There is a bit of a thrill in discovering a new cemetery.
While doing some photo editing of some photos I took on my vacation, I discovered a cemetery in Sturgeon Falls that I did not know existed. I noticed in my photo files that I had the name of the Sturgeon Falls cemetery entered incorrectly. While looking into the appropriate cemetery name, I discovered there is another hidden cemetery in Sturgeon Falls – Union Cemetery.
This is super exciting to me because I had thought that I had photographed all of the cemeteries close to me. And this gives me an excuse to go on yet another mini road trip!
By using Google maps and Google Street view I was able to locate the entrance and get a glimpse of what the cemetery actually looks like. The cemetery grounds looks quite large! The entrance also looks like it’s a little bit tucked away, so it will be very interesting to find this location in person and photograph it.
(Images from Google Maps)
Discovering a new cemetery can be just as exciting as actually visiting it. I can’t wait till the next time I am in Sturgeon Falls!
“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.” – Chief Seattle.
This sentiment embodies my mindset when visiting cemeteries. They are beautiful places to visit. But you must always be mindful that cemeteries are resting places for lost loved ones, and deserve respect. I always keep that in mind when visiting cemeteries. I would never want to intrude on someone’s grieving, interrupt a funeral service or meddle with someone’s memorial items. Because of this, I tend to follow my own set of etiquette rules when visiting a cemetery.
When encountering people I always try to keep my distance – It doesn’t mean that you should turn around and leave if you see mourners. But realize that your presence there might not be understood or wanted. For these reasons, and out of respect of the mourners, I will spend my time in other areas of the cemetery to not bother them. This does not mean you should always stay away from people though. In my travels, I have found the groundskeepers to be very friendly, and will sometimes point out interesting stones. They are very proud of their work maintaining the grounds and some of them love to chat.
Always leave with what you brought in – It’s completely fine to bring food with you for a snack in the graveyard, or to walk your dog. As I’ve said before, cemeteries are a beautiful place for a walk. Just make sure you pick up after yourself and your furry friend! Some cemeteries do have trash bins that are accessible, but when visiting older hidden away locations, there may not be any. I always carry a plastic bag in my camera bag just in case.
Do nothing that would harm or destroy a tombstone or memorial – I would never displace or move around memorial objects or grave goods. I always leave things as they are for my photos. I find that the found objects are more meaningful that way.
Be respectful – I sometimes clear away debris from stones; leaves and dirt that obscure the inscription. I also sometimes pick up over-turned items if they have fallen. If items are far away from a tombstone, I find it better to leave them where they are, just in case you accidentally place them on the wrong grave. I think that cleaning tombstones (with water and chemicals) should be left to professionals. There are resources out there to help you get started in the right way if that is something you are interested in getting into, and ALWAYS get permission before you start.
A note about gravestone rubbings and castings – These seem like a fun idea to get a nice souvenir but some of the methods used for rubbings and castings can be very damaging to stones. If the stone is too fragile it can break. Castings are also dangerous to stones as it can remove pieces of the stone while also leaving stains and residue that is hard to remove. I’m sure there are resources out there on how to do this kind of thing safely, but I would be very cautious and make sure your technique is perfected before trying it in the wild. And again, ALWAYS get permission before you start.
Do you have any questions about cemetery etiquette? Or do you have any unwritten rules that you follow when visiting a cemetery? Please share in the comments!
I recently started reading the book 199 cemeteries to see before you die by Loren Rhoads.
It’s a beautiful book, that can be used as a travelogue, that lists must-see cemeteries all over the world. It highlights the history that makes each of them unique. The descriptions are accompanied by beautiful photos as well. I get wanderlust just looking at them!
It got me thinking about what my tally actually is for visited cemeteries. When I was younger, in the early days of my cemetery traveling, I did not document my cemetery photos that well, and have actually lost a large amount of those photos. They would have been taken with film cameras and an old digital point-and-shoot camera. I may still have the negatives somewhere.
I remember getting lost in the large cemetery in Guelph, Ontario, but don’t have the photos to prove it. I also remember chatting with the caretaker at the old cemetery in Amos, Quebec, and how excited he was to show me some of the more interesting stones there. I don’t have the photos from that trip either. That is one I really regret, as my Mother is from Amos. In that cemetery, it was amusing to see her turn around in circles, amazed at all the family that was buried there. I really wish to go back to visit there again someday.
So based on my folders of properly labeled and dated photos, here is the breakdown of how many cemeteries I have visited, so far:
Sudbury – 19
Ontario – 56
Quebec – 6
Saskatchewan – 2
New York City – 2
Total – 85 cemeteries
My record for the number of cemeteries visited in one day is 13. Maybe one day that record will be broken, but it has been standing since 2019.
Thanks to 199 cemeteries to see before you die, I have added a large number of cemeteries to my bucket list. Due to the pandemic though, those won’t be added to my tally anytime soon. For now, I will focus on continuing to visit cemeteries close to me. Maybe by the end of the summer, I will have hit 100?
Do you have a running tally of visited cemeteries? What is your number?
I wrote a post last week reminiscing about cemetery road trips. It may have been a bad idea as it made me want to plan one even more!
This year, just like last, I have been spending a lot of time with my Mom. We have been visiting different local walking trails as something to see and do while we are in lockdown due to COVID-19. This year we have started visiting provincial parks that are close by to visit their hiking trails. This gave me an idea!
Why not stop at local cemeteries that are along the way or close to our destination? And so the mini road trip was born!
My Mother is fairly used to me making pit stops on the way to our hiking trails, but this past weekend, I deliberately drove out of my way to visit 2 cemeteries. I did a bit of research and found the addresses of 2 cemeteries I have been wanting to visit for a long while now. 1 in Britt and 1 in Byng Inlet. An old co-worker of mine told me about a very old and interesting cemetery in Byng Inlet that I should visit. This was several years ago. It just happens to be across the river from Britt, and another cemetery I have wanted to visit for a while as well.
We drove to Byng Inlet first with the plan of visiting Britt and Grundy Lake Provincial Park as we made our way back towards home. We enjoyed the drive and I was pleasantly surprised by what we found.
In Byng Inlet, we found Magnetawan Cemetery which looked to be a small family cemetery, as well as 2 very old cemeteries. Sitting right on the side of the highway sits the cemetery of Saint John the Divine (1911-1931) and beside it, the cemetery of St. Andrew’s presbyterian church (1911-1924). Both of these cemeteries are partially hidden by the wild forest that has sprouted up around them. I was only able to find one stone at the cemetery of St. Andrew’s presbyterian church. It was an obelisk-style stone, that had sadly fallen to the ground. The cemetery of Saint John the Divine had about 10 stones that I was able to find, including 1 military grave. I was very excited by this find.
In Britt, we stopped at a small cemetery across from a small white church – the Britt Holy Family Church Cemetery. This small little cemetery, on the bank of a river, holds a mix of old and modern stones. The oldest stone we found was a family grave. Capt. Peter Archabel McIntosh, who drowned at the Bustard Island in 1906, and his wife Lillie Clovetier who passed away in 1905.
After realizing that that was not the cemetery I was looking for, we traveled a bit farther and found not 1 but 2 more cemeteries; the Britt and area community cemetery and the Holy Family Roman Catholic New Cemetery. That made a total of 6 cemeteries we visited that day.
We walked among the stones for a little while, while I snapped away with my camera. Interestingly enough, there is a campground adjacent to the Holy Family Roman Catholic New Cemetery, filled with RV’s and trailers – with some of them backed up right against the cemetery.
After our cemetery visits, we headed to Grundy lake to stop for a picnic lunch and then go for a hike through their Swan Lake trail. It’s a beautiful trail and was a great way to end our adventures that day.
I think this trip may have started a new tradition of cemetery visits, picnic lunches, and hiking trails. I mean it’s not a bad way to spend time outside during a pandemic.
I have been thinking about road trips a lot lately.
During a normal year, my friends and I would be discussing plans for our next one. I have been itching to research locations and plan travel routes. But alas, just like last year, it looks like it will not be happening this year.
Cemetery road trips are one of my favorite things to do in the summer months. We all would pile into one vehicle, chit-chat, and listen to music while cruising along to our cemetery spots. We usually pick a city or town and stop at all the cemeteries along the way. After visiting the cemeteries within that city’s limits we would also explore the outskirts, sometimes finding hidden cemeteries that we didn’t find in our research. These are great ways to spend time together, make memories and explore our backyard!
The last road trip we did was in 2019. We visited Sault Ste Marie. Normally this trip would only be about a 3-hour drive, but it took us a whopping 6 hours! We made so many stops along the way and took our time exploring. We visited some very old cemeteries, full of the history of the town, as well as some newer ones. Lots of discoveries were made, including one of the largest cemeteries I have ever visited before! We visited 11 cemeteries in total that day. We didn’t beat our record, but it was a very good attempt! Our record so far is 13!
We also took some time to do some sightseeing, and visit some of the history museums there; the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre and the Ermatinger Old Stone House. We heard some interesting ghost stories from the staff at the Old Stone house and it prompted some interesting discussion and exploration while we were there. We did not find any ghosts though. It’s a beautiful house with some really interesting history. Getting in some sightseeing was a bonus for that trip.
We have also gotten into the tradition of visiting any Starbucks that we can find, and always end the day at the local Casey’s for supper. A favorite restaurant that we no longer have in our own city. It’s a great cap to the day, followed by a much quicker drive home while we debrief on the fun and experiences of the day.
So for this year, instead of grand travel plans, I will stick close to home and visit my local cemeteries. Re-visit my favorites and take more time to explore those that I have not been to for a while. There is always something new to find and photograph!
Update: After writing this blog post I did just that! I had a mini road trip adventure this weekend. I’ll have a new post coming soon with some new photos.