Showing posts with label headstones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label headstones. 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. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Do You Know of Any Metal Grave Markers in Newfoundland and Labrador?

On a recent camping trip to the New-Wes-Valley area, I visited the Lumsden United Church Cemetery and came across the headstone of William Tuff, son of William and Susanah Tuff, who died 9th of October 1847 aged 28 years. What caught my attention with this headstone was that it's made of cast iron. I have seen one other cast iron marker, at Bethany United in Carbonear, and a small sheet metal marker in St. James Cemetery, also in Carbonear.

In a 2012 ICH Newsletter article, Patrick Carroll wrote about the tin monuments in Bonavista Bay, which you can read about here. There are also a few interesting zinc (or white bronze) grave markers in St. John's. The hollow zinc markers have an distinctive blue-gray colour that is easily recognized once you know what to look for.

The zinc or White Bronze grave marker of Isabell and S.H. Parsons at the General Protestant Cemetery in St. John's

Do you know of any others metal grave markers around the province? Do you have a relative whose grave is marked with one? Do you know anything about the makers of these headstones, particularly the cast iron ones?

~ Kelly

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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Heart's Content Graveyard Mapping Workshop and Cemetery Clean Up

UPDATE 4 July 2024 - Heritage NL no longer recommends doing headstone rubbings - over time it can damage the stone. 

Guest blog post by Celeste Billung-Meyer a Folklore student working with the Heritage Foundation this summer:

Last Saturday (July 16 th , 2016), I attended the Graveyard Mapping Workshop and Clean Up in Heart’s Content. It was an event co-organized by the Heritage Foundation and Youth Heritage in order to help Heart’s Content get ready for their 150th anniversary of the first successful landing of a trans Atlantic cable.

We had a fantastic turn out! The majority of our volunteers gathered at the Heritage Foundation for 9 am, where we got on a bus and drove to Heart’s Content. When we arrived and met up with the rest of the volunteers, the weather looked dubious; however, much to our delight, within the hour the sun came out and the day ended up being gorgeous and warm!
Practising gravestone rubbing.
For the morning, the group was split between two activities. One group started cleaning up the cemetery and the other group went with Terra who led a workshop about grave rubbing. As it happened, there was no tracing paper to be bought anywhere in St. John’s during the days leading up to the workshop and so Terra resolved to use exam table paper (found in doctor’s offices) as a substitute.  However, the substitute paper combined with the windy morning (making it hard tape the paper tightly to the stone) lead to mixed grave rubbing results. Nonetheless, everyone came away with a working knowledge of the process and an solid understanding of the value of grave rubbing.
Cemetery cleanup.
Around noon, we were invited to a lunch provided by the Mizzen Heritage Society. Hotdogs for all! After lunch, we had the graveyard mapping workshop lead by Dale and Michael. While this type of mapping is quite a slow and painstaking process, it can be used by anyone with just a couple of tools that are cheap and easily accessible (two stakes, two tape measures, a plumb bob, graph paper, a large clip board, a geometry kit, a scale ruler and a pencil). After the demonstration, the group was split in two again and anyone who wanted to try the mapping first hand stayed with Michael and was given a chance to do so.
Dale and Sarah demonstrating how to map the graveyard.
Michael drawing out the map.

The rest of the group followed Dale on a walk around the cemetery and he explained the meaning behind the symbols on some of the graves!
Dale giving a tour of the cemetery symbols.
Once the tour ended, everyone came together to finish cleaning up the cemetery.
Photo of our wonderful volunteers and the progress of the graveyard!
We finished the day with a walk over to the Mizzen Heritage Society and then the newly renovated Heyfield Memorial United Church and Cemetery. Along the way, we learned a bit about the history of Heart’s Content, some of the ghost lore of the area and a bit about what the Heritage Foundation and Youth Heritage are up to in the next couple of months!

Learning about Heart's Content's history.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Free Graveyard Mapping Workshop - July 16th

Measuring the distance between graves.
The Heritage Foundations of Newfoundland and Labrador, in partnership with Youth Heritage NL, is looking for your help in getting Heart's Content ready for their 150th Anniversary Commemoration Celebration "Connected and Contented"!

We are organizing a cemetery mapping and cleanup for July 16. The mapping workshop will take place in the morning, followed by at short lunch provided by the Mizzen Heritage Society and HFNL, then a cleanup of the cemetery before taking the bus back to St. John's. Help HFNL and YHNL cleanup the cemetery and learn how to map in the process!

There will be a bus leaving 1 Springdale Street, St. John's at 9am and returning around 4pm.

 9:00-10:30 - Travel to Heart's Content
10:30-12:00 - Mapping the cemetery
12:00-12:45 - Lunch!
12:45- 3:30 - Cemetery cleanup
 3:30- 5:00 - Travel back to St. John's

Of course this is not limited to volunteers from St. John's. If you are interested in helping, please contact us at and we will provide details (transportation may not be included depending on your location).

This is an outdoor, hands-on activity, so please have appropriate clothing, workboots, gloves, hats, sunblock, bug spray, etc.

If you want to get involved register here for this free workshop.
Plotting the graves on a map.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tuesday's Folklore Photos - Graveyard Mapping, Recording, and Rubbing

UPDATE 4 July 2024 - Heritage NL no longer recommends doing headstone rubbings - over time it can damage the stone. 

Measuring and mapping the graves.
Today’s Folklore Photos comes from a Heritage Foundation field trip to the General Protestant Cemetery on Topsail Rd, in St. John’s. Yesterday afternoon July 4th, 2016, Dale, Michael, Pei, Celeste, Sarah, and I took a trip to the cemetery to map the cemetery, record the information on the gravestones, and rub some of the stones.
Recording the information.
Pei, an international folklore graduate student, is working with the Heritage Foundation this summer to digitize files. Another project that he is working on is documenting and researching the Chinese graves in the General Protestant Cemetery. Pei is looking for more information on the people buried in the cemetery and is interested in the impact they’ve left on the community.
Plotting the graves.
Yesterday was the first step in finding out more information about the Chinese graves. We measured the location of the 27 graves in relation to one another and the concrete kerbs that are keeping the graves together. Michael plotted this information on a map with each of the graves numbered.
Recording the size, location, symbols, and writing on the gravestones.
Celeste and Sarah mainly focused on recording the information about the graves they could gather leaving the Chinese characters for Pei to decipher. Pei and I reviewed the stones and decided which stones needed to be rubbed in order to gather more information. We used masking tape and put a thick paper over the gravestones. We made sure to keep the paper as taunt as possible in order to have a clearer rubbing of the grave. We then used charcoal to outline the gravestone, and moved across the gravestone horizontally keeping a steady pressure. Once we finished the rubbings we photographed them and rolled the rubbings up for storage. Although rubbings are not always the answer for gravestones they can often allow you to record different information such as the size and shape of the gravestones and can allow you to better see the lettering engraved on the stones.
Sample gravestone rubbing from Cupids.
Demonstrating gravestone rubbing.
If you would like to learn more about mapping cemeteries join the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador and Youth Heritage NL on July 16, 2016 for a cemetery mapping workshop, and a cleanup of one of the older cemeteries in Heart’s Content. If you would like more information or would like to register for this free workshop click here!

~Terra Barrett

Monday, June 1, 2015

Witless Bay Cemetery Clean Up

ICH development officer and members of the Witless Bay heritage committee.
Left to right: Peter, Kevin, Dale, Bonnie, Mary.

This morning Dale and I drove out to beautiful Witless Bay on the Southern Shore to meet with several members of the heritage committee.  In a couple of weeks time on June 23rd the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Witless Bay heritage committee are partnering with Memorial University for the second year to do a cemetery clean up as part of MUN’s Make Midterm Matter.  This year students from MUN will have the opportunity to spend the day out of the classroom and in the graveyard engaging with the community while gaining volunteer experience. 

View from the Witless Bay cemetery.

Cemeteries are an interesting part of our past with many stories to tell, however, older cemeteries are often forgotten and fall into disrepair.  Taking care of cemeteries in this province is difficult with a climate which is rough on the gravestones.  However, looking after these gravestones is important as they often offer information which is not found elsewhere.  In order to show the students some of the information which can be learned from the graves we will be doing a couple of gravestone rubbings.  Dale will also discuss the significance of the gravestone symbols and how reading these symbols can give us information about the people who are buried in the graveyard.

Several symbols are displayed on this gravestone in the cemetery.
A cross, an anchor, a harp, a plant and a sacred heart.
The students will be working together to clear brush, mow grass, paint and fix fences, clear garbage and generally tend to the cemetery grounds.  The Witless Bay heritage committee is looking to restore the graveyard to its former glory and any and all volunteers are welcome.  If you are interested in volunteering and wondering how you can become involved send me an email at


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tuesday's Folklore Photo

11th MAY 1842

He was the first person buried in this cemetery on Sunday 15th
By Rev. J. Snowball
Who preached a sermon for the occasion the same evening.

"Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cameth"
St. Matthew 24

This headstone is located in the old General Protestant Cemetery in St. John's. Later this month the HFNL will be holding a headstone rubbing workshop in this very cemetery, and discussing the different ways of preserving the information (genealogical details, epitaphs etc.) on historic headstones. Details about this workshop will be released in the next few days. Please stay tuned!!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Great Finds in New Perlican

Last month, on the 22nd of June, I traveled to New Perlican to help out with a local cemetery clean-up project. This ongoing initiative, headed by the New Perlican heritage group,  aims to help preserve a historic cemetery that has been under threat from neglect and encroaching ATV trails. A great deal of research has already been done in the area, and before beginning the clean-up, it was believed that some previously unrecorded headstones may be buried throughout the site. The clean-up portion of the project, which accounts for the first phase, has been in the planning stages since last year. Next will come a post and chain fence that will provide further protection to the area.

Several community members turned up to help with the removal of the tall grass and shrubbery that had been hiding a cluster of  headstones. With so many hands busy at work, the area was cleared very quickly and the task of searching for fallen headstones could begin. Right away community members began making discoveries. In just a few short hours, around 13 headstones were unearthed, most of which were from the mid-19th century. Each were treated with care, and in time, a plan will be put into place where some will be put into the ground once again. While not all are in good enough condition to do so, it will be quite interesting to see some of these newly discovered headstones added back to this historic landscape.

Congratulations to New Perlican Heritage for your wonderful discoveries and good luck with the next phase of your preservation project. Special thanks to Eileen Matthews for inviting me to watch this project unfold, and for her unending dedication to heritage work in her community.


New Perlican Heritage, busy clearing the land.

Cemetery clean-up helpers read an epitaph on a newly discovered headstone.

A portion of one of the discovered headstones,  next to its footstone. Many burials in this cemetery had both a head and a footstone.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Perlican Thinks About Cemetery Restoration

As we come up to next week's Cemetery Workshop (Dec. 4th, 1-5pm), I am going to post about a cemetery visit I recently had that really made me think about best practices for cemetery restoration work. Yesterday I traveled to New Perlican to have a visit with three members of the town's Heritage Society.  There is a cemetery in their community that has been neglected for a very long time. The residents have been keeping an eye on it, but they would like to do some conservation and restoration work in the near future. The cemetery is likely from the early-to-mid-1800s and as far as this group knows, there is no living resident who can remember a church once being up on that hill. All of the people who would have seen it in their youth have now passed away. The cemetery itself is very interesting. There are 8-10 headstones (some broken, others still standing) that clearly show where there are graves. It is thought that there are many more headstones that have fallen and been buried by layers of moss. On other parts of this large hill, there are clear examples of stone makers which suggest grave locations. These are scattered over a large area, but it is quite easy to pick them out. They look different than natural rocks-- they were buried in an intentional way with portions of the rock rising above the ground, much like headstones. Eileen, Max and Lorraine gave me a tour of this space and explained some of their restoration plans. They have some hurdles ahead, but with the dedication they have, there will surely be some successes.

Lorraine, Eileen, and Max showing me the St. Mark's Cemetery.

Buried and broken headstone in the cemetery. Date of stone unknown.

Two rocks thought to show the 'head' and 'foot' of a grave.
Some of the questions that came up included: how should headstones be fixed and protected without causing more damage? How can we tell if there is a grave if the headstone is now gone? How can we record what is still here? It is great that the New Perlican heritage group is asking such questions. They understand how important it is to document and protect what we have from the past, while we still have it. Overall, it was a fantastic visit and I hope to provide them support in the spring and summer as they embark on this restoration journey.

A final photo before signing off: here is a broken headstone that is now under the careful watch of the this New Perlican Heritage Society. This was pulled from the local garden of Percy Critch. It is thought to be a headstone from 1758 for a woman named Jane London-- a fascinating find to say the least!