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History dude

Gravestones & Historical Research

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I allways find it helpful to visit a churchyard or local cemetery when doing any historical research. In fact they can be more helpful than going to a local history library when first starting out. For one thing all the information is contained in that area and you don't need an index. Of course the big cemeteries are often too big to cover in one visit and of course you need the weather on your side. A few church yards might be overgrown, but the biggest problems are those that have been cleaned up for the grass cutters to do the job. As often gravestones have been damaged in the process. Most people use church yards and the like for family history, but they can be much better than that. For instance finding the families of the buildings who lived in the streets nearby. With a digital camera it's so easy now to photo them and record details for future reference - a lot easier than when I started lol

When I first started to record the information of tombstones I was writing them down in a notebook. The problem for me in doing that is that my hand speed is slower than about 70% of the population, so it took me ages to do it. So I came up with a clever way of doing it. I didn't have decent camera at this stage either and photo costs were high. So I hit on the idea of a small cassette recorder. The idea was that I would read the gravestone inscription and the machine would record my voice so I could then playback at home and write up my notes from that. However I didn't reckon on one thing, people in the cemetery wondering what I was doing. For there was I talking to a grave ;-) The only thing was people could not easily see the recorder, it wasn't a very small one (about 8" X 2") the ones with the piano keys, but still if I was facing the grave you might not have seen it. So any passers by must have thought I was talking to the dead :blink: I remember a couple of groundworkers at Intake Cemtetery looking very perplexed and then releaved when I told them what I was doing.

Anyway I thought I would show you some examples of photo's I took at 3 Sheffield graveyards all good examples of local history.

The first is from Attercliffe of William Morton a railway worker.

Number two is from City Road connected with a famous sweet factory.

The third is from Saint John's Sheffield Park, which has had most of the gravestones laid flat, which means the acid rain eats them away fast and people walk on them, such a shame for a brave soldier's grave.

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It can be disconcerting. I did some research in Ecclesall graveyard for Dean. I worked systematically backwards and forwards along the rows for quite a while, the only person there. I came to the end of a row next to a path, and had to hop over a bramble to move up to the next row. There was also a big bush there, and as I hopped out onto the path I found myself slap in front of a young woman with a child in a buggy. I don't know who was more surprised but before I could speak to apologise she took off like a rocket, as if the devil was behind her, which may be what she thought!

After that I made my number with the graveyard manager at the church, in case there were reports of a strange figure lurking there!

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Got a few more to add

More from St John's Park.

This one from the family who started White's Lane. You can see also the effects of acid rain on it too.

The next was so big I had to do it in two parts as I couldn't get high enough to take the entire stone in. This one is connected to the Shrewsbury Hospital.

Back to City Road for the next two

First the Barkby's of "Cricket" presumably the Cricket Inn Road area. And a member of the Methodist Church.

Then the tragic death of a child who lived at Milford House Norfolk Road.

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It can be disconcerting. I did some research in Ecclesall graveyard for Dean. I worked systematically backwards and forwards along the rows for quite a while, the only person there. I came to the end of a row next to a path, and had to hop over a bramble to move up to the next row. There was also a big bush there, and as I hopped out onto the path I found myself slap in front of a young woman with a child in a buggy. I don't know who was more surprised but before I could speak to apologise she took off like a rocket, as if the devil was behind her, which may be what she thought!

After that I made my number with the graveyard manager at the church, in case there were reports of a strange figure lurking there!

Had to laugh at this. I've had a quite a few moments like that myself, poor unsuspecting visitors! You've also got to watch out for unstable ground when looking round the older parts. I used to frequent a graveyard in maltby, rotherham where one day i found myself looking at the oldest part quite pleasantly one moment and the next letting out a blood curdling scream as my foot went down a hole. Thankfully i didn't go down far but it made me more wary of my surroundings from that point on :)

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Very interesting I also have walked round cemeteries talking to myself but mostly because my husband who was supposed to be keeping me company was not keeping up with me :rolleyes: . I had not however thought to photograph them until I recently came across the site.

www.gravestonephotos.com I put a post about it on Genealogy (website and links) . Basically it is a man who lives in Cyprus who is compiling photos of graves from all around the world if everybody puts their photo's on this site it keeps them all in one place and he sends e mail photo's to people who request them for free. All he asks is that you tell others about the site or a send him some of your local ones. Well worth a look at the site if you have not already seen it.

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I am one of the volunteer photographers and indexers for Charles' Sale's gravestone photographic resource and I really can recommend sending in any photos you may have, or have a look to see if any church yard you'd like to visit but can't has been covered. I started by finding my great great grandparents ' grave in Suffolk on the site, which otherwise I'd never have seen. It will build into a great historical resource, as more graveyards fall into disrepair or are cleared.

I too have been victim of embarrassing incidents in some church yards; the most recent one being when I was kneeling down focusing so hard on reading a stone which was laid flat, that I didn't hear a silent funeral procession which was heading towards me, and I looked up just in time to see almost straight up the vicar's cassock. I tried to look unconcerned as I retreated to the edge of the graveyard and began to study a random toadstool growing there, until the coast was clear and I could run back to my car. I haven't finished this graveyard yet- daren't go back!

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Haha I get some VERY odd looks especially in City rd as a lot of the laid down stones in the old section now lie under a lair of grass and people seeing a shaved headed bloke digging away at the ground in a cemetery with his bare hands must think I've escaped from the asylum or something :)

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