What is the difference between a cemetery and a graveyard? Graveyards are in the "yards" of churches.  The use of tombstones may go back to the belief that ghosts could be weighed down. 

The difference between Union and Confederate tombstones is the top of the stone. Union tombstones (such as that of Chas. Fetters on the left) have rounded tops. Confederate tombstones (like that of Sgt. R. Shipp on the right) have pointed tops.  A common question about tombstones such as Charles Fetters’ is, “How do you know what war he was in?”  U.S. government-issued tombstones (other than Confederate) have this same basic shape. The answer lies in the shield.

The shield surrounding the name and the state (and, in this case, the grave number) was used by the federal government for graves of two wars: the Civil War and the Spanish American War. Graves of Spanish-American War veterans should have “Sp. Am. War” inscribed on the stone, though this was occasionally missed.


A cenotaph is an "empty tomb" or a monument erected in honor of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere. It can also be the initial tomb for a person who has since been interred elsewhere. The word derives from the Greek kenotaphion (kenos, one meaning being "empty", and taphos,"tomb"). Although the vast majority of cenotaphs are erected in honor of individuals, many noted cenotaphs are instead dedicated to the memories of groups of individuals, such as the lost soldiers of one country or empire.

In searching for a non-military cenotaph: this is Isidor Straus' wife. He was the owner of Macy’s Department Store. His remains were recovered by the CS Mackay-Bennett cable ship (they were aboard the Titanic) and were buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. His gravestone also serves as a cenotaph for his wife, whose body was never recovered. They were both 63 years of age on the night of the drowning and had been married 41 years. Its inscription reads: "Many waters cannot quench love - neither can the floods drown it.

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Dee Notaro is an amateur genealogist based in Atlanta, Georgia (U.S.A.).  Her own ancestral background is made up of a mixture of cultures, including her Irish forebears who hailed from County Sligo.  Dee teaches classes on genealogical research and is passionate about helping others find answers to their ancestry questions.

Views: 1314

Tags: American Civil War, Ancestry, Genealogy, Military History, United States

Comment by Robert A Mosher on December 1, 2014 at 3:14pm

A great blog post on the evolution of the appearance of the grave markers.

The National Archives offers an article on Headstone Records Research.

The VA website has an article on the History of Government Furnished Headstones and Markers.

Comment by Dee Notaro on December 2, 2014 at 2:58am

Thanks for that Robert. Will use for my class. The Civil War dead toll was so huge it made the government move into action and provide immediately. Also, I have found the numbered blocks were used by mental institutions and penitentiaries for their dead whose relatives did not claim or could not or did not want to claim the bodies. If in genealogy research you have a missing relative - check out these institutions and their burial sites.


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