Podcast Episode 33: Analyzing Gravestones with Berks County Association for Graveyard Preservation

Real examples and tips for cemetery research from an expert. Discover how to interpret gravestones and uncover clues about your ancestors' lives. Learn tips on deciphering inscriptions, identifying memorial plaques, and understanding the costs of gravestones.

Podcast Episode 33: Analyzing Gravestones with Berks County Association for Graveyard Preservation

What can cemeteries tell us beyond the names, birth and death dates of our ancestors? Turns out a whole lot! Learn how to interpret your ancestors gravestones with Lara Thomas of Berks County Association for Graveyard Preservation.

Lara walks us through real examples of gravestones and we learn:

  • How to interpret the location of the grave in relation to the church building
  • Looking for memorial plaques
  • Clues to status and relationships in inscriptions
  • How costs of gravestones and internment affect current burials

Get ready to get outside this spring and spend time with your ancestors!

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:05] What can cemeteries tell us besides the names and death dates of our ancestors, you know, that information that we find on the headstones? Well, it turns out a whole lot. In this episode of your Pennsylvania ancestors. I welcome back Laura Thomas with the Berks County association for graveyard preservation.

[00:00:28] She has great tips and ideas for how you can read the cemetery. Now this isn't like reading a book. This is about using your. Imagination intuition, historical knowledge, uh, maybe some Google that you do while you're there at the cemetery. Some conversations with other people where you start to combine everything that you see about that cemetery, the kinds of stones, where they're placed the environment.

[00:01:02] And, and anyway, I'm going to let Laura explain it to you because this was amazing to me. And what I really love about it is it's a very safe activity you can do in this time of the virus and needing to be distant and where mass, like a cemetery, you can often be really distant from people and get some fresh air and some exercise, out and about for a day, uh, doing the things that Laura is going to explain to us in this episode.

[00:01:30] So, if you are listening to this on audio and you'd like to see the visuals, there is a YouTube version. And if you're on YouTube, that's going to seem weird. There's not another YouTube version. There's just this version. So you can see examples of the headstones, but even if you don't look at the video, you're going to get great ideas.

[00:01:51] Through this episode, and it's a great way to go back and sort of revisit some of your research while we're waiting for those archives and courthouses to reopen and life, to return to normal to us here in 2021.

[00:02:03] So let's go, yeah. Use our historical imagination and go research our ancestors.

[00:02:10] Denys Allen:

[00:02:10] Lara Thomas is back on the podcast. Uh Lara with the Berks County Association for Graveyard Preservation. I got the name, right? Yeah. Yes, you did. Laura is awesome at filling us in on all things about cemeteries and gravestones. And in our last interview, we talked about how you can tell someone.

[00:02:31] ] socioeconomic status or where they fit in their community based on their place in the cemetery and their gravestone. And I, I'm just going to let you start rolling with it because this is an exciting, it's an exciting topic for me. Cause I, you know, any of us genealogists that have walked cemeteries, you, you start asking questions.

[00:02:53] You can tell old stones from new stones, obviously. But some stones are bigger. Some are . Some are, you know, I mean it just kind of crazy and you start asking yourself why.

[00:03:04] Lara Thomas: Yeah. And I think some of it goes to what you were talking. One of your other podcasts too, you mentioned about how sometimes we're interested in the genealogy and we get, you know, it's, it's a bit of a bug.

[00:03:16] I'll just talk about that, you know, you need this fall who came next, you know, and keep following that path. But they're not just names on, on a tree either. You know, we, we want to have a little bit of sense of, well, who were these people, even if we can't know them personally, because it's not as if we have diaries for every single one of our relatives or anything like that.

[00:03:36] I think that people forget that there's a lot that you can infer. And I would stress Infor you know, um, things like what I've been talking about. A historian or an anthropologist or an archeologist would still say they're secondary sources. We're not talking directly to that person or reading their comments that they left for us.

[00:03:54] We're making judgements based off of, you know, the things that are left behind about them. But there's a lot, even a non historian can get from just looking at the tombstone, the cemetery, the way they're laid out. Um, there's actually, it's becoming more of a topic even for archeologists and anthropologists and historians of talking about the landscape itself, um, and looking at at where a grave is.

[00:04:20] And I think that in it of itself can tell us something about our ancestors. Um, we've already had your podcast. We talked a little bit about the small private cemetery. We looked at someone that chuge, um, like Mount Moriah, you know, and, and. The overall image and feel that that gives us. And when you think about, if you yourself was the person choosing, we're, all we're going to do today is look at some stones and try to put ourselves in that person's position.

[00:04:49] And it can tell you a lot, you know, whether you want to view yourself as the person who's making the arrangements, or if you're the. Loves worms or executors that are left behind making the arrangements. It tells you a little bit about the person. It helps to know history or to know Pennsylvania history.

[00:05:06] But I think even looking at the tombstones stones themselves can tell you a little bit about Pennsylvania history and how the people that we now call Pennsylvanians have changed over time. Um, I think most people are aware that Pennsylvania started with settlement all the way down, starting towards Philadelphia.

[00:05:21] One of the earliest settlements is Germantown and then everything kind of moves up and out and West. And as you go further and further West, you're going to find. Later in later cemeteries and tombstones. So that in and of itself is kind of common sense. We know that we learned that in elementary school about how the settlement went, things like that.

[00:05:40] So depending on what era you're looking at for your relatives, you might be starting at a particular point in time walking around the cemetery or. You might just decide, you know what? I saw this podcast, I'm going to look at it with fresh eyes. Let's go to a couple of the cemeteries that I know we have relatives and look at the cemetery as a whole.

[00:06:01] I think most people have some sort of mental picture. You know, they, they th they have a picture of the church with the graveyard behind. Um, even our terminology tells us a little bit about it. They weren't always called graveyards. They weren't called church yards in English. Um, has to do with the fact that, um, people want to be buried as close to the alter.

[00:06:22] Uh, as possible because a lot of that came about even with the reformation, you're closer to God, you know, it, it kind of makes sense. In a religious standpoint, you feel a little bit safer when you're a little bit closer, but it also implies money. You know, you have to pay for that privilege. And if you think about, um, what they were doing back then, Let's say you are in an older cemetery or an older church, and you have someone that has a monument or Memorial that's actually in the church.

[00:06:51] What does that imply? Well, it implies money because you have to be making arrangements either with the church or the, or the grounds for cemetery, burial grounds to disrupt everything in a very prime location. And a lot of times, if you have something that's actually in a church, you have to pay for flagstones to be lifted.

[00:07:11] So that a gray biomarker could be put there, or you have to put, uh, pay for parts of the wall to be removed so that you can have a Memorial plaque there. So even that in and of itself should start to tell you a little bit about a person who can afford to do that. Do they have the disposable income to do that?

[00:07:28] Why would they do that? Um, I think it's interesting sometimes even to look at those and look at who's being memorialized and he's doing the moral, I think, is it a spouse? Is it children. And a lot of times you'll even find Memorial plaques, specifically very close to churches anymore. They're not for the actual grave.

[00:07:47] It's descendants the genealogists coming along decades, or even hundreds of years later saying, look, I figured this out. I want somebody to know this is what my family accomplished. So looking at something as simple as let's start. You're in a church and you see the monuments, it's already telling you a little bit about who's there and what kind of money they must've come through.

[00:08:08] Um, I would say that most of us that are in either the, the, what we would call middle-class today. Yeah. We can't afford that. Um, if the average person has looked at the costs for, um, services and interment in a cemetery with a modest tombstone, you can go up to $20,000 for these lakes. Um, I think the, it was about a year ago, I last talked to a Mason company and they had monuments that ran in today's dollars for as simple as $800.

[00:08:38] All the way up to, as he put it, you name it and they could do it, um, with the average price being about 5,000. So what most people would consider a normal tombstone. Um, I'm gonna show you one that might be considered in that range. Let's see here. So this is a twosome. That's not that old. And you have to tell me at any point, if you don't see the right one, but hopefully you're seeing David hot and sign here.

[00:09:03] Yeah, I see David Howden's sign. It's a worry. It looks like moderate. Yeah. Moderate stone. Yeah. And relatively simple. Um, we have names, we have Gates. We don't have what many people consider a big, long epitaph. Um, it's not a very ornate stone in terms of lots of decoration and things like that, but there are other things that can give us a little bit of clues about the family.

[00:09:28] Um, for example, instead of a lot of ornamentation and flowers and things like that, we actually have family crests. That have been, um, engraved into the marble stone and they're rather finely done. So we have a smaller stone, as you can tell, looking at the size of the flag next to it. And at first it looks deceptively simple.

[00:09:49] Um, playing pinkish gray, a common color of granite used a lot, um, not a lot of lettering in terms of the person's name, but we have the family crest put on it. And then the other thing to look at is the stone itself. Is it smooth on all the sides? Has it been treated on only one side, the side facing for the inscription, every little thing like that costs money.

[00:10:13] Um, let's think about the placement of the stone into the ground. Is it on a footer? Is it in a base? This one is not however this stone when taking it and looking at the cemetery the whole bit it's in, you also can see that he'd passed away after his wife. And so it's probably a younger generation.

[00:10:34] That's doing it and putting the stone in place and, and not to be callous about it, but people's feelings about things like this are not pertain. Now, I would say as, as what they used to be, uh, people used to see a lot more worth in things like this. So they've told us something, they told us this family probably had some money.

[00:10:54] No, they're comfortably off also he's a doctor. We saw that on stone. Um, we also see that they spent money to put the family crest on it and, and, and made it a solid monument. I didn't interview this person. I didn't talk to his wife or his kids, but we have a sense of, a little bit about what the family thought about him and, and his overall picture.

[00:11:16] Um, and that was not that old. I switched to say 1980 is when he passed. These are the stones that are probably going to be the easiest for most of us that have no background or haven't attended lectures or haven't read anything like that, but it doesn't have to be, so this is an easy one.

[00:11:34] Let's go back to when let's suppose you're a bit, you've got a pretty solid line on your genealogy and you're back to the 17 hundreds or something like that.

[00:11:43] The earliest stones in Pennsylvania are going to actually be kind of heavy and clunky. Um, this one, I wish I had my foot or something in it to show you a little bit better, um, the size, but it's actually only about two feet high.

[00:11:58] It's also almost four feet thick. Yeah. To be high 54 inches thick, sorry for intersex. Um, but. It's really hard to see any inscription on it. There is inscription. It actually is a monument off the top of my head. It looks like to Johana Fisher, who was the husband of Elizabeth in 1769. Um, but what's more interesting and tells us a little bit about the person.

[00:12:32] When you look at the other stones around it, all of them are also this old heavy. Rough red sandstone. They are not very elaborately carved. You can tell if you look at the top, there, there looks like a tiny little face. If you really get close to it, it's actually like a little angel Ted, and there are wings to the sides of the head.

[00:12:53] And then we have a little bit of carving on the sides to make it almost look like column. And then a very simple, short inscription. That's not very deeply carved in. This stone being from the 1760s, approximately tells you a little bit about what's going on. He doesn't have access to big, heavy granite stones.

[00:13:12] Like what we have now. Granted, it's a very hard dense stone. It takes sandblaster and a lot of heavy equipment to make an impression on it. This is native red stamps, limped, Pennsylvania. A lot of us have probably picked up a rock like that in our own backyard and chucked it. Um, It's not been professionally done.

[00:13:30] This is not a fancy stonemason who has a lot of experience. He's kept things simple. He's kept his lines simple. He's he's done some decoration, but this is not somebody that probably does this sole job. Okay. He hasn't taken the time to put a lot of emphasis in there nor are the words. So deeply chiseled in there.

[00:13:54] That they've survived very well until now. So it tells you a little bit about the fact that, okay, we have a monument in and of itself. This isn't somebody that had a piece of wood, or even just a Fieldstone, you know, that plain rock, that's just marking a spot. Someone makes the effort, they probably talked to a neighbor or someone else in the neighborhood who they knew had done some work probably on houses and helped build a stone house.

[00:14:18] Do you think you could dress up this phone a little bit for me? And then they they're remembering the things that they brought with them from whatever country they came from with Pennsylvania and where this picture is taken from, it's taken from, um, the extreme West of Berks County. Um, it's very German.

[00:14:36] And if you would look at tombstone from the same period in Germany, you wouldn't know which one was, which it has that same blocky feel. It looks like an arch, almost like somebody bedstead. You know, th the roundness at the top, a little bit of the angel motif, I mean, angel, we all know what they mean and the meaning that they carry with them, but it's not real fancy.

[00:14:59] It's not highly decorated. This isn't somebody that's also trumpeting a whole lot about their religion. We don't have a whole lot of big fancy crosses. We don't have a lot of imagery other than an angel. These are people that are coming over at a time where, um, religious freedom is a big deal and we don't talk about it a whole lot.

[00:15:19] We don't walk around and talk to about it, about our neighbors. We're just excited to be here and have our own religion. It's not something that we want to draw attention to. We're drawing attention to the fact that here is our father or grandfather. You'll honest. We want them to have a Knightstone when we're doing more than just a field stone picked up at the side of the, of the wall, we've made arrangements to somebody help us do some decent carving as best we could, but we're doing it with what's available to us at the time.

[00:15:47] Denys Allen: . A lot of story behind that one stone, I mean, you've really put it in a context for me that I. Wouldn't have gotten, yeah. Compared to the other stones in, you gave it the historical context for its time and place.

[00:16:01] Lara Thomas: Yeah. I don't have a doctorate, you know, um, some of this is just walking through cemeteries and, and doing a little bit of common sense if you're not sure you feel like you're starting really blind and you're not willing to use your imagination a little bit, even just bring a tablet.

[00:16:18] And a pencil and start looking at the grades around it and the person around it. If you looked at his position within the church, that he is for about 50 feet in every direction, or also like, just like him and they're not highly decorated, they're not whole lot taller. They're not a whole lot shorter.

[00:16:36] This is a man who has found a congregation at his church. He's not trying to stand out. He's not so poor as to not have a stone at all. He is, is feeling secure and part of his group there, you know, we're not drawing a lot of attention to ourselves or anything like that. And if you know, The Pennsylvania Dutch has a reputation of being pretty loud sometimes.

[00:16:57] And, and, and have a crass sense of humor. If we're talking about plain Dutch, not, not Amish or Mennonite, but this is before we even are considering a deck. You have to remember this point. This man is German. Even if he himself didn't come over on the boat, his parents probably did. So it's about. Suddenly feeling a little secure in our church, not wanting to draw a lot of attention to ourselves.

[00:17:19] Hmm. That doesn't always stand true. You can find tombstones that are absolutely huge and are drawing attention to themselves. Um, there are different styles of tombstones that almost scream to it. There's one called a table stone. It looks exactly like it's described, it has legs and the stone is over the top, just like a table.

[00:17:45] And those, if they've survived until this point, you're lucky. They're delicate. Especially if they only have four legs, sometimes they'll have six. Um, I don't have a whole lot of pictures of the boat because they haven't survived well in this part of Pennsylvania, if you go closer to Philadelphia, you'll see more of them.

[00:18:02] Um, and their entire top. Is covered with long details, epitaph to a genealogist. It's gold. If you can read it, um, they're going to tell you where the person was born. They're going to tell you the names of their parents. They're going to tell you when they came over, if it was recent, sometimes they even tell you, Oh no, they were born in this township or that district.

[00:18:27] They were married in such and such a year. This was their PR their spouse's name. And they had 10 children, six of which were boys four of which were girls too, which are still living. And at the service, this was this hymn song. And the favorite text was blah, blah, blah. Wow. Yeah. Now compare that to the red sandstone that we just saw. They're not in the same tax bracket. No, no.

[00:18:55] Um, there is a woman that did her master's thesis all on one of her relatives who happened to be a stonemason. But did tombstones and advertising does not survive very well, but she went back through business directory and found what was being charged for average stones in the 1850s. And depending on the stone, it was ranging from $3 to $80.

[00:19:25] Now that doesn't sound like a whole lot, but the fact that, that same person, if you go into the tax records, With paying $80 a year in taxes for a whole giant farm that changes your perspective. It really does. Um, if you have the time to do it, you can get details about a person's life. Even by doing that, you don't have to be lucky enough to get a will.

[00:19:52] You don't have to be lucky enough to get an inventory or a probate. Look at their tombstone. And then look at what's surrounding it in terms of, you know, the other stones within that burial ground or, or private cemetery, and then call out the tax records. A lot of us have access either through ancestry, family search, things like that, where we can do that now.

[00:20:14] And it gives you a sense of just how far people's money was going and how much they were willing to spend as time passed. And there was more disposable income. That's when we start to see those tall, thin ones, like you were talking about

[00:20:29] so now this is a stone, more like what a lot of us imagined. Um, and this is the times in Pennsylvania changing. We don't have that big, heavy, clunky red sandstone anymore that we're making do talking to our neighbors. This is a marble stone. Marble's not native to Pennsylvania. A lot of people have in their head or they've heard it all.

[00:20:51] They came over in boats, they used them as ballast. Um, I've heard that from a lot of different people and I have checked and all the books I have, the articles I have and including talking to professional restorers, such as Jonathan uphill, that did the restoration of the dikes doom in Jamestown. There's no evidence to it.

[00:21:11] I'm not saying that there isn't a possibility to happen now and then, but. This is somebody making arrangements to buy a marble stone, which means it's coming from somewhere like Vermont being shipped down here. When you look at that script, that's not an average person asking their neighbor anymore to say, Hey, do you think he could dress up the stone for me?

[00:21:32] Plus Marvel is harder than sandstone. It's still a soft stone. You can tell looking at it. It's not survived. Pennsylvania's acid rain real well. And if you don't know what you're looking at, you probably have a really hard time reading it. But this is, um, some unthinking on Elizabeth Fisher, uh, in memory of, or as a Memorial to Elizabeth Fisher, uh, and gotten from Phillip Fisher, she was the spouse or beloved wife of silica Fisher, and I ended good boring Warner.

[00:22:04] So her maiden name was Warner. So compare that to Yohanas his big, heavy stone, which was basically his name and his dates already within the first one, two, three, four lines. We know her name. We know that she was married, you know, her husband's name, we know her maiden name. We know that it's a marble stone.

[00:22:25] It's fancier. It's been imported. Look at the time that somebody spent putting the fancy calligraphy. Um, some people would call this a factor. But it's very Gothic looking letters. It's not what most of us are used to typing on her computer with times new Roman or he'll benefit. It takes practice getting used to reading it, but just the sheer number of lines of texts.

[00:22:48] Every single line of that is somebody spending the money to do it. You go all the way down to the bottom. And this one always has intrigued me because someone has taken the time to make a correction or do something after the fact. Down here, the script changes a whole different person , scrolled it in chiseled, those letters and someone after the fact, um, put a comment in about how this is the Holy resting places of her ashes, of her roommate. We know about how the family felt about her. We know that the family was willing to go back and spend the time to correct or add something to the tombstone. We know that they have the money and expense that they were willing to tell us about her maiden name. Um, this is one of the ones that says, uh, she was born in Amity township in Berks County.

[00:23:42] You know, it's telling us where she was born and how long she was married, that she lived for 50 years at 19 days, it tells us what our favorite Bible verse is already we have this mental picture of the people that are left and how they felt about her and the type of person she was.

[00:23:59] Denys Allen: This is such a wonderful tribute to her life and who she was, you know, within that family. I mean, they really took the time to honor. Her where she lived, who her family was, they wanted all that noted on here forgotten

[00:24:16] Lara Thomas: . It's not lots of bells and whistles. We don't have flowers and angels and all sorts of the big, heavy decoration that you see in later stones.

[00:24:26] Um, but we, but they've taken time to tell you about the person and how they feel about it, and also tell you what their priorities are. The fact that they took the time to tell you where she was born, where she was from the fact that she was married, but also that she had, she's telling you what her maiden name is.

[00:24:43] That's not always common. And I don't see that in all, um, ethnicities either. Um, or even all decades. Sometimes as you go further on you don't see maiden names. In fact, a lot of modern stones. There's no mention of a woman's maiden name. It's not something we think about as much anymore. It's not a priority for us.

[00:25:05] Um, these days you also don't get these long sections of Bible verse. It's not something that we put on our tombstone. It's not something that, that has emotional meaning for us, but it did for Elizabeth Fisher or at least her family that was remaining after the fact, it tells you a little bit more about it.

[00:25:23] So we talked about really early days, the early 17 hundreds. Now we're working our way up to let's see, what year was it? She was born in 1784 and she died in 1834. So now we're in the 1830s. It's the beginning of the industrial revolution. We're getting more mechanization. We have a marble stone that's coming from Vermont.

[00:25:44] We actually have transportation within the country enough to be bringing stone in from a whole other state. You know, it's a possibility stone though also looks like a lot of the other stones and basic shapes. This is a pre-made stone, a blank, just like us going out and buying a Chevrolet. You know, all the Chevrolets look the same.

[00:26:05] It's pretty manufactured. It only becomes more personal to us. Once we start souping up our card, leaving our soda cans inside. Um, by the time you get to the, to later in life and. Excuse me later in time and we'd get to the Victorian era. This is when people are like, okay, I remember that tombstone.

[00:26:23] Denys Allen: And for people watching, they get a bonus cat that just jumped into the video. The thrills of working at home, we get a kitten.

[00:26:35] Lara Thomas: So then we start to get that we're getting further on to the industrial revolution. People have the money and the time to spend on big stones. Um, this stone you can see in the background from the person standing behind it. This is person. Hi. Um, It has big, deeply set letters. We put emphasis into this, that both Nick takes time and effort to put that in.

[00:27:02] We plainly say, say, this is to the memory of Daniel camp. Danny was born in 1770, but by the time he passed away, it was 1854. We don't have Bible verses. We don't have big Memorial things. So we're telling you we can afford it. Big stone. We can afford to have one with deeply carved lettering. And just the fact that it took effort to put a stone that's over five feet tall, but still only two or three inches wide, deep.

[00:27:33] However you want to think it and put it in the ground and not have it break. Even then that takes time and money a little bit more about it now. Um, No flowers and poofy things for him, the leader, um, you move up and he see how people's emotions are changing about what's important to them. I think a lot of times, as you go into bigger cities, you'll see more like this too, that the stones are simpler plainer.

[00:28:06] We don't have the time to tell you all this about the church, because we also have cemeteries that are alone. Actually burial grounds associated with church. If you go into ones like Mount Moriah, you're going to see more stones like this, that don't have the emphasis on religion nearly as much either.

[00:28:23] Here's a good one. So we were talking about spending the money and tell you a little bit about it. Yeah. Oh, wow. Are just listening to the audio. They have to jump over to the video because this is a picture of three. Human size, tombstones with a smaller one then, but they are immense and the car getting on them. Oh yeah. And um, the size of the lettering is easily as big as my hand either.

[00:28:59] Now we're even later now we're into the 1860s. We're starting to get that whole queen Victoria. Everything's getting a little bit more flowery. It's not the plain Christian thing, you know, with just a little bit of imagery about angels and things like that. Now we're getting into to, um, to Victorian imagery, you start to see keeping willows for morning, big imagery people.

[00:29:21] See now you start to see images of earns. Because the Victorians were all about antiquity and there's more emphasis on that. And on this one, we have a header in telling you a little bit about the person. But the fact that we're just over the top. This is, this is bragging about money.

[00:29:42] Look at the size of the stones behind it from the exact same time period that they're telling you a little bit about themselves.

[00:29:53] Denys Allen: Yeah. You would definitely want to dig into those tax records and the property records to get a sense of, you know, did they own a lot of land or what is it that spurred this? Stone.

[00:30:03] Lara Thomas: And sometimes the stories aren't always as happy either. I think anybody who's walked through a cemetery, it seems something like this, but at some point, um, all four of these children passed away in 1882, all four children had the same parents. Um, they range in age from six years, four years.

[00:30:27] Eight years one year. Uh, wow. you know, they, they love their children too. You know, these are small children. Think about the expense of doing tombstones, four of them all at the same time, you know, beyond the emotional impact of just losing what could probably be all of your children to at least half of your children. And then having to put a monument up.

[00:30:53] Denys Allen: I have , one of my family lines where they lost four children in a year and it was the same thing. They were all under the age of like 10 and there's, so there's no tombstones for them. And that in the cemetery where they're buried, I know where they're buried because I've seen the book.

[00:31:09] Uh, but I know there's no tombstone there for them.

[00:31:13] Lara Thomas: Yeah. And I would tell any genealogists, don't assume a tombstone means people don't care. No. I mean, it's no different than us right now. And having disposable income, you have some catastrophe happen and unexpected deaths. Do you have money put aside to pay for something?

[00:31:31] And there are times looking at a cemetery where it's quite plain, the stone was put much later too. You know, that they've gone back after they've had the money and put either a Memorial or a monument and put in, um, There was a church that I went to just recently where every single stone from the time that they had children past early as well, all the, obviously the same stone Carver with the same style on three sides, same fronting, same style of script.

[00:31:58] And you can tell, they went back to the same guy all throughout all the decades that they were there. But in the middle was one, one child who died in Ascension, who ends up, who was a young man in his early twenties. That stone is. Huge. And over the top different, different stone, Carver, everything, something happens with that family , we can't tell all of it.

[00:32:22] You can't tell everything about the family, what their values are, but something's different there. And to me, it's ministry like that, that, that a genealogist can't always solve, but it makes you wonder doesn't it really have all the same stone for everybody else. But then here's this young man.

[00:32:37] Um, if you're lucky enough, your, your, your ancestors made your life a lot easier. Um, you're not having to look at cleaves like that.

[00:32:47] , there are stones that tell you what a person did, what their values were, , what they found important. , and they'll spell it right out for you. This one is in a church cemetery, , in the , Western part of Berks County. Um, it's marking the graves of

[00:33:05] four individuals, Dr. Robert Walter, his wife, Dr. Eunice, Walter. His daughter, Dr. Mudd, Walter and his other daughter, Selah Walter. This stone is the size of the car easily. It probably weighs several tons and that's just the front. Let me get you to the back. If you're lucky enough to have a family that does this,

[00:33:33] they'll tell you his life story. Dr. Robert Walter, twice paralyzed and pronounced hopelessly endurable has carried a so-called heart disease for 60 years impoverished through medical empiricism in 1873, he came to Wernersville. With a great idea, but aided by in noble helped me began a system of health treatments, entirely new with results of surpassing importance to himself and 15,000 others.

[00:34:04] Hence. The true sanatory idea. The power of life derived from the patient is the only power of pure all medicaments, which appear to increase this power. Do instead, reduce it through expenditure and tend to prevent recovery all the while they appear to be promoting it. This was Walter's conclusion after 10 years' experience and now confirmed by 50 years verification.

[00:34:31] And that's the bottom of the base. The just shall live.

[00:34:35] Um, yeah. I don't know that all of us have relatives. Wow. If he could have provided a little bit more of a clue other than, you know, he figured out the solution and that's it. Yeah.

[00:34:57] And anybody else that doesn't believe him, you're a fool.

[00:35:02] Denys Allen: And if you go to a regular doctor and it looks like he's curing, you it's really not working. He even cause he had the answer, but it died with him. It literally died with him. Oh my goodness.

[00:35:12] Lara Thomas: And I mean, that's uh, Robert Walter died 1921. His wife's 1914, his daughter's 1913 and 1960s.

[00:35:23] So we're past the high Victorian period. We're into the part where the us is prosperous. Yeah, we haven't, we haven't quite hit world war two yet. We've got trains going. We've had people with the money, especially turn of the century, the great depression hadn't hit yet. We had money to go and stay at a sanatorium, you know, and breathe the fresh air and drink fresh milk and relax and let Dr.

[00:35:48] Robert Walter tell us that, you know, paying for any other medical treatment is, is wasting our money that we need to come to a sanitorium. No, we helped. We helped create, get, give him the means that he could put that giant stone up. And it tells you something about the U S economy as a whole, you know, he wouldn't have gotten there without a lot of other people. What did he say? 15,000 others came and stayed it.

[00:36:12] Denys Allen: Yeah. Well, he sounds like he was some sort of guru, like a health guru or something, you know,

[00:36:19] Well, Larry Thomas, , give us a plug on the Berks County, , association for graveyard , preservation. We're going to air this episode in about mid February. So time-travel tell us what you're going to be up to in the February, other than waiting to ground us all.

[00:36:35] Lara Thomas: Yeah, no Feb. We will actually be having our annual meeting. Um, it's a public meeting. , other people are welcome to attend. We will be electing, uh, some other board members that will also start deciding. Who can we try to clean up and help in the upcoming year? You know? Um, that's always welcome. We are always looking for other people that are interested, even if you only have.

[00:36:59] You know, one or two days out of your year at stuff like that, that really makes a difference for us. If you physically can't help take care of an abandoned or orphaned cemetery, we also gladly accept your dollars. That help do things like build walls by power tools, um, things like that. Um, COVID really massive for lupus this past year.

[00:37:18] We couldn't do nearly as many cleanups cause it's a little hard to social distance and not share weed records and things like that. We managed it to a certain degree. Um, One of the tombstones that I showed you, it's actually for one of the, the cemetery is in danger from warehouses and that's the gentleman who's stone was like six feet high and starting to tilt though, too.

[00:37:38] I mean, That they're gone, but we don't have to forget them. Yeah. We can tell a lot by, by their 2 cents and graves. And you know, it's the fact that as genealogists that we're looking at this, it needs it to me. I think that's so cool. And that my niece is interested, you know, she's 14, what 14 year old ones learn about stuff like this.

[00:37:58] But when you tell her that somebody in her family tree has this big fancy tune set in three wives that were all younger than him. Makes people more interested. It sure does. It is. It is no your yes. It's the people that are kind of the odd ones in our family, trees that draw our interests and, you know, have us explore more.

[00:38:18] We want to find out more about, you know, these people and who they were. And so thank you again, Larry, for giving us more clues and tips on. Researching in the cemeteries. And , for folks listening, please reach out to , the Berks County association for graveyard preservation. If you have ancestors in Berks County, we'd love to hear from you.

[00:38:38] And we would love to have you come visit weed Wacker or not.


[00:38:52] That was a fun episode with Lara and I can't wait to go back and spend some time hanging out with my ancestors in cemeteries. Uh, right now in Pennsylvania, we're under a couple feet of snow and, uh, it's going to take a little while to, I can see those headstones again, but I will have a list and I will be ready for those first days of spring when the sun shining and the birds are chirping.

[00:39:17] Ah, I just can't wait. So if you just can't wait for the next episode of your Pennsylvania ancestors, did you like what I did there? Uh, make sure you click that subscribe button. So the episode is downloaded . Automatically for you and you don't have to think about it.

[00:39:34] For those who don't know, I have a newsletter on PA ancestors.com. And if you subscribe, you get a free research guide, which can help you, uh, make sure that you have started your research strong in Pennsylvania.

[00:39:48] This is Denys Allen of PA ancestors.com and I wish you many discoveries on your Pennsylvania ancestors. .

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