25 November 2014
"First, do NO harm" are words every genealogist should remember when conducting research, whether one is in a library, archive, courthouse or cemetery. Those words are especially important when visiting a cemetery. Many gravestones are in delicate condition and all efforts should be made to maintain the condition of the gravestone and keep it available for generations to come.
The Michigan Genealogical Council (MGC) addressed this issue in its fall newsletter. MGC publishes a newsletter four times a year that is available on their website for anyone who is interested in reading it. The newsletter covers items pertinent to societies and genealogists. It shares information on Michigan genealogical resources and events, articles from its member societies and other items of genealogical interest.
The article, Gravestone Cleaning and Restoration, was a timely article for our society, Calhoun County Genealogical Society, which I am the President of. Last year, our society had a presenter who talked about cemeteries and wasn't concerned if he did any damage to them as he had gotten the information he wanted. I cringed when I heard that. Luckily, someone asked a follow up question about the best way to take care of gravestones and we were able to minimize the damage, in my opinion, of the speaker. Even though we addressed the issue at another meeting I never felt that we provided enough information for our members.
I was happy to see the MGC Fall newsletter article. It was just what our society needed to inform our members of proper cleaning and preservation methods of gravestones. The newsletter shared a resource that is available to all. The book, Michigan Historic Cemeteries Preservation Guide by Gregg G. King, with Susan Kosky, Kathleen Glynn and Glady Soborio is available free as a pdf from the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office at http://www.michigan.gov/documents/hal_mhc_shpo_Cemetery_Guide_105082_7.pdf
This book addresses many aspects of preserving historic cemeteries. The 200 page book addresses organizing a project, surveying a cemetery, documenting your work, mapping a cemetery and more. Chapter 3 centers on the actual cleaning and repairing of the gravestones. Included in the book are appendices of forms, definitions, organization abbreviations, Latin phrases, symbols and more.
I was so impressed with the well researched book that I shared it via email to all our society members. The information is too important not to. Be sure to take a look at the guide, you won't be disappointed.