52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Tombstone

It is week 21 in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge. For this week, the writing prompt is Tombstone.

Marking the places where the dead are buried is a human practice older than recorded history with some of the oldest known stone markers dating back to 3,000 to 4,000 B.C. Known as dolmens or chamber tombs, they were megalithic monuments. The earliest tombstones, like the dolmen, were a stone or stones covering the entire grave. Unlike earlier tombstones, today’s headstones are much smaller, serving as memorials for the deceased. While some headstones are simple, carved only with the deceased’s initials or name, others are elaborately carved or decorated, with each symbol representing a theme or feeling. Some of my favorite family headstones contain these symbols (with these meanings):

  • Anchor: Steadfast hope
  • Book: Faith, wisdom
  • Dove: Holy Spirit, purity
  • Garland: Victory over death
  • Hands: Relationship, affection
  • Heart: Devotion, love
  • Ivy: Faithfulness, memory
  • Lamb: Innocence, youth
  • Lily: Purity, resurrection
  • Oak: Strength, resilience
  • Skeleton or skull: Life’s brevity
  • Weeping willow: Mourning, grief

Now, one would think that the theme “tombstone” would be a relatively (no pun intended) easy one for family historians/genealogists. So why, with so many headstones in our combined family trees from which to choose, am I having such a difficult time highlighting just one?

As I browsed my images library, I was surprised to note a few family members whose worn-down or missing headstones had been replaced by some of their descendants. Some of those ancestors are James Campbell and his wife Jane (Sample) Campbell (my 6th great-grandparents), Edward Foulke (my spouse’s 8th great-grandfather), and Abraham Sell (my 8th great-grandfather). How wonderful that their progeny decided to rededicate their lives by remarking their final resting places. That is indeed a great tribute.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sadly, for every family member whose final resting place has been rededicated, dozens upon dozens are lying in unmarked graves or whose final resting place is unknown. Each time I come across an ancestor with either or unmarked or unknown burial site, it depresses me a bit.

It is especially sad when that ancestor is more recent. For example, David Henry Noel (my 2nd great-grandfather) was so impoverished that when he died in 1932, he was buried in an unmarked grave beside his wife Elizabeth (Fogle) Noel, whose headstone was placed 11 years earlier.

Then, there is the father-son-son trio of Pearl Francis (my 5th great-grandfather), Lunsford Francis (my 4th great-grandfather), and Henry Francis (my 5th great-uncle) who, in 1850, caught the “gold fever” sweeping the nation. The three left the farmlands of Missouri for the goldfields of California to join Pearl’s other sons, William Jackson and Granville. Sadly, Pearl and Henry never made it to their final destination. They died en route from cholera and were buried in a poorly marked grave 800 miles away, not far from Fort Laramie, Wyoming. (Today, no trace of their shared grave has been found.) Lunsford supposedly died 17 years later, but where he died and where he was buried are unknown.

Pearl’s father, Henry Francis, Jr. (my 6th great-grandfather) fought in and survived both the American Revolution and the War of 1812. When he did pass away at the ripe old age of 85, Henry was buried in Horsehead Township, Johnson County, Arkansas. Unfortunately, circa 1950, the Horsehead Lake was created, and the final resting place of Henry Francis, Jr. was submerged beneath the water.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Categories: Noel-Ardinger Line, Taylor-Thomas Line, Watts-Stark Line, Williams-Stott Line | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Post navigation

7 thoughts on “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Tombstone

  1. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How sad, Valerie! Hopefully, someday you will be able to mark his final resting place. 😦


  3. Very interesting! My deceased husband is buried in an unmarked grave. When he died my mother “gave” me her burial plot which was paid for. After the funeral, she refused to allow anyone put a headstone on it because it was still in her name. Of course, his whole family blamed me. My mother did it in spite because she hated him and his family. His parents put a headstone in their hometown in Ohio but he is buried in Arizona!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s sad that some of your relatives and ancestors were buried in unmarked graves. Your blog is always so fascinating to me! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: *Press it* 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Tombstone #136 | Its good to be crazy Sometimes

  6. Unmarked graves bother me, too. I expect there will be some monument purchases in my future.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have spent many an hour looking for the final resting place of some of my relatives…I love a good walk in a cemetery. When it came to my 2X Great Grandparents..I could not find them until I went to the cemetery office and they confirmed that they were in an unmarked Grave…their daughter had no money to provide them with a headstone so I bought them one. I did not want anyone else to have to search that hard for them……Great post! Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 2 people

Please share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Sheila's Archive

A Family History

Anna's Musings & Writings

A Catholic and Aspiring Contemplative's Journey, Genealogy, Odds and Ends . . .

Rhos Helyg Family History Services

Follow my family history adventures and more

Personal Prologue: Family Roots and Personal Branches

Copyright©2021, Margo Lee Williams, All Rights Reserved

Once Upon A Lifetime: Tales And Vignettes Of My Ancestors

MaryAnne Slabik-Haffner, Family History Author

Rhyme Schemes and Daydreams

Things That Interest Me

The Chiddicks Family Tree

Every Family has a story to tell..........Welcome to mine

writing my past

in which I document my genealogical research adventures and explore the people and events from my family's history…

Deeper Roots Genealogy

~ Discovering Your Family's Past To Shape Your Future ~

Delving into the past

Here you shall find, my writings, about my family research, and general research into murders, and other people's ancestry, where I dig deep, and find all kinds of information about my family, whether it is good or bad, and my life itself in general, there are some sad, informative, facts here, which I hope, will get you guys blogging, so what are you waiting for? Get reading!

A Pennsylvania Dutch Genealogy

the genealogy & family research site of Kris Hocker

The Family Letter Blog

Connecting Generations

Discovering Yesterday

Preserving the history of ordinary people

Barb's GeNealogy Life

Combining two of my favorite addictive pastimes - family history and writing.

Past Presence

A site for genealogists and family historians

Julie's Genealogy & History Hub

Blog of Brass Oak Genealogy

The Family Kalamazoo

A genealogical site devoted to the history of the DeKorn and Zuidweg families of Kalamazoo and the Mulder family of Caledonia

From Shepherds and Shoemakers

Sharing musings, insights, resources and strategies as I discover my family history.

Its good to be crazy Sometimes

A view from the inside of going through the minefield of the British benefit system if you are disabled and the ups and downs of coping with mental illness


Words of wisdom, inspiration, feeling

Rants, Rambles, Revelations, Remembrances

Because the voice in my head won't stay silent...

Genealogy for Children

How to engage children in genealogy and family history

Brumley Family Branches

A Genealogy Blog


Collecting stories from family historians who are climbing their family trees and planning trips to where their ancestors actually lived!

Kindred Stories

Everyone has a story


Where Distant Family Become Close

Jill's Garden

Garden of Life

Chips Off the Old Block

A blog devoted to genealogical wanderings - dedicated to family near and far, through distance and time

Applegate Genealogy

Helping others discover their roots

Gary A Wilson Stories

10 Minute Adventures, Fiction and Coffee Breaks

Shaking The Branches

Sharing Stories From My Family Tree

Decoding the Family Tree

solving family history one branch at a time.

Bespoke Genealogy

UK and Ireland: Genealogy, History and Travel

The Letters

Louise Mabey

From Ballachulish to South Mississippi

Mississippi family history letters


Exploring the Past to Improve the Future

Aquila's Place

An Eccentric Mix of Literature and Opinions

The Women Who Made Me

Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary

F Yeah History

History...but better

Amanda Bradburn

Author | Editor | Genealogist | Historian


Actor, Writer, and Embroidery Artist seeking beauty and humour.

Today in History

"Tell me a fact, and I'll learn. Tell me a truth, and I'll believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever." - Steve Sabol, NFL Films

Empty Branches on the Family Tree

Genealogy Tips & Family History

Dusty Roots & Forgotten Treasures

Researching, Preserving, and Sharing Genealogical Information For Future Generations

%d bloggers like this: