And Interpretations

ANCHOR - hope
ANGELS - God's Messengers
ARCHWAYS, PILLARS & GATES - Passageway into the next life
BOOK/BIBLE -- Book of Life, the Bible
BOOK OPEN - Deceased was a teacher or clergyman
BUTTERFLY - Short-lived, early death
CHERUB - Angeliz
COLUMN BROKEN; Loss of head of family
CORN - Ripe old age
CROSS - Emblem of faith
DOVE - Holy Spirit
FINGERS POINTING UP - Soul gone to Heaven.
FLOWER BUD - Beginning of a new life
FOLDED HANDS - Prayer, Scripture.
HAND CHOPPING - Life cut short, sudden death
HAND REACHING DOWN - God reaching down for a soul.
HANDSHAKE - God's welcome to Heaven
HANDSHAKE of MATRIMONY - Usually found on wife's tombstone
HARP - Praise to the Maker
HEART - Mourning and earthly sorrow
HOUR GLASS - wings of time attached - time flying - short life
IVY - Friendship & immortality
LAMB - Purity, innocense - usually on childs tombstone
LAUREL - Fame or victory
LILY/ LILY OF THE VALLEY - Innocence and purity
MORNING GLORy - Beginning of new life
OAK LEAVES & ACORN - Maturity, old age
PALM LEAVES & LILIES - Resurrection -Victory & Rejoicing
POPPY = Sleep
ROSE - Prime of life
ROSEBUD - Morning of Life SHEAF OF WHEAT: Ripe for Harvest
STAR - Reward of Resurrection (Hex signs similar, meant to ward off evil spirits)
TORCH INVERTED - lifeextinct
TREE STUMP - Woodman of World Member
TREE STUMP BROKEN - Life cut short.
TREE STUMP ENTWINED WITH IVY - Head of family - Immortality
URN WITH BLAZE - undying friendship - Death
WEEPING WILLOW - Emblem of sorrow


EMPTY GRAVES - When the word "Cenotaph" is engraved on a tombstone it means that the grave is empty. The stone was created in memory or in honor of a person buried somewhere else, such as at sea or an unknown grave on a battlefield.

O.S.B. - if you find this it means "ORBIN SINE PROLE - Its is Latin for - Died without issue



Headstones were simple, upright stabs of stones, but they were enriched with carvings and epitaphs. One of the reasons Puritan gravestones were decorated with graphic images such as skulls, wings and hourglasses was that so many were unable to read the epitaphs. By learning the picture codes, you can figure out the meanings on these old monuments. Puritan stones were designed to honor the dead and teach the living moral lessons. Valuable genealogical clues can be found on tombstones, too. Many stones of immigrants carry the name of the town of their origins. For this reason, genealogists should make every effort to locate the burial places of their immigrant ancestors. Sometimes this is the only place you will learn the exact "old country" origins of your ancestors. Early churchyard stones hold a fascination for most people because they are imbued with human sentiment and emotion. Colonial headstones move and inspire us because they tell a story or inspire us with some beautiful or humorous tribute. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, Va. would be just another public monument were it not for the superb inscription which reads: "Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier Known but to God." If you discover tombstone markings you are unable to translate, make a rubbing of the stone or reproduce it as exactly as possible and take it to a local monument works or sales outlet. Most of these businesses have the illustrated book by the American Monument Assn. Inc., Memorial Symbolism, Epitaphs and Design Types. Or your local library may have a copy. It has illustrations of the designs, and explanations and meanings of various flowers, trees and other symbols, such as lambs ( a favorite found on children's stones), plus symbols used by religious, fraternal, military and labor organizations.


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