Jul 22, 2022

Cemetery Obsession

July 22, 2022

I’ve always liked wandering through old cemeteries. When I was a child, I loved Memorial Day when we visited our family graves and placed wildflowers on them. Once I became a genealogist, I searched out the final resting places of as many ancestors as I could. I even enjoyed strolling through cemeteries where no one I knew was buried.


When my sons were young, they often were my semi-willing companions on my cemetery excursions. One year while we were on vacation in New England, my youngest son and I stopped at an ancient cemetery in New Hampshire. I knew of no relatives buried there, but the old skull and crossbones headstones were fascinating. To me, at least. After a bit of meandering, my son asked me if I knew anyone buried there. I had to admit that I didn’t.


My pre-teen son rolled his eyes and said “Mom, I think your obsession with cemeteries is becoming a problem. Maybe you should see someone about it.”


I didn’t think visiting old cemeteries was much of a problem, but I did talk to someone about it – another genealogist. She, of course, thought stopping by old, unknown cemeteries was perfectly normal and not a problem at all!


Summer is typically the season when genealogists push away from their computers and venture out into the wider world. Cemeteries should be on the list of places to see. Of course, you’ll want to visit as many of your ancestors’ graves as possible.


In addition, there are a lot of old cemeteries all over the country that are worth visiting – whether you have ancestors buried there or not. Some may hold the graves of famous people; others are well-known for the old monuments found in them. Still others are amazing just because of the great age of the burials. I remember visiting a graveyard in Boston where many of the folks buried there had died long before the Revolution after having lived long lives. Although they lived in what became the United States, they never knew of it.


Even in comparatively recently settled Colorado, there are older cemeteries worth a look.  Here in Larimer County there are several good ones such as Grandview Cemetery in Fort Collins and the Loveland Cemetery in Loveland. Even if you’re so-so about old headstones, the giant trees and blooming peonies and roses make them a lovely spot for a stroll.


Despite their early introduction to old cemeteries, none of my sons grew up to be interested in genealogy. My cemetery rambles nowadays are sans family. I still think meandering through an old cemetery is a great way to spend an afternoon. It still seems perfectly normal and healthy to me. I don’t think I’m alone in my obsession. Just ask any genealogist.



Carol Stetser