Showing posts with label cemetery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cemetery. Show all posts

Friday, July 15, 2022

Headstone Cleaning in Blackhead Cemetery

Yesterday our team headed out to the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Blackhead for a little introduction to headstone cleaning. We were joined by some volunteers from the Blackhead One Room School and Church Building which is just next door to the cemetery. To learn more about the St. Joseph's Chapel and it's heritage designation click here!

First we wet the headstones with water. Here Dale is using a garden sprayer to make sure to cover the whole stone with water before starting. 

Dale spraying a stone with water.

Next we mixed up a mix up a sprayer with 50% water and 50% D2 Biological Solution. D2 is biodegradable and safe to use on a range of surfaces including headstones to remove stains from mould, mildew, algae, lichens, and air pollutants. We also found out yesterday that it works well to remove bird poop as well! Here Lara is spraying a stone with the D2-water mixture. 

Lara spraying a headstone with D2 and water.

Next up we used *soft* bristle brushes (never metal) to make soft circular motions to clean the stone. We are extremely careful with the amount of pressure we place on the stone so we don't move or break the base. Lara is doing a demonstration for the group here.

Lara is carefully brushing the stone.

Here is a photo of the group hard at work!

Group cleaning headstones in the Blackhead cemetery.

Here are some before and after photos from our first headstone cleaning workshop in July 2021. This workshop was led by Robyn Lacy and Ian Petty of Black Cat Cemetery Preservation. You can see how the cleaning has brightened the stone and removed lichen. Over time the D2 will continue to work to brighten the headstone in the sun and deter further growth on the headstone. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Living Heritage Podcast Ep210 Revitalization of St. Paul’s Anglican Cemetery with Ian Morris and Kevin Toope

Updated war memorial in St. Paul's Anglican Cemetery. November 2021.
Photo courtesy of Trinity Historical Society.

In this episode of the Living Heritage Podcast we talk with Ian Morris and Kevin Toope of the Trinity Historical Society about the work of the society, their adopt a headstone project, and their research and revitalization plans for the St. Paul’s Anglican Cemetery. We also hear some of their favourite stories from their research, and their own connections to the cemetery.

The Trinity Historical Society preserves and promotes the history of Trinity, through the acquisition and preservation of artifacts and archives, and through the promotion and acquisition of historic properties. The Trinity Historical Society was organized in 1966. Originally the Trinity Historic Sites Committee, it was formed on February 7, 1964 to gather information on the history of Trinity and to preserve it for future generations. In 1971 it was incorporated under the laws of Newfoundland and it is a registered Charitable Organization.


Living Heritage is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio.

Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Living Heritage Podcast Ep206 Cemetery Clean Up Tips and Tricks, with Andrea O'Brien and Robyn Lacy

Often well-meaning people clean or “restore” old gravestones in ways that actually damage them or hasten their deterioration by using the wrong methods. In this episode of the podcast we talk with Andrea O’Brien and Robyn Lacy about some tips and tricks for cemetery cleanups including headstone cleaning and repairs. We also learn more about the work happening in the Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Cape Broyle including some stories of local characters buried in the cemetery.

Andrea O’Brien is Heritage NL’s Municipal Outreach Officer and Provincial Registrar. A graduate of Memorial University, she has a BA focusing on folklore, history, Newfoundland Studies, and English, a Bachelor of Education, and an MA in folklore. She serves as Heritage NL’s Register of Historic Places, Municipal Outreach Officer, Heritage Places Poster Contest coordinator, Historic Commemorations Program coordinator, and web manager.

Robyn Lacy is a PhD student in Historical Archaeology at Memorial University, studying 17th century burial landscapes in North America. She is also co-director of Black Cat Cemetery Preservation which specializes in historic gravestone and monument conservation and restoration in Canada. Wife and husband team Robyn Lacy and Ian Petty, have a combined 20 years of experience in the heritage sector as archaeologists, gravestone conservators, and cultural heritage technicians.


Check out our two upcoming cemetery workshops: Headstones Cleaning and Basic TLC for Old Headstones. These workshops are offered by Heritage NL with support of the Labour Market Partnerships program, Department of Immigration, Skills and Labour, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.


Living Heritage is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio.

Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Living Heritage Podcast Ep185 Using the BillionGraves app to document local cemeteries

Cemetery sleuths Dale Jarvis and Katie Crane introduce you to the BillionGraves app for your mobile phone.  BillionGraves is the world's largest GPS-linked cemetery data resource. As you take photos with the BillionGraves app, each gravestone is automatically marked with a GPS location. The data is then made readily available at for free for millions of families around the globe for generations to come. Dale and Katie talk about the intro workshops they've been running with communities, and give you some tips on how you can get started using your phone to document and map local cemeteries and grave markers.


Living Heritage is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum
professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the
community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio.
Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Cemetery Conservation in Placentia: St. Luke's Anglican Churchyard

Last week we visited the most adorable churchyard in Placentia to teach a cemetery conservation workshop with the O'Reilly House Museum and other heritage volunteers.

St. Luke's Anglican Churchyard. Photo by Katie Crane.

St. Luke's Anglican Church has an ancient history. The current church was built between 1906 and 1908, but the original church that was on the site was built in 1689. Many of the stones in the churchyard are fieldstones, and there were a number of 17th century Basque stones which were removed for preservation, suggesting the use of the site as a burial ground predates the 1689 church. You can read more about the history of St. Luke's here.

Memento Mori stones for the Hobson family. Photo by Katie Crane.

Student workers, museum staff, and other heritage volunteers met inside St. Luke's Anglican Church to listen to Dale Jarvis and Andrea O'Brien discuss cemetery conservation. 

Dale talked about the Do's and Don'ts of cemetery conservation. Everyone was curious about how to properly clean and maintain gravestones in historic cemeteries, and how to make sure that information about the gravestones are properly documented using either written marker record forms, or apps like BillionGraves.

Andrea talked about how municipalities can designate historic cemeteries which can help protect them. She talked about the work that the cemetery committee and the Conservation Corps Green Team are doing in the Immaculate Conception cemetery in Cape Broyle. 

Afterwards, we had a short break in the rain, so we went outside and I walked people through how to use the BillionGraves app to document the inscriptions on the headstones. The recording is a work in progress, and you can check out the St. Luke's Anglican Cemetery page here.

Gravestones at St. Luke's Churchyard. Photo by Katie Crane.

If you want to learn more about the work that's going on in the Immaculate Conception cemetery in Cape Broyle, or why cemetery documentation and public engagement is important, you can check out the most recent HeritageNL newsletter here,

We'd love to visit more communities and help cemetery committees, museum workers, and heritage societies safeguard historic cemeteries. Have questions? Want us to visit your local cemetery and lead a documentation workshop? Get in touch! or

Monday, December 10, 2018

Bauline Burial Ground

Group in the unmarked cemetery.
On Thursday Dale and I met with three archaeologists from Memorial University, and three residents of Bauline to discuss the possibility of completing a project in an abandoned cemetery in the community. The unmarked cemetery is an old Methodist burying ground which predates the old United Church cemetery in the community.

Measuring out the cemetery. The rock walls delineating the cemetery can be seen in the foreground.
We met beside the United Church and walked down to the site which is on an incline and is only marked by a short rock wall. One of the residents pointed out two rocks which he was told by an older community member was the entrance to the graveyard.

Reviewing the church floor plans.
After a trip through the graveyard and a discussion of what the next steps were we visited the United Church building. The church is due to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020. Dale is completing some research on the history of the church itself and we were able to find some floor plans of some alterations done in the 1980s.

Undenominational Cemetery. 1925.
Once we finished exploring the church we took a quick detour on the way back to town to visit an undenominational graveyard where several goldpreachers or coonies are buried. We are also interested in learning more about this religion and are looking into where else there were goldpreachers practicing in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One of three marked stones in the undenominational graveyard.
Several unmarked stones are also located in the small graveyard.
Stay tuned for more updates on the church and the graveyard! But in the meantime if you have any information about either please reach out to Dale Jarvis at 739-1892 ex. 2 or

Monday, June 18, 2018

Grave of Phillip Louis, The Mount, Lower Island Cove

On a cold and wet Friday, June 15, 2018, I visited Lower Island Cove, Conception Bay North, with Judy Rogers as my guide. While there, Judy took me to one of the oldest burying places in Lower Island Cove, a section of the community on a hill close to the water, which is locally called The Mount.

The cemetery sits in a windswept, barren spot, overlooking the community, and wild grasses have largely obscured the majority of the rough-stone grave markers. There is only one visible carved tombstone, marking the grave of Judy's fourth-great-grandfather, Phillip Louis. The inscription reads:



He came to his Grave in a Full age
like as a Shock of Corn cometh in
in his season


Be not Slothful,
but Followers of them who through Faith
and Patience inherit the Promises


The stone, reset in a more modern concrete base, also features a well-carved hourglass and scythe motif, surmounting a crossed arrow and trumpet. The scythe can be seen to represent the reaping of life and the hourglass representing that earthly time has run out. The hourglass has also been interpreted as a memento mori, reminding we visitors that we are one hour closer to our own deaths. More cheerfully, the ivy (or vines, botanists feel free to weigh in on this) on either side of the stone could be interpreted to represent memory, immortality, friendship, fidelity, faithfulness, undying affection, or eternal life.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Volunteer Opportunity - Cemetery Cleanup at St. James Anglican, Carbonear

Volunteer Cemetery Enthusiasts Wanted!

We've posted here and here about the ongoing cemetery conservation project underway at St. James Anglican Church in Carbonear, one of the Foundation's Registered Heritage Structures. You can read about the designation of the building here.

This Saturday, July 29th, 2017, from 9am-12pm, the cemetery committee is organizing a cemetery bee! Volunteers are invited to come help with some of the brush clearance, and to assist with opening up the historic formal entrance pathway to the churchyard, which has become overgrown over the years. The plan is to be able to have the pathway cleared back by the end of the summer, and to re-open on the historic iron gates which have been shut for some time.  Members of the cemetery committee will be on site to talk about the church, the cemetery project, and what they've uncovered so far, and I'll be there to answer your questions about graveyards, tombstone symbolism, and the do's and don'ts of cleaning up your own historic cemeteries and churchyards. We might even be able to offer you a cup of tea!

This is an outdoor, hands-on activity, so please have appropriate clothing, workboots, gloves, hats, sunblock, bug spray, etc. If you have your own loppers/pruning shears/secateurs, bring them along. Just curious, and want to see what we are up to? Come for a chat!

The church is located at 13 Bond Street, Carbonear [click here for map] with plenty of parking to the north side of the church hall. See you in Carbonear on Saturday morning!

- Dale Jarvis

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A cemetery visit on Orangeman's Day - the grave of William Janes

Yesterday was Orangeman's Day in Newfoundland and Labrador, one of the curious provincial holidays that some people get off work, and other people know nothing about.  While the Heritage Foundation office was closed, I headed off to Carbonear for a meeting about a possible future oral history project, and a visit to St. James Anglican to meet with their committee about their cemetery cleanup project. We'd blogged about St. James Anglican before (read here) and today was the first day their student workers in place. So off I went to help them make a plan for removing brush, and to prioritize which sections of the cemetery they should work on first.

When I arrived, the students had already cleared away some of the brush from around the memorial stone for William Janes, work appropriate, perhaps, for Orangeman's Day. William Janes was killed in the notorious Harbour Grace Affray, and his marker reads:

Who was shot dead whilst
walking in an Orange Pro
cession at Harbour Grace
ON DEC 26TH 1883.

There is a detailed account of the affray here:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

St. James Anglican Cemetery in Carbonear

Last week Dale and I went to Carbonear with Edwina Suley of the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation. We were there to talk with volunteers from the St. James Anglican Church about their cemetery and help them make a plan for the future. While the more recent sections of the cemetery are easily maintained, the older sections which date back to the early 1800s, have become extremely overgrown. The group is looking to clean up the area to make it easier to maintain and to help preserve the history of the area.

Unfortunately in the cemeteries current state many of the headstones are difficult to access, making it hard to view some headstones, particularly those that are broken and continue to deteriorate.  

The church group is enthusiastic about beginning the project of clearing up the cemetery, even in knowing that it will not be a quick process. They are also interested in comparing the current cemetery with the church burial records, particularly with graves that do not have headstones. Some plots are marked simply with a fence, and other are unmarked entirely.

The cemetery is partially bordered with a stone wall and features a beautiful gate in one corner, both of which will need repairs in the future. Another interesting feature of the cemetery is a bronze sundial with cast iron pedestal. The sundial is located among the headstones, and marks the centre of where the old church once stood.

We look forward to the work that will be done to clean up this cemetery, and expose the history of the church and community for current residence and future generations.

~ Kelly

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Church of England Cemetery in Harbour Breton. #folklorephoto

One of our former board members, Doug Wells, was inspired by the podcast we did last week with archaeologist Robyn Lacy (listen to that interview here). He sent us a few photos of the old gravestones at the old Church of England Cemetery in Harbour Breton, sometimes referred to as the Newman & Co. Cemetery.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Living Heritage Podcast Ep077 Headstones, Hexfoils, and Historic Archaeology

Robyn Lacy is a 2nd year Masters student in the Archaeology Department at MUN, and completed her BA in Archaeology at the University of Calgary in 2014. Her research focuses on historic archaeology in Newfoundland and New England, exploring burial landscapes and their relationship to 17th-century settlements. This summer she will be excavating at Ferryland for four weeks in search of the early burial ground at the Colony of Avalon. She writes about her fascination with burial landscapes, tombstones, and more, on her blog "Spade and the Grave - death and burial through an archaeological lens."

In this podcast, Robyn talks about how she got interested in historical archaeology and the archaeology of burial places, burial landscapes, her work searching out Ferryland’s hidden graveyard, the folklore of hexfoils, and public archaeology.  Don't know what a hexfoil is? Tune in and find out! We'll send you on a hunt for one hidden somewhere fairly public in downtown St. John's.

Listen on the Digital Archive:

Photo: 1699 gravestone with pinwheel design on the finial. Design in the Hartshorne tradition, New London, CT. Photo by R Lacy, 2015.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

#Folklorephoto The cross in St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Cemetery, St. Lawrence

When driving through St. Lawrence a large concrete crucifix can be seen from the road, standing tall among the headstones in St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Cemetery. While we were in St. Lawrence Dale interviewed Thérèse Slaney about her life, and she talked proudly about her husband Herb, an engineer who designed the cross.

The cross in St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Cemetery
After the interview, Thérèse showed us some of Herbs beautiful technical drawings, some of the cross and others of the St. Lawrence Grotto which he also designed.

Herb Slaney's technical drawing of the cross

In the following clip you can listen to Thérèse Slaney talk about the work Herb did on the cross.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"Better to die a child than live in vain" - Winterton tombstone mystery

I posted a little while ago about a mystery headstone motif from Cupids, which generated some suggestions, and an article in The Telegram. Following that, I got this image (above) and note from Grant Tucker, about a headstone in the Anglican cemetery beside the church at Winterton. Grant writes:
"It has a six line epitaph which is only partially decipherable; perhaps you or one of your contacts can help us. Here is what we have deciphered: 
At last from worldly strife ------------------- (hand?) - Iambic Hexameter
And (valiant?) (souls?) -------------------------------- - Iambic (Pentameter?)
(Where?) mercies never fade - Iambic Trimeter
But if protracted guilt --------------------- the span - Iambic Hexameter
Better to die a child than live in vain - Iambic Pentameter
And sink into the shade - Iambic Trimeter 
Jasper, my fifth great-grandfather, or perhaps the generation before him, are thought to have been among the first of Winterton's permanent settlers who came from Trinity."
 Any thoughts? Does the epitaph ring any bells with poetry fans out there?

Drop me a line at or post a comment!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Help identify this Victorian-era "open book and star" tombstone symbol

I love old cemeteries, and always enjoy poking around the older sections, reading the epitaphs and admiring the artistry of the old grave markers. I was exploring the United Church graveyard in Cupids, Newfoundland yesterday, and came across a tombstone symbol that I am unfamiliar with.

The tombstone features an open book with star motif, and dates from 1881. It marks the burial spot and final resting place of one Lorenzo Taylor, age 22. It is a paired tombstone, with two inscriptions, the partner inscription bearing the more familiar handshake motif.

Books are a common theme on gravestones from the period, and the symbolism of the book can represent many things. A book may represent a person's good deeds and accomplishments being recorded in the Book of Life, or perfect knowledge, or it may be a more literal representation of the Bible.

Often used on the gravestones of ministers or clergymen, a book is a fairly common symbol found on gravestones of very devoted religious people. In the Cupids UC Cemetery, there are numerous examples of book motifs, many of them featuring the same double page spread as the Taylor grave.

Stars, as well, have many possible meanings. A five-pointed star can represent, variously, the Star of Bethlehem, the Epiphany, the star of Jesse or Jacob, and/or heavenly wisdom. Stars can symbolize heaven, the spirit, or the spirit rising to heaven. One list of motifs states the stars can represent “piercing the darkness as an expression of their triumph against the overwhelming odds of oblivion.”

What is less clear is what a star on a book means. Was it simply a stone carver’s blending of two unrelated religious symbols, and then picked out of a pattern book by the purchaser? Or does it represent something specific?

Let me know your thoughts, ideas, and theories! You can comment below, or email me at

Friday, May 30, 2014

Portugal Cove Cemetery Clean-Up Day

Just up the road from the Roman Catholic Church in Portugal Cove, on the side of a green hill, is the RC cemetery. It's a fairly large, sprawling cemetery, with headstones (many as old as the mid 19th century) standing in clusters through the trees. This is just one of the many interesting burial spaces that PCSP has, all of which are physical reminders of the community's long settlement history (which, no doubt, is closely connected to the fishery). Because of the historic significance of these spaces, cemeteries are worthy of attention so that they can be protected to the best of our abilities. This is a huge task in Newfoundland, as the climate is hard on the stone, and there are so many cemeteries that need attention, that it can feel overwhelming to try and protect them all. But even small measures can go a long way. The Roman Catholic Cemetery has been tended to some degree over the years, and this summer, it is schedule to have an intensive clean-up by a group of volunteer students from MUN.

The RC Church in Portugal Cove, close to the RC Cemetery.

Some of the organizers checking out the site. (I'm behind the camera!)
On June 24th, 2014, 30 to 40 students with the "Make Midterm Matter" program will be showing up to do their part. Not only will they work hard to clear brush, clean up garbage, and cut away growth from headstones, but it will also be a learning opportunity for them. They will be given a few tips for how to tend to headstones without doing any damage, as well as learn about what the symbols on the headstones mean. This day-long heritage volunteer excursion is a partnership between MUN, the HFNL, the Town of Portugal Cove and St. Phillips, and the RC Church. It's the first partnership of its kind, and we hope it continues into the future. It will be a great opportunity to raise awareness about heritage issues in our communities. Hope to see you there!

A small portion of the large cemetery space that the students will be working in. Endless growth and brush for them to tackle!