by Sharon Debartolo Carmack
Slogging through graveyards armed with a camera and notepad may sound morbid, but it is high adventure to most genealogists. Indeed, according to Carmack (Organizing Your Family History Search), cemetery research provides valuable information about the dearly departed, and it can actually become a family tradition. Carmack begins her demystification of the process with a discussion of the various records created at the time of death (death certificates, funeral home records, and more) and the task of locating an ancestor’s grave or cemetery. Once a burial site is established, a visit to the cemetery is in order. Carmack details the different kinds of cemeteries, grave decorations, and veterans’ markers and explains the benefits of analyzing a cemetery’s “community.” A very helpful chapter on capturing a tombstone’s information follows. Carmack covers American burial customs and the value (and pitfalls) of cemetery transcription and preservation projects. Finally, she offers ways to make cemetery visits a family affair. Examples of the artwork, epitaphs, and poetry found on tombstones are provided, as are an appendix of symbols and their meanings, a historical time line of America’s epidemics and disasters, and a medical glossary. Genealogists and local historians of all stripes will find this book invaluable. Highly recommended for public and genealogy libraries.