Gravestones

The Grave a cemetery of 10,000 graves on a wet afternoon in the blind hope of making a discovery, which is why it's vital to approach any burial search methodically. Use information that already exists such as statutory certificates, parish records, wills and transcriptions. Plus, other avenues of research, such as obituaries, rolls of honour, burial books and plot maps.

The most common way to locate a family grave is to look it up in one of the many Monumental Inscription (MI) booklets published by family history societies throughout Britain. Some societies and independent websites have set up online MI databases. Links to the English and Welsh societies can be found at the Federation of Family

There are millions of them out there, but what exactly are gravestones made of?

Graves come in many different shapes, sizes and types of stone. The type of stone used will have a large bearing on the overall condition of the monument and the legibility of its inscription. The position of the stone within the burial ground also determines its exposure to the elements; a monument sheltered from the elements will be less prone to erosion than if it were regularly exposed to wind and rain.

There are four main types of stone used for monuments: marble, a granular limestone with polish that diminishes over time; granite, a hard-wearing rock with a long-lasting polish; slate, a brittle, dull grey rock which tends to flake over time; and sandstone, a soft stone prone to erosion from weather and the wearing away of inscriptions.

Monument inscriptions from the 19th century onwards are generally legible. However, less-durable types of stone were more commonly used prior to this time. Monuments erected inside a church are typically best preserved. The exception are floor tablets positioned along the nave; centuries of parishioners walking on them has inevitably taken its toll. See issue 10 of Your Family Tree for tips on cleaning and interpreting troublesome inscriptions and preserving gravestones for future generations to read.

EROSION: Facing the sun and exposed to wind, this sandstone monument's inscription will soon disappear

EROSION: Facing the sun and exposed to wind, this sandstone monument's inscription will soon disappear

CHELSEA GIRL: Arabella's gravestone was found after getting a copy of the burial register for the parish of St Luke, Chelsea

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