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

The some 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

Visiting cemeteries on Manitoulin Island

The beautiful summer weather has finally arrived in my area and I am very excited to be able to go on some cemetery adventures once again. I have many road trips planned out for the upcoming weekends and my summer vacation. I’ve mapped out lots of fun sightseeing spots and new cemeteries to visit, that are surprisingly close to home. It should make for some fun road trip stories. So while I continue to plan for those, I thought it might be fun to share a road trip adventure from last year.

Last October, in 2021, I took advantage of some time off and took a little road trip to Manitoulin Island. Manitoulin Island, or the island as some locals call it, is a large island in Lake Huron. It’s also home to Canada’s first European settlement, the town of Manitowaning, and the historic Anishinaabe settlement.1 It’s a beautiful place to explore the outdoors and of course, cemeteries.

My mother came with me on this trip and got to experience what a real cemetery road trip is like. We visited 9 cemeteries that day. Not all of them were located on the island though. We left fairly early in the morning, and after stopping for our Tim Horton’s coffee, we were on our way. We stopped at 5 cemeteries on our way to and from the island, while visiting 4 cemeteries directly on the Island. 

We weren’t very lucky with the weather on our trip as it was quite rainy for the majority of the day, but it did make for some nice photos. Of the 9 cemeteries that we’re on my itinerary, we only ended up stopping at 7 of them, due to some bouts of heavy rain. But, it worked out as we happened to find 2 more cemeteries that were not on my list when the sun did decide to show itself. One of those cemeteries was in Cold Springs and turned out to be a very nice find. It’s technically a graveyard because sitting in the middle of it is a century-old log Presbyterian Church, that is dated A.D. 1887. The building was locked, but we could look inside the little one-room church through some windows.  

We stopped for lunch at Main St. Express in Kagawong. They have a great little drive-thru set-up. We brought our lunches to the waterfront, just across from the Old Mill Heritage Centre. We took advantage of some nice covered picnic tables. It was quiet on the waterfront, as the tourist season was at its end. 1 or 2 couples were walking around, enjoying the sights. If we had gone during peak summer hours, the waterfront would have been bustling. I think we went a good time, even though it was rainy. There was another advantage to having our lunch on the waterfront—it was also next to Kagawong Cedars Cemetery. After our lunch, we took some time to visit that cemetery and take some photos. 

Kagawong is also home to the Kagawong River Trail. It’s a beautiful trail, running beside the river’s edge the whole time. There are some lovely sculptures scattered throughout the trail as well. These sculptures and heritage plaques were installed as part of the Billings Canada 150 project.2 The crown jewel of this trail is Bridal Veil falls! In nicer weather, you can walk behind the falls, and even take a dip.

Because tourist season was done, we did miss out on a few things, like visiting the Old Mill Heritage Centre and the Manitoulin Chocolate Works. I was disappointed when we found the doors locked to the chocolate shop. I will make sure to stop in there the next time we are on the island. There were some things we did get a chance to visit though, like the East Bluff Lookout, that was somewhat close to Gordon Cemetery in Gore Bay. The East Bluff Lookout offers some amazing views, and we also happened to see some wildlife; a red squirrel and some white-tail deer.

Even though I did have to cut my time short at a couple of the cemeteries due to heavy rain, I would say it was a great trip. We enjoyed the beautiful fall scenery, ate some delicious food, and visited some lovely cemeteries. I enjoy exploring the island and look forward to making another trip out there this summer to explore more of it. 

Have you visited Manitoulin Island? I would love to hear about your visit in the comments.

Thanks for reading! 


  1. An Insider’s Guide to Magical Manitoulin Island | Keep Exploring
  2. About Bridal Veil Falls | Explore Manitoulin

A Collection of Books

I love books! I am a big reader and have a large book collection at home, but I love finding stone books among the tombstones while wandering a cemetery. I find them very interesting and love trying to interpret what they mean.

Books can be both decorative or a representation of something. You can sometimes find a book being used as a decorative device to display the name of the deceased along with the birth and death dates. An open book can sometimes represent the human heart, as in it’s emotions are open to the world. An open book may also symbolize a life that has been cut short, before getting to the last page. Another variation of this is an open book with a cloth draped across it. This also represents a life cut short, the veil of death having bookmarked the person’s last chapter before the book is finished being written. A closed book might represent a long life, lived to the last chapter.

Any book found in a cemetery may represent the bible. Sometimes you may even find the words “Holy Bible” engraved on the book.

In my experience, books are not as common as some other funerary symbols, like hands and lambs. I love to photograph them when I do find them. I wanted to share some of my favorites with you today.

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!

A collection of hands

One of my favorite cemetery symbols are hands. They can represent so many things from only how they are positioned. I also find them beautifully detailed, and they have a lot to say. Hands are a very common symbol in funerary art and can be found in almost any cemetery.

I have photographed many over the years, ranging from very simple to very detailed, and wanted to share some of them with you today.

A hand pointing upward often represents going up to heaven. You may also find a hand pointing down, which can look a little odd, but it does not mean what you may have first thought. A hand pointing down usually represents a sudden or unexpected death. Clasped hands or praying hands often represent devotion but can also be seen as a plea for eternal life.

Handshakes are a very common variation and also can have a few different meanings. When the handshake depicts limp fingers held by a firm handshake, this often represents the deceased being welcomed to heaven by loved ones or maybe even God. When one finger is extended, it is a masonic handshake, meaning the deceased was a member of the Freemasons. You may also find a double masonic handshake, where one finger is extended on each of the hands. This is meant to resemble the square & compass, the emblem of the Freemasons. You should also look closely at the wrists of the hands, this can also give more clues. If both hands look masculine, this could represent fraternal brotherhood. If one of the cuffs is more feminine and one more masculine, this is most likely a marital handshake, to indicate the deceased was married.

When you find a hand holding a book, that book is often meant to be the bible. Sometimes it is more obvious, as it may have “holy bible” inscribed on it.


Snider, Tui. Understanding Cemetery Symbols: A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards. 1st ed., Castle Azle Press, 2017. 

Keister, Douglas. Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. 1st ed., Gibbs Smith, 2004. 

Cemetery recipes – Connie’s Date & Nut Bread

I had such a fun time trying out Kay’s Fudge recipe a couple of months ago, that I wondered what other cemetery recipes were out there. I was pleasantly surprised at the handful of recipes I found.

Today I wanted to try my hand at making Connie’s Date & Nut bread. 100% Good stuff – 0% Bad Stuff. Sounds delicious to me! 

This tombstone can be found in the Cemetery of the Highlands in Highland Mills, NY. Instead of the recipe being engraved on the stone, it’s printed on a small white plaque that is attached to the stone. The headstone belongs to Constance Galberd.

From reading Connie’s obituary, she was a very busy woman. Constance was a retired Registered Nurse at Cornwall Hospital in New York, a member of the Woodbury Community Ambulance Corps, and a member and Trustee of the Woodbury Historical Society. She has three children, a daughter, two sons, and four grandchildren. I think it’s safe to say she was also a great baker with a great sense of humor. Constance passed away in September 2008, at the age of 80. 

You can view her memorial page on Find a Grave.

I love the idea of putting a well-loved family recipe on a tombstone. It ensures the recipe will be passed down through the generations, and that a piece of them will be remembered.

The recipe reads:

Connie’s Date & Nut Bread | 100% Good stuff – 0% Bad Stuff

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. dates cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Directions:

  • Pour boiling water (where 2 tsp. of baking soda have been dissolved) over dates and raisins. Cool.
  • Add 1 1/2 c. sugar and mix well.
  • Add 2 eggs, well beaten.
  • Gradually mix in 4 c. of flour and 2 tsp. of baking powder. Beat thoroughly.
  • Add 1/2 c. of chopped nuts. Beat thoroughly.
  • Bake at 350 for 3/4 – 1 hr.
  • Bake in tin cans.
  • One batch = 13 small cans.

This recipe is pretty easy to follow. I have made banana bread before and found the process very similar. The directions are very clear, although I was a little uncertain of how long to let the boiling water over the dates & raisins cool. I spoke out loud to Connie while I mixed my ingredients and waited for the water to cool. When the water was no longer steaming, I mixed in the sugar and continued with the recipe.

I was a little thrown off by the last 2 directions, about baking in tin cans. I had to look that up. I found out that baking in tins cans, like vegetable or soup cans, was used for baking during the depression. The end result would be little round cakes or loaves of bread. I would have loved to be authentic to the recipe, but I didn’t have any empty tin cans to wash out and recycle for baking. It is something I would like to try in the future though. For this recipe, I used 2 loaf pans and split the batter between the two.

My kitchen smelled amazing while these were baking! I had to have a piece when it came out of the oven, and I was not disappointed. It’s a dense bread, similar to a fruit cake. Connie is absolutely right when she says “100% Good stuff – 0% Bad Stuff“. I am really happy with how they came out. After letting them cool on a cooling rack, I popped them out of the pans and wrapped them up. I always love to share my baking, and being able to share Connie’s recipe too feels like a sweet way to remember her.

Will you be trying Connie’s Date & Nut bread? Or have you found another tombstone recipe I should try? Tell me about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading!


If You Love a Recipe Enough, You Can Put It on Your Grave

The Recipe Headstone

Baking Brown Bread in Tin Cans

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! 

A tombstone by any other name…

When we hear the words tombstone, headstone, or gravestone, they all bring the same image to mind; a stone marked with a name, birth date, death date, and maybe some funerary art and an epitaph. It is a stone representing a person laid to rest.

While working on some blog posts recently, I noticed I used the term tombstone very often. To avoid repetition, I found myself using some other words synonymously like headstone, gravestone, and grave marker. It got me thinking, ARE these words interchangeable, or is there a subtle difference? I decided to look into it a little deeper.

My term of preference seems to be tombstone, so that is where I started in my search. The dictionary defines a tombstone as “a stone marker, usually inscribed, on a tomb or grave”.1 The first known use of the word in print was in 1565.2 According to Merriam-Webster, a tombstone is also defined as a gravestone.2

So tombstone and gravestone can be used interchangeably. After a little more reading I found that a gravestone is a Middle English word dating back to 1175–1225.3 It has a similar definition to tombstone, but I read that the term gravestone comes from the practice of covering whole graves in stones, to mark the grave as well as “keep the occupants in the ground”.4

A headstone, according to dictionary.com is “a stone marker set at the head of a grave.5 This term was first recorded in 1525-35.5 It is interesting to note that this definition specifies the location of the stone, similar to a footstone, which is a smaller stone laid at the foot of a grave. The first known use of the word headstone was in the 15th century.6

Grave markers, also known as cemetery markers, are smaller and sit flat to the ground. They can sometimes be angled like a wedgestone, to make them easier to read. They may be small, but they still carry the same information, such as name, birth, and death date.7

Two other possible terms are monument and cenotaph. These are a little different as they are not as interchangeable. A monument refers specifically to a very large -monumental- stone.7 A cenotaph may seem similar to a tombstone or monument as it sometimes has names and dates engraved on it, but there are no bodies buried beneath it. Cenotaph means “empty tomb”.8 They are often used to memorialize and commemorate those buried elsewhere, such as soldiers who died in war.

All that being said, tombstone, gravestone and headstone can be used interchangeably. Although at one point in time they may have looked different than what we think of today. It’s interesting to look at how language has changed over time and how these words have all become synonymous with each other. After doing so much reading on the subject, I think tombstone is still my favourite term.

Do you have a preference? Or maybe you use a different term? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!


1https://www.dictionary.com/browse/tombstone

2https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tombstone#synonyms

3https://www.dictionary.com/browse/gravestone

4https://classroom.synonym.com/origin-gravestone-21957.html

5https://www.dictionary.com/browse/headstone

6https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/headstone

7https://www.headstonehub.com/blog/the-difference-between-headstones-monuments-markers-and-urns

8https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/tombstone-gravestone-or-headstone-whats-the-difference

Planning a Cemetery road trip

Spring is right around the corner here in Canada, although you wouldn’t think so with the amount of snow that’s on the ground. The days are getting a little longer and the snow is melting, very slowly. The sun and subtle warmth are giving me hope that cemetery visits will be starting very soon!

I’ve been so excited about the prospects of visiting cemeteries again, that I have spent a lot of time researching and seeking out new cemeteries to visit. I have some fun plans for this spring and summer, involving visiting some nearby towns and cemeteries. I also found some other interesting things to visit.

I enjoy the planning as much as the road trip itself and have found some really interesting things to visit along the way. Due to the pandemic, my trips have been fairly close to home, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots to see. I wanted to share some insights on how I plan a cemetery road trip, and hope it may inspire you to do some local visiting where you are. You never know what you might find!

Where do you start when planning? I use Google My Maps to create my travel plans. You can add a color-coded legend to make things easy to read, and you can add notes to each location marker, like highlighting notable graves in a cemetery, or the best thing to order at a specific restaurant. You can also share these maps with your travel buddies.

Where to visit? I often pick a starting point based on something in particular that I want to see. For example this summer, I want to visit the Devil’s Rock trail head, in the Timiskaming District. It’s very close to Cobalt, Ontario, so for that map, I will focus on destinations leading up to and surrounding Cobalt.

Map created using Google My Maps. Legend: Purple – Cemetery, Yellow – Hiking, Orange – Haunted, Dark blue – Museum, Light blue – Heritage Silver Trail, Green – Food, Black – Oddity

Now comes the fun part! What is there to see and do?

I like to start by looking up every cemetery along the way to my chosen destination and in its surrounding area. I tend to focus on cemeteries that I have not visited before, unless I have an urge to visit a particular cemetery again. I also like to look up any memorials and cenotaphs that might be close. Find a Grave and Google Maps are great resources for this. You should also check any tourism websites that exist for the town you will be visiting, they often have cemetery information. Don’t forget to look up any famous, or infamous graves that may be in the area. I like to look for unique tombstones and Atlas Obscura is a great resource for this, as it lists many unique tombstones and cemeteries.

You can also use Atlas Obscura to find other interesting things to visit, like interesting natural landmarks, unique museums, outdoor art, themed restaurants, and all sorts of things that would be cool to visit. Granted there are way more listings for the U.S.A. than for Canada. But there are still some cool things to be found and visited. For example, on my list for this summer’s road trips are the Bean puzzle tombstone in Wellesley, ON, and the UFO monument in Moonbeam, ON.

I don’t know about you, but I love food, so I always look for fun local restaurants to try out too. My favorites to visit in the summer are local chip stands. There is also one chain restaurant I always look for – Casey’s Bar & Grill. We no longer have one in my town, and it was a favorite place to go for my friends and I. You can’t beat a tornado potato after a long day of visiting cemeteries.

Tornado potato from Casey’s Bar & Grill in North Bay ON, 2019

Lastly, I always look for haunted locations and ghost walks. This may seem a little odd, but if you have ever been on a ghost walk, you may understand. Hauntings are always connected with history. A ghost walk is essentially a history tour, taking you throughout a city and highlighting the darker and seedier past of a place. The stories can tell you a lot about a town’s history, and the people who built it. Cobalt, Ontario for example, is a mining town, and there are many haunted locations connected to that mining history. That’s the type of history I find fascinating. You can’t find ghost walks in every town, so I often like to make my own by compiling all the haunted locations and their stories.

The beautiful Ermatinger Old Stone House, in Sault Ste Marie, ON. Supposedly haunted by a few ghosts, although we did not experience anything while we were there. ©2019

All this planning and research can sometimes make the road trips pretty ambitious, and you won’t always be able to see and do everything that you have mapped out. I love having a variety of different things mapped out because that’s as far as my planning goes. Once I am on the road, I go with the flow and see where my map takes me. I don’t always get to visit all the cemeteries, or walk every trail, or visit every museum, but that’s ok! I save those locations that were missed for another trip and create a new map.

Researching and discovering all these interesting places has been a great pastime while waiting for the snow to melt and COVID restrictions to ease. This way I’ll be ready to road trip once the last bit of snow has melted! It also looks like restrictions are lifting and may be completely gone by spring, but that is the beauty of visiting cemeteries, they aren’t very crowded.

I hope you have found some inspiration in this post to start planning your own road trips for this summer and exploring your own backyard. Feel free to share your plans in the comments! I would also love to hear about any cool places you would recommend visiting.

Thanks for reading!