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Family History Documents and Artefacts => Graveyards and Gravestones => Topic started by: Filiem on Saturday 28 March 09 01:14 GMT (UK)

Title: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Filiem on Saturday 28 March 09 01:14 GMT (UK)
Hi, just a quick question.

I have found 20 plus burials registered so far at a certain church, all members of the family I am researching. This is over a period of about 75 years. However, there is only one grave with a memorial gravestone belonging to the family. Interestingly the three deaths are 40 years apart, whereas other close family members don't have gravestones.

I have spoken to a lovely lady at the local history society and she said that they weren't a family "who could afford such things" as gravestones. So I was just wondering what was the norm for people who could not afford gravestones, were they buried in unmarked graves in the churchyard?

Thanks, Em

Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Gaille on Saturday 28 March 09 02:12 GMT (UK)
My Gt-grandparents both died in the early 1930's.

They left 3 young Adult Children (aged teenage to mid 20's).

Neither of the parents had much money, and their Children were all out starting their working lives so there wasnt a lot of money to spare ........... My Nana & her Brothers & Uncle scraped enough together to buy a grave and bury them in a private grave - but there wasnt enough money left to buy a gravestone - so there is no gravestone to mark the grave to this day.

I know where it is, because my Nana & I went there years ago, and she told me why it wasnt marked.

Gaille

Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: willow154 on Saturday 28 March 09 02:19 GMT (UK)
Hi,
I just found out, about three or four weeks ago, that my grandfather is in a grave without a headstone. He was an Old Contemptible from WW1. I can only conclude that his widow didn't have any money to buy one, and his children felt their priority was to look after their living family.
Very sad, but I can understand it.
Paulene :)

There is a fascinating book on google booksearch (limited view) which tells about death and customs, for rich and poor:
Death in England By Peter C. Jupp, Clare Gittings
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: charlotteCH on Saturday 28 March 09 09:45 GMT (UK)
Hi, I have a string of 19th c graves containing my ancsestors but none has a headstone. They just didn't have the money in that branch of the family.

Another line, same time period and financially well to do, all had headstones etc...
I think it came down to money.

charlotte
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: cassandra123 on Saturday 28 March 09 10:12 GMT (UK)
Unless they contributed to a Burial Club or later an Insurance policy a lot of people could not afford the luxury of headstones.

Putting clothes and food  into the home for the family was the first priority.

A lot of people ended up in public graves for this reason.



Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Filiem on Saturday 28 March 09 12:12 GMT (UK)
Thanks for all the feedback everyone. 

The family were mainly involved in agricultural labour so I can understand there not being much money for luxuries such as gravestones, sad as it is.

I'll have to do some reading, thanks for the link Paulene.
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Sylviaann on Saturday 28 March 09 14:45 GMT (UK)
I found my grandparents grave covered in Ivy.  They did not have a headstone but their names were on the edging.  This must have been added in 1938 after my grandmother died.  Someone must have saved up.

Sylviaann
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Sylviaann on Saturday 28 March 09 14:53 GMT (UK)
Trying to post a photo

Sylviaann

Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: charlotteCH on Sunday 29 March 09 07:49 BST (UK)
Sylviaann, That's a lovely picture to have...

I feel bad about some graves that are completely unmarked-inquiries about cost of a headstone for one in Lancs was that it would cost 500GBP for modest stone and lettering..  :'( :'(

charlotte
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: gwen j on Sunday 29 March 09 09:08 BST (UK)
My Mothers mother died in 1966 and my Dad in 1967.Mum was left without a penny and the graves,which where next to each other where unmarked.When Mum died in 1990,my brothers and I decided that even though she was cemated,we would have her ashes buried in Dads grave and put a headsone in to mark the three of them.Even though we all live some miles away from the graveyard its lovely to have somewhere to go on special days and know that all three are remembered.
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Barbara348 on Sunday 29 March 09 09:36 BST (UK)
Hi Filiem,

just seen your post.

It seems that only people with money could afford a Gravestone and there were so many who couldn't and are in unmarked graves.

A couple of years ago I visited the cemetery where my Gt Grandparents (died in the 1890's) are buried and the caretaker showed me a piece of land under which my relatives were buried.

It was unmarked, you wouldn't know it was someone's final resting place, and there were other unrelated persons in the same grave.
Very depressing but that's how hard life was then.

My Gt Grandad on the other side of my family is in the same cemetery and he has a gravestone but it's made of sandstone and is crumbling away - it's almost impossible now to read any inscription.

My Grandmother, who died in Feb 1945, is also in an unmarked grave because WW11 still hadn't finished &  my mum & her siblings just did not have the money for a gravestone.

I always think that if I won a lot of money, I would erect gravestones for all my ancestors who are in unmarked graves but I feel that's most unlikely to happen !!!

Barbara.







Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Sylviaann on Sunday 29 March 09 12:58 BST (UK)
Well I must admit that my husband was cremated and his ashes scattered at the crematorium so no gravestone for him.  There will not be one for me either if my children follow my wishes and do the same with me.  They won't have the money for anything.  Hopefully my family tree and computer will produce something for them to remember us by.

Sylviaann
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: behindthefrogs on Sunday 29 March 09 13:45 BST (UK)
It was not always a matter of could not afford gravestones.  There are no gravestones on either side of my family for a number of generations.  This was not a matter of could not afford them but a belief that they were a huge waste of money and that a donation to a charity was much better use of the money.

This seems to have been tradition in the particular Congregational and Baptist churches in which my parents were brought up.

David
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: charlotteCH on Monday 30 March 09 05:29 BST (UK)
Hi David, that gravestone not be placed on graves was not universal in Conregational churches- as you indeed implied by use of the word 'particular". I have an 1877 burila of the son of a Conregational[Independent] Chapel minister with a gravestone and from then on I have found gravestones for other family members. - gald they did it, from my point of view, as I have gathered a heap of info from these.

charlotte
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: behindthefrogs on Monday 30 March 09 09:23 BST (UK)
I was brought up in the Congregational Church and while the one of my youth had no gravestones those in which I was later involved all did.

David
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Vasquez109 on Wednesday 01 April 09 19:16 BST (UK)
I found out the hard way! I drove all the way from Swansea to Desborough, Northamptonshire where a lot of the family are buried.

Not a single headstone to be found. Should have worked it out really as they were all Agricultural Labourers and quite poor!
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: willow154 on Wednesday 01 April 09 22:17 BST (UK)
Hi everyone,
About a year or so ago I went on a quest to see if I could find the grave of a rootschatter's ancestor. She told me not to build up any hopes as he was an ag. lab, and had died in the local workhouse.
However, I not only found his grave, but a whole group of family graves. So, you never know - these ancestors are always surprising us!
Paulene
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Vasquez109 on Wednesday 01 April 09 22:52 BST (UK)
Wish I could say the same, but you had done very well. My ancestors had very little. How much do you think a burial and headstone would have cost?

A month or 2's wages?
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Filiem on Thursday 02 April 09 07:52 BST (UK)
Wish I could say the same, but you had done very well. My ancestors had very little. How much do you think a burial and headstone would have cost?

A month or 2's wages?

I was wondering this also!

I managed to get the inscription of the only family grave remaining in the churchyard but it is very difficult to make sense of it, it is so worn away, and I can't match the dates to anyone in the family tree yet, I fear there were more Johns and Josephs in the village that belong to me that I haven't discovered yet!
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: willow154 on Thursday 02 April 09 11:20 BST (UK)
Hi everyone,
I've been looking for ages; trying to find something on the costs of burying the dead in Victorian England. Finally found this book on googlebooks:
www.rootschat.com/links/05za
There are all sorts of interesting bits of information in this book; so it's well worth having a skim through it.
Paulene :)
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Old Mother Reilly on Thursday 02 April 09 12:22 BST (UK)
I know I'm always delighted if I can find a gravestone - I even found one completely by chance halfway up a mountainside in Wales  ;D. 

However, most of my family branches seem to have felt there were more important things to do with the money, if they had it.  We always thought one particular lot remarkably unsentimental as they were relatively middle class but had no grave markers anywhere.  Then, as I began to research the Parish Register entries for the family, it emerged they had lost 5 children out of 12 and buried a spouse and both sets of their parents during a period of less than 10 years ... if they had marked all the graves (in 4 different towns) they would have been starving to pay the stonemason! 

I like to find out where my ancestors "ended up".  I recently found records showing one gt-gt-grandfather buried in a communal grave not 2 miles for where I used to live in NE London bedsitland - and I thought I was the only member of the family ever to live there  ::)  The site has now been sold on but I know where to find him if I am ever passing  :).

It's reassuring to find out that there are lots of other families who, for whatever reason, did not mark their relatives' graves.

Rachel
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: willow154 on Thursday 02 April 09 12:40 BST (UK)
Hi Rachel,

Yes, knowing where they lie is the important thing - time and weather cannot change that  (unless, as in Nottingham, when they built the ice stadium, the council dug up hundreds of graves and moved them all to a mass grave I believe, at the Wilford cemetery - don't quote me on this; it's just from memory).
It was just the cost of the headstone, it was mourning attire for a year, booze up after, etc etc - Victorian funeral rituals were a their height and it seems very expensive. I can quite understand why some families chose a different approach.

Paulene :)
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Old Mother Reilly on Thursday 02 April 09 12:48 BST (UK)
Indeed, for the fashionable Victorian death and mourning seem to have been quite a palavar - quite apart from ones actual feelings.  The black crepe business must have been very profitable, though!

Rachel
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Vasquez109 on Thursday 02 April 09 21:38 BST (UK)
Paulene. That google book is great. How did you find that?

David.
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: willow154 on Thursday 02 April 09 22:29 BST (UK)
Hi David,
Go to google booksearch - you find this by putting this into any search engine. A list of search results appear.
This will bring up the search page, and then you just put in words for your search, as in any other search on any search engine.
The first time I put in the words ' cost of burying the dead' which brought up nothing of real interest. Then I tried again using a phrase such as 'cost of Victorian funerals' - looked through the books which came up, and thought this seemed the most appropriate one.
If you haven't used google books,a s well as your normal searches, try it - some wonderful things come up.
It certainly explains the hard choices families had to make (and still do) + gives an insight into the way the families viewed death as compared to today.
Glad to be of help.
Paulene :)
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: scrimnet on Friday 03 April 09 00:11 BST (UK)
Just as a slightly more modern addenda....

When my brother died as a 9yr old, there was no gravestone as my parents believed that to add one would be "holding him down"....

One was added when my mother died, with an inscription for both of them...

My parents didn't have enough money at the time to buy a pair of leggings for a skylark, and I know that the grave cost quite a bit as well...So that wouldn't have helped either....
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: willow154 on Friday 03 April 09 11:17 BST (UK)
Morning scrimnet :)
I should think the tradegy of losing your brother at such a young age was such a big blow that it was all they could do to get through the first few weeks.
I now that when my father died I never put his name in the memorial book at the crematorium (The option to get the entry put in was only for a limited period) - I was just so numb and and hurting inside. Now I wish I had, but the pain I felt at the time took over everything else.
I think your parents' words maybe, showed their grief, loss and love more than any words they could have put on a headstone.
So sad
Paulene :)
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: janet62 on Monday 27 April 09 19:54 BST (UK)
My grandparent were Plymouyh Brethren and they had no gravestones
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: jane harrison on Tuesday 30 June 09 21:24 BST (UK)
my grandfathers parents buried 4 youngsters all within a year, none had headstones but a least three of them are buried side by side.this site has now been sold to a private company around 20 years ago.all stones e.c.t where removed & dumped against the outside wall (all smashed now) when my grandfather died he was cremated. as he was born & bread on the canal he had asked for his ashes to be scattered along an area he had fond memories.its nice to walk this paticular area on special ocassions  as three other family members are also there (mine & my fathers when our time comes)when each member had died i brought a rose bush & planted in my garden. each bush is named after each member i.e grandads bush e.c.t. each member is marked in my family tree with photos & special memories for generations to come.
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Vasquez109 on Tuesday 30 June 09 23:52 BST (UK)
Thats such a wonderful story! Do you feel uneasy about walking that particular area as you know that it will be your final resting place?
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: charlotteCH on Wednesday 01 July 09 08:04 BST (UK)
A slight variation of the theme- I have an instance where a clearly named leadlined  coffin was in the crypt of the Oak St Chapel, Accrington- the coffin of Jonas Hargreaves who died in 1846 in Accrington Lancs. He'd been RSM of 82nd Foot and was a Chelsea Outpensioner.
In the mid 1960s the Council/ Borough or whatever the local govt body is, demolished the Oak St Chapel as it had dry rot thru it and built a car park on the church and adjacent Cemetery site.
 The coffin was moved to Accrington Cem where it was dumped unceremoniously in a grave to which no name has been added. The Council/Borough  owns the burial plot I believe. 

So Jonas Hargreaves  now effectively is buried in an unmarked grave where before he was buried in a privileged place- the crypt of the chapel.  His was one of two or three coffins there and the only one to bear a name.  This dumping seems to me appalling and I wonder if the law has not been broken here- is not it the law about exhumations and reburials that one of conditions of reburial is that it must not be less proper than before? Does anyone know what the Home Office rules are about this please?

At the same time, the bodies of those buried in the Cemetery attached to the Chapel were exhumed and cremated... quite some dozens of bodies... where are the ashes of these people?  Has the law been followed here?

Any comments or suggestions here will be very welcome... Jonas was my greatgreat grandfather.

charlotte

Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: jane harrison on Wednesday 01 July 09 08:21 BST (UK)
not at all its a nice clean area of the canal with lots of family stories & memories (dad was born on a barge near there) its only a 20 min drive from my home. when i need to chill out i often sit along the toe path & ponder life & come away with a more relaxed frame of mind. dad always says at least the fishing is good there they are fattened up on us harrisons.the good side to me is no graves to worry about being vandalised or falling in to disrepair or neglect when i go to the great attic in the sky.i have my memory rose bushes & if i ever move i can take them with me .when i die my daughter will take them & plant in her garden, you cant do that with head stones.
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Vasquez109 on Wednesday 01 July 09 11:05 BST (UK)
Charlotte, that is awful! Im not really sure what the law is, but others on here are a mine of information. They would know better than I would.

David.
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: charlotteCH on Wednesday 01 July 09 12:53 BST (UK)
David, I stand appalled at this...I'm not in England or else I'd take  up the matter of getting this set right with a headstone naming him.

To get a copy of the exhumation order out of the Home Office, after three requests that were ignored, I registered the letter of request which meant they had to sign for it . I thus had evidence of delivery- that day after the registered letter was recieved a reply was mailed to me... didn't want to get caught out.  No wonder local authorities behave as they do and dump someone in an unmarked grave.

Let's hope someone who knows the law on exhumations and reburials comes on here...
Thanks for your empathy here.

charlotte
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Avril-14 on Wednesday 08 July 09 07:05 BST (UK)
Hello there
like Barbara 348 I too have relatives buried in an unmarked grave in the Rhymeny cemetry in Wales.  One of those people was my sister and another was my uncle but there are two other people in that grave who I don't know.  I had the plot number and the row and the only way to roughly find out where the grave was, was to mark out the distance between marked graves and carry of from there until I "found" it.  My sister was buried in 1939.

Avril
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: charlotteCH on Wednesday 08 July 09 07:14 BST (UK)
Aril, I'd think the Cem authorities could tell you who is buried in that grave and who owns the grave etc.
It would be worth asking.

charlotte
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Avril-14 on Wednesday 08 July 09 22:32 BST (UK)
Hello Charlotte

I do know who is in the grave with my sister and uncle,
My sisters name was Valerie Potte who died at 3 month and interred 16th august 1939
My Unlces name was Isaac Francis Potter aged 22 and was interred on 13th September 1933.

 they are Eliza James aged 70 who interred 7th May 1919
               William James aged 54 who was interred on 24th March 1923.

I have no clue who these people are and I don't know who the grave owner is.
It would be really good to see if anyone can help on this.   ???

Cheers
Avril
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: charlotteCH on Thursday 09 July 09 02:02 BST (UK)
Avril,
The Cemetery authority would know who owned- paid for- the grave I'd think.  Possibly they'd also know who the undertakers were who looked after the burial arrangements. Even if the undertakers are not in business still their records may be at the Local Studies Library or with some local authority- worth tracking them down.
It would certainly be worth asking the Cem Authority-

Interesting that your two burial are after the others.  Don't know what that means? ???

charlotte
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Avril-14 on Thursday 09 July 09 03:00 BST (UK)
Hello Charlotte

 ??? should have gone on the line above where I had put it.  Cos the reason is I just haven't got a clue.
Anyway thanks again for your help. I had, quite awhile ago wrote to the Caerphilly registry office and they couldn't offer anymore information than the names of the people who are in the grave as did the Rhymney Valley District council.  The Rhymney Valley district council were very helpful in giving me the information about the grave, (grave A393) and who is in it.

Not too worry.
Thanks again Charlotte
Cheeres
Avril
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Guy Etchells on Thursday 09 July 09 07:13 BST (UK)
David, I stand appalled at this...I'm not in England or else I'd take  up the matter of getting this set right with a headstone naming him.

To get a copy of the exhumation order out of the Home Office, after three requests that were ignored, I registered the letter of request which meant they had to sign for it . I thus had evidence of delivery- that day after the registered letter was recieved a reply was mailed to me... didn't want to get caught out.  No wonder local authorities behave as they do and dump someone in an unmarked grave.

Let's hope someone who knows the law on exhumations and reburials comes on here...
Thanks for your empathy here.

charlotte

The law is set out here-
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/RevisedStatutes/Acts/ukpga/1981/cukpga_19810018_en_1

The Schedule on page two gives more details.
Cheers
Guy
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: charlotteCH on Thursday 09 July 09 08:31 BST (UK)
Guy, Thank you very much for the link. 

charlotte
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Gaille on Friday 10 July 09 03:47 BST (UK)
Hello Charlotte

 ??? should have gone on the line above where I had put it.  Cos the reason is I just haven't got a clue.
Anyway thanks again for your help. I had, quite awhile ago wrote to the Caerphilly registry office and they couldn't offer anymore information than the names of the people who are in the grave as did the Rhymney Valley District council.  The Rhymney Valley district council were very helpful in giving me the information about the grave, (grave A393) and who is in it.

Not too worry.
Thanks again Charlotte
Cheeres
Avril


Are you sure its the SAME grave?
My nana & Grandad are buried in the same grave, grandad in 1977, nana in 2008.

I KNOW for a fact they are the only ones in the grave, i was there when Nana bought it, and I have the deeds in my possesion so it cant be opened without me knowing.
We have visited at least 4 times a year since 1977 so there is no way anyone is buried in it.

However - if you search on Manchester councils website there are FOUR names listed under the grave number - Grandad is number 1 - the number 2 & 3 I didnt know, number 4 was nana.

When I saw it I freaked out a little -so I called the Cemetery office & they explained there are 2 graves with same plot & Grave number - but 1 is in the consecrated part of the cemetery, and one in the Non-conformists part.

What I am saying i suppose is dont be 100% certain they are all in the same grave, they may not be.

Gaille
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Nick29 on Saturday 24 September 11 11:57 BST (UK)
Graves may not originally have been totally unmarked.  When families could not afford the expense of a stone marker, they could sometimes afford a simple wooden cross, which may have been simply engraved, or have a metal plate attached.  Of course, without suitable preservation, a wooden marker would not have survived intact more than about 40 years.
Title: Re: Can't afford gravestones?
Post by: Plummiegirl on Saturday 24 September 11 12:12 BST (UK)
When thinking about graveyards and markers/headstones we should also think of the logistics

In all probability there are more graves without any form of marker.

Think about it.  If EVERY person who died could afford a plot (including those with more that one family member in) most graveyards would have filled up in about 10 years!  Or the practice of burying a person 'standing upo' may have needed to be adopted to save space for more burials.

I am always amazed that people are shocked to find that their ancestors are in either an unmarked or public grave.  As most of us are from very poor famiies such as Ag. Labs. surely we would not expect a gravestone/marker and be more surprised if we do find one. 

I know when I started out I did not expect to find any and I have not been disappointed! ;)