Sunday, May 3, 2009

Epitaphs and Inscriptions

The most obvious reason for a grave marker is to tell who was buried where; the inscription and the epitaph are to memorialize the deceased. Many markers offer nothing more than the person's name and death date. Others elaborate, giving a date of birth, sometimes places of birth and/ or death, age at death, parents or spouse's names, and a verse. Some may even offer a mini biography of sorts, telling you immigration or migration data or an occupation. There is much information for the genealogist upon the finding of the stone.

Along with the inscription of vital statistics, you might find a verse, also know as an epitaph. The epitaph or verse carved on the marker, just like funerary art, revealed society's changing attitude toward death. Colonial verses were meant to provide instruction, not comfort. A common warning to the living about the stark reality of death was:

Stranger, stop and cast an eye.
As you are now, so once was I,
As I am now, so you shall be,
Prepare for death and follow me:

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