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New England Gravestones

Like millions of other descendants, I have ancestry in New England going back up to 400 years with the first settlers to this country. But unlike many, I still live in the area where they died and can visit many of their gravestones and burial places.

Over the years I've developed a hobby of photographing these stones, some of which are beautiful works of art produced by the country's first artisans. These stones are also a priceless resource for genealogy research, gleaning more into who the person was than any certificate or paper record can offer. I post them to my website at A Very Grave Matter for the world to see and to hopefully raise awareness of what special places these burying grounds are.

Unfortunately a lot of people don't share my views, including the town governments charged with caring for these outdoor museums where my ancestors lay. If you walked into an historic museum and broke a 300 year old piece of furniture they would care, but not about a broken 300 year old gravestone memorial. Vandalism and neglect dominate New England cemeteries.

But there are some who realize that these places can add value to the history of a town. These are tourist attractions for those interested in local history. If they are properly cared for, maintained and promoted as you would a regular museum, they become an asset as a museum themselves.

Many towns have initiated Cemetery Committees to help restore these sacred places. In particular is one I'm a member of,
The Portsmouth New Hampshire Cemetery Committee. Over the past few years, we've done extensive restoration as well as offer educational programs, tours, reenactors and signage illustrating the more prominent historical figures.

We've had great success, drove up interest in the local history in these places, and hopefully set an example of preservation for future generations. If only more towns in charge of our precious history would do the same.