

Find a Grave Photography Tips

A little while ago, I wrote a post about Find a Grave, and how I have been more active as a contributor. I have been going through my photos and doing some photo editing as I go. It’s been a great way to use my photography to help others, creating memorials that don’t exist yet, and contributing to existing memorials.

Find a Grave is a hub of burial information, that includes photos, burial information, biographies and so much more. It’s volunteer-run, as its members claim and fulfill photo requests to aid in genealogy research, transcribing gravestone photos, and creating memorials. It’s a great resource. When receiving a photo request, you will be given all the information available; cemetery name and location, deceased’s full name, and birth and death date if known. You may also be given the location of the grave, such as the lot or section. It’s up to you to claim this request and fulfill it. I would recommend only claiming requests that you know you can fulfill. 

While looking through my photos I picked up on two very different styles of photography I have developed over the years; my personal style and my contributor style. They are both very different. One reflects what I see when visiting graveyards, and the other is the result of wanting to achieve the best photo for transcribing and reflecting what a person would see when visiting their loved one. 

I thought it might be helpful to share some tips on how to get the best photos as a volunteer photographer for Find a Grave. If you are just getting started or looking for some new ideas, here are some tips to help you get great photos:

Once you have claimed your photo request, the fun can begin! 

  • Always take a photo of the cemetery sign when you first enter. Not only can this photo be added to Find a Grave, but it will also make it much easier when looking back at your photos to determine which photos were taken in which cemetery. This is especially helpful when visiting multiple cemeteries in a day. I would also suggest taking photos of any other signs that may be at the entrance. Sometimes you can find plaques describing when the cemetery was established and its history. These are always interesting to find.
  • Visit the cemetery office, if there is one. Sometimes, they carry cemetery maps to some of the more notable graves, and also show the layout of the cemetery. This is most often the case in larger cemeteries.
  • Keep the grave information you are looking for handy, so you can refer to it easily when needed. Find a Grave now has an app that makes this super easy to do. The app is available for both Android and Apple OS. Before the app, I would take a screenshot on my phone and refer to that photo.

When you have found your stone:

  • For headstones flush to the ground, it does not hurt to brush away any debris like leaves or grass to make sure the stone is legible.
  • Take photos of the headstone face on, this makes reading the inscriptions easier. 
  • Make sure to check the back of the headstone for any additional inscriptions. This is important for obelisk stones as they often have multiple family members inscribed on each side. 
  • Take a wide-angle shot to show placement or unique features of the grave, such as footstones.
  • Take a close-up shot of ceramic portraits if they are present.

Are you excited to get out there and take some photos? Let me know if you found my tips helpful. Do you have some tips you would like to share? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Visiting cemeteries during a pandemic

I wrote this post around this same time, in 2020, but it never made it to the blog. At that time, the pandemic would have been in full force, just at the beginning of our quarantine. This would also have been one of the first cemetery trips of that year, after a long winter. I think I was just beginning to seriously focus on my website and blog, and I’ll be honest – it was off to a slow start with sporadic posting. That’s probably why this was never posted. I figured since this was written around the same time, only a couple of years ago, it is worth posting now.


Last weekend, I ventured outside to explore a couple of my local cemeteries. It has been a long winter of being cooped up inside, dreaming about summer cemetery road trips. We had our first sunny weekend, so I took advantage. I figured it is also a safe place to practice physical distancing during these weird times.

The first stop I made was at the Civic Memorial Cemetery, also known as Sudbury Municipal Cemetery. This cemetery is right down the street from me, and the one I have spent the most time in. As a kid, I would spend a lot of time walking around this cemetery looking for ghosts. It’s a newer cemetery, with modern stones and newly built mausoleums. The entrance to this cemetery was recently renovated when they widened Second Avenue. They installed a shiny new archway, similar to the archway at Lasalle Cemetery. They also cleaned up the winding path that leads into the cemetery. I have close family and friends in this cemetery, so I paid them a visit. I also stopped to take some photos of one of the more interesting monuments in this cemetery. The resting place of, I think, the founder of Ellero Monuments, a local headstone maker. The monument is a very detailed sculpture of a man sitting on a rock-cut with tools in his hands, working on breaking the stone. It’s very large and encased in a plexiglass box. To really see the detail, you need to almost press your face against the plexiglass. Over the years the box has become clouded, giving it a spooky silhouette.

The second cemetery I visited was the Lasalle Cemetery. One of the larger cemeteries in my city. I try to visit different parts of the grounds every time I visit since it is so large. This time, I focused on the stones closest to the street. There are many smaller statues among the stones there. Unfortunately, this cemetery has the most toppled stones, either because of vandalism or ground shift. There is a mix of modern and old stones here, and many feature cameos; ceramic photographs of the deceased.

My last stop of the day was Eyre Cemetery, the oldest and my favorite of my local cemeteries. It’s a smaller one, filled with only older stones. At this point, the weather had changed on me and was drizzling a little bit, but I did not let that stop me. I wandered the entire left side of the grounds, in search of a few Find a Grave requests. I came up empty-handed though. Some of the stones are so worn that they are not legible. I hope that I did not pass them by because of this. I will need to go back and make some inquiries with cemetery staff, to make sure they are not forgotten. The rain started to pour down more heavily so I decided to pack it in at that point.

Overall it was a lovely outing. I got some exercise and fresh air, as well as some new photos. Surprisingly, I did see a lot of people out and about. The groundskeepers were busy maintaining the grounds at each cemetery I visited, and there were visitors at each cemetery as well. I guess in these quarantine times, cemeteries, which are usually quiet and mournful, are being used more as a green space. I saw an elderly couple strolling arm in arm and people walking their dogs. It was different for me, as I tend to be the only living person when I visit.


Looking back, it seems as though many people were discovering cemeteries. I hope those who may have thought it taboo to visit cemeteries, found that they are beautiful green spaces and outdoor art galleries. I think a lot of people were forced to look into their own backyards during quarantine, to find outlets while things like travel were not possible. I know I was very grateful that one of my favorite pass times was still available to me. I was even able to share my love of cemeteries with my mother! Even though COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in my area, I think I will be staying close to home again this summer.

Did you spend a lot of time in cemeteries during the height of the pandemic? Did you discover any new cemeteries? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Online courses for Taphophiles

I have always considered myself a lifelong learner, I love taking online courses. I have taken some interesting ones over the years, like Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. During the pandemic, online courses have become pretty popular, and you can find all sorts of online courses offered. The topics can vary, from more regular academic offerings to the more obscure. I remember once taking an online course on Stereoscopy: An Introduction to Victorian Stereo Photography. That was an interesting course. It got me wondering if there were cemetery-related courses available out there? That is something I feel like I can always learn more about.

I have spent some time browsing Atlas Obscura for unique places to visit and found that they offer in-person and virtual courses. They just so happen to offer an online course I think would be perfect for taphophiles. It’s called Stories in the Stones: How to Read a Gravestone With Dr. Elise M. Ciregna. Here is the course description, from the website:

“Have you ever wondered why certain gravestones and funerary monuments look the way they do? In this course, Dr. Elise M. Ciregna will explore how to decipher the stories in these stones, drawing from foundational knowledge of cemeteries and material culture. Over the course of four sessions, we’ll trace the history of burying grounds, cemeteries, and gravestones in the United States, focusing on a different period of American history each week. We’ll cover Puritan and Colonial practice and African American burying grounds through to the impact of cremation on contemporary American burial practice. In between, we’ll touch upon the advent of the garden cemetery movement, the 19th century romance of cemeteries, the cemetery beautiful movement of the early 20th century, and the 20th-century changes in cemetery management—looking at common motifs and stone cutting techniques as we go. By the end of this course, you’ll have the tools to engage with gravestones in a new way, the foundations for doing genealogical research, as well as a new lens through which to understand American society, culture, and values through time.” – Atlas Obscura

It sounds super interesting! There are currently 2 month-long sessions being offered, April (every Saturday) and May (every Sunday). I’ve registered for the May session and am looking forward to it. I’m hoping it will help fill the gap until I can regularly get out to visit cemeteries.

This next course I found is specifically for Clyde River & Area cemeteries in Prince Edward Island. It’s a free, self-directed course created by the Clyde River History Committee, called Cemetery Stories: Online Study SeriesThis course is not currently running, but since it’s self-directed and the materials are well laid out, I think it’s possible to work your way through the course. It looks like this online course was created to replace their regular lecture series during the COVID-19 pandemic. The course was held from November 2020 – to August 2021, but the course materials can still be found online. The materials include links to online resources, videos, and reading material. It also includes a breakdown of the activities. Some activities look to be specific to the Clyde River & Area cemeteries, but I think the resources they provide would be interesting to any taphophile. 

The last course I found is called Cemetery Symbols, through the Brooklyn Brainery. This course is not currently running, but you can sign up for the mailing list to get notified the next time it’s offered. It sounds very interesting, as it focuses on one of my favorite subjects: symbolism, and iconography in cemeteries. I would love to take this course the next time it’s offered. Here is the course description from the website: 

“Have you found some recent solace in visiting your local cemetery or ever wondered what those symbols etched in the tombstones say about the deceased? Sure, the skulls and winged hourglasses are ominously straightforward, but along with them are secret society emblems, carefully chosen flowers, gesturing hands, guardian animals, and other arcane symbols. This class will explore the meaning behind the symbols commonly found in cemeteries, along with their history in mortuary art, highlighting symbols found in NYC and beyond, so that the next time you go for a stroll in the necropolis you can decipher their hidden meanings.” – Brooklyn Brainery

It’s not a very long list, but that’s all I could find in my most recent search. I think I may revisit this in the future and share other courses I can find. I would love to see more courses become available. There are so many interesting cemetery-related topics that I think can be expanded upon, and would love to learn more about. I would love to see courses exploring the history of historic graveyards, notable graves, death and funerary practices through the ages, and even stone carvers and their materials. There is just so much that can be explored. For the moment I am looking forward to Atlas Obscura’s Stories in the Stones course, my first class is on May 1. I’m hoping it will be informative and that I will learn a new thing or two. I may write another post after the course is done, to share my thoughts, any AHA moments I have, and whether I would recommend the course or not. 

Have you taken some interesting online courses? Or do you know of a cemetery-related course that I missed? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading!