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The Last Word


October 17, 2018

Are you one of those people who always have to get the last word in? Well, you can if you have it carved in stone on your tombstone. A brief phrase or statement inscribed on a tombstone is known as an epitaph. If you want some inspiration, look at some attention-grabbing epitaphs on, or find a book of epitaphs using the online catalog. I heard an interesting idea for coming up with an epitaph on the way to work one morning. The radio hosts had callers read their last text and see how it would sound on a headstone. I checked my last text, and it said, “I’m looking forward to it.” Some were humorous, while others were thought-provoking.

No matter where you find inspiration for your last words, headstones provide a platform for people to share things about their lives. Headstones offer genealogists not only names and dates, but also other clues about their ancestors’ lives. Some family headstones shed light on relationships―nearby headstones may be other relatives.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the artwork and symbols etched on headstones can help you understand more about your ancestor’s life than written words. Symbols on headstones may provide clues to religion, fraternal organizations, or even military service. If you want to learn more about cemetery icons and their meanings, sign up for Cemetery Art on Wednesday, October 17, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Midwest Genealogy Center.

As you explore graveyards in your search for genealogical information, take a closer look at the words and the images on the headstones. Maybe you will find out more about your ancestor or come up with a unique idea for your own epitaph.

What interesting headstones have you found?

Jolene C.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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