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# Monday, 22 September 2008
Don't Get Arrested Doing A Tombstone Rubbing
Posted by Diane

Q. A cemetery-sleuthing Forum member, surprised to learn tombstone rubbings are prohibited in some areas, asked for more information about where that’s the case.

A. A state, county, municipality or a cemetery itself can set rules regarding tombstone rubbings.

Historic cemeteries and those popular with tourists, such as Boston’s Old Granary (final resting place for many Revolutionary War heroes), often prohibit tombstone rubbings because of the potential damage. Repeated rubbings of a stone, even when done properly, cause deterioration over time.

Similarly, Department of Veterans Affairs national cemeteries also do not authorize gravestone rubbings. (You can search burials in VA cemeteries using the Nationwide Gravesite Locator.)

You also may find rubbings aren’t prohibited, but regulated. In Andover, Mass., for example, Spring Grove Cemetery requires visitors to register with the foreman before doing a rubbing.

New Hampshire law states “No person shall make gravestone rubbings in any municipal cemetery or burial ground without first obtaining the written permission of the town selectmen or the mayor of a city … [who] will ascertain to the best of their ability that the person making the request knows the proper precautions.”

Before you visit a cemetery to do a rubbing, call ahead to see if it's permitted. Most cemetery Web sites I checked didn't address the issue; I’d try to talk to a person just to be safe.

For some cemeteries, it’s not clear whom to call. Try the local municipal government or parks department, which may take over maintenance once the family or oganization that established a cemetery is gone. A local genealogical or historical society might be able to give helpful information, too.

Before visiting a cemetery located on private property—common in rural areas—check cemetery access laws to ensure you’re not trespassing. You may have to go during certain hours or get permission from the landowner to cross his property.

Even when tombstone rubbings are allowed, use common sense: If a stone is unsteady, crumbling or fragile, don’t take a rubbing—take a picture and make a transcription instead.

See more gravestone rubbing dos and don'ts  on the Association for Gravestone Studies Web site.

Monday, 22 September 2008 18:06:22 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, 15 October 2007
Who uses Hebrew dates?
Posted by Grace

Q While exploring a Jewish cemetery in Cincinnati recently I noticed much variation among the inscriptions on tombstones. Is there a particular date when families started using Gregorian dates rather than Hebrew dates on graves?

A Schelly Talalay Dardashti, whose blog, Tracing the Tribe, is a formidable source for researching Jewish roots, says the choice to use secular or Hebrew dates depends on a few things: historical period, location, and the family's affiliation and level of religious observance.

"In ancient days in Europe, dates would have been only in Hebrew, with the year written using the Hebrew alphabet characters for the numbers. In some cemeteries today, you may find only the secular dates," she says. "In the great pre-Holocaust Jewish communities throughout Europe, most old sections of Jewish cemeteries will show Hebrew-only inscriptions, while newer sections may have secular dates. It was a personal choice even though custom and tradition indicated the use of Hebrew."

Today, some assimilated families might feel the Hebrew date is not important, as the family isn't religious. In isolated areas, there may be no masons who can properly carve Hebrew inscriptions. "Using Hebrew dates means the family understands the Jewish calendar and what one must do on the anniversary of the individual's death," she says. "Synagogue observances, prayers, candles at home and visits to cemetery according to the Hebrew calendar date of death."

Cincinnati was the hotbed of German Reform Judaism in America—it's the home of the Hebrew Union College, which ordains Reform Jewish clergy. The German Jews who settled there were very assimilated, Talalay Dardashti says.

The deceased individual might have left instructions to do things one way or the other, but the children may decide if left with no instructions, she says. But when it comes down to it, picking a style of dates is a personal choice unless cemetery regulations stipulate them.

For more resources on Jewish heritage, check out Family Tree Magazine's August 2006 issue.

To easily convert Hebrew dates, you can use Steve Morse's Jewish Calendar Conversions in One Step and tombstone decipherer. has a great tutorial on reading Hebrew tombstones here.

Want to share your own pictures from your cemetery visits? Come on over to the Cemetery Central Forum.

Monday, 15 October 2007 15:45:16 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]