Posted by: Laura Aanenson | July 19, 2016

The Last to Die

As you may already know, I visit a lot of cemeteries and I read a lot of grave markers.

I try not to make assumptions about the deceased based on the information on their headstones.

For example, sometimes the memorial lists more than one person.

I never assume a relationship between the people listed unless the marker clearly states “husband” and “wife” or “father” and “son”.

But sometimes everyone listed was born so long ago I can’t help but assume they couldn’t possibly still be living.


Forest Hill Cemetery Madison Wisconsin

And when just one person is missing a date of death I can’t help but wonder, were they the last person in their family to die?

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | July 14, 2016

Cemetery Plants

It must be challenging for caretakers to maintain cemetery grounds when plants grow around and between headstones.

Forest Hill

Forest Hill Cemetery Madison Wisconsin

But it certainly makes the cemetery beautiful.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | July 13, 2016

Wednesday’s Child – Ella Louise Hankenson

A necklace around the top of Ella’s memorial caught my eye the first time I visited her at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.


And the second time. And every time thereafter.


Who, I wonder, it adding this piece of jewelry to a monument erected in 1888?


And why?

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | July 12, 2016

Three-Dimensional Grief

Most of the headstones in Chicago’s Irving Park Cemetery are the run-of-the-mill variety one sees at many cemeteries.

I took hundreds of photos for Find A Grave when I visited the cemetery in July of 2015.

As I was leaving, the sun caught a large white headstone on my left.


The feeling of deep loss captured in stone caused me to stand for several minutes in silence.

Only a noisy car alarm in the distance brought me back to the present.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | July 8, 2016

Time’s A-Wastin’!

Every time I hear of another cemetery threatened by catastrophic weather or destroyed by vandals, I feel a greater sense of urgency to photograph headstones.

Although a picture cannot replace a monument, it can provide a record for the family, law enforcement or insurance companies who may wish to replace a damaged memorial.

Thoughts of tragedy aside, just seeing a photo of an ancestor’s headstone could bring joy to a descendant.

C’mon folks, summer is officially in full swing and photo opportunities abound!


Headstones at Chicago’s Acacia Park Cemetery waiting to be photographed.

Please consider taking headstone photos in your local cemetery and sharing them on Find A Grave.

Someone out there is certain to appreciate your efforts.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | July 6, 2016

From and To

As a genealogist in America, much of my research is focused on my ancestors’ countries of origin. From whence did they come?

Researchers on the other side of the pond are also curious about the “to”.

My husband has been helping a Norwegian genealogist learn more about his emmigrant ancestors’ lives in America.

For my small part, I located their final resting places.


Lars and Sophia Anderson in Lakewood Cemetery Minneapolis


And let them know someone in the old country was thinking about them.


Lars and Sophia Anderson in Lakewood Cemetery Minneapolis

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | July 4, 2016

Independence Day in the Cemetery

A weather-worn obelisk stands proudly in section 7 of Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis Minnesota.


On one side, a plaque pays tribute to a Revolutionary War soldier’s descendants.


To all those who fought, and continue to fight for our independence – thank you.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | June 23, 2016

W B Porter, Jr and Sr

DSCF1962 watermarked

Porter monuments in Black River Falls Wisconsin

Eternal life is represented by an obelisk.

A monument with two pillars symbolizes the passageway into the next life.

W B Porter Jr, who died 07 May 1881 at the age of 36, is interred under an obelisk. One can assume it was his family’s hope that he was granted eternal life.

W B Porter Sr died four years later. Two pairs of pillars on his monument make me think he hoped the passageway to join his son would be open from every direction.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | June 5, 2016

Youngest and Beloved Son

The following obituaries were printed on the front page of the June 9, 1883 issue of the Chicago Daily News;

2016 06-05 CDN 1883 06-09 Sunday's Obituary

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | May 27, 2016

Find A Grave is a Numbers Game; Family Trees

Genealogy clues abound in nearly every cemetery I visit.

Sometimes immigration, relationship, and residency clues present themselves in abundance on just one headstone:

The Cheney family monument in Riverside Cemetery, Black River Falls Wisconsin

The Cheney family monument in Riverside Cemetery, Black River Falls Wisconsin


At times, the overall layout of a family plot will reveal names and relationships:

The Berlet family plot in Montrose Cemetery, Chicago Illinois

The Berlet family plot in Montrose Cemetery, Chicago Illinois


Sometimes the only record of a child who was born and died between censuses is found on a headstone:

Lucy Isabel Shook in Oak Hill Cemetery, Janesville Wisconsin

Lucy Isabel Shook in Oak Hill Cemetery, Janesville Wisconsin


These and other important clues are available on Find A Grave because volunteer contributors put them there.

As a genealogist, I know how exciting it can be to find an ancestor on Find A Grave. And how disappointing it can be when they can’t be found.

When I joined the Find A Grave community seven years ago, my goal was to add all my deceased family members. Then my goal expanded to add a number of memorials equal to the number of ancestors I have.

2016 05-27 Find A Grave 01


Think of the [even more] amazing resource Find A Grave could become if every genealogist added 4096 memorials!

I hope you’ll consider memorializing a few of the ancestors in your family tree this Memorial Day weekend.

It might just be the best cousin-bait ever used when fishing the internet for genealogist cousins.

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