I have recently taken on the task of photographing and documenting local cemeteries in my area, of course I started with the ones I know my relatives are laid to rest. In the past two months I have documented 2 entire cemeteries and have started a 3rd.
I have found that each cemetery seems to have its own personality, quirks if you will in the trees that grow, the unevenness of the earth, the way that there is always an "old" section and a new. The way that even with so much death, there is so much life around if we just take a moment to take each piece in.
You will also find that some, not all, are actually laid out in relatively straight lines and are easier to catalog while others, you find yourself having to use landmarks as not to get lost, or miss someone.
I am personally drawn to the oldest headstones initially. I am always looking for the oldest ones, and believe it or not, some of the oldest ones seem to be in the best shape. I am not sure if that is down to the type of stone/rock that was used but I do find them fascinating.
I am saddened by the ones that are in disrepair or broken, every ounce of me wants to grab something and fix them, and it never seems to fail that they are their most fragile and the most KEY areas of information...sigh.
I think the ones that are the hardest for me are the children, because their lives were cut short, as a nurse I wonder what it was that made them so ill or took them away. Then I think on the fact that because their little lives were cut so short, one day when their parents/siblings are gone, no one will really be looking for them. So many seem to fall off family trees, so I make it a concerted effort to make sure they are remembered with at least a photo, placed on a site so that they will at least be seen. I don't think anyone deserves to be forgotten, each life is special and important no matter how long or short it is.
On of my daughters had a classmate that was taken before she graduated high school, on graduation night the kids all placed a rose in the chair she should have been in, after the ceremony they drove to her resting place, placed the flowers on the bench at her grave and placed her graduation cap and gown. I was fortunate enough to take photographs after this was done the next day.
All this said, we Genealogists use these amazing pieces of history as a wealth of information. So much can be gleamed from a headstone, birth, death, marriage date and to whom, sometimes children's names are left as a reminder, I have seen ceramic pictures of the couples or the person, the person(s) signature. There are some interesting epitaphs and some funny ones, it almost feels strange to bust out laughing in a cemetery when reading someones stone, but I think that was their intention.
I could and do spend hour upon hour walking through, reading, photographing and even some tears and laughter at times through these amazing places. I think it is a very important part of my Genealogy and yours. So important it is a service I offer in my Genealogy business. If you need or would like this type of service in my area, Oklahoma/Arkansas, I will be happy to work with you. My website is AA Genealogy Consulting, if you have relatives in another area and would like such a service, try contacting a local Genealogist and see if they offer this very special service!