Gravestone Rubbing

Taking a gravestone rubbing is commonly used by family history researchers for preserving a tombstone inscription. I remember doing this as a child with my primary school class at a local cemetery in Connecticut. It’s quite easy and fun and makes for a unique activity to do with kids. I did a quick search online to see if people in Australia do this and came up empty handed. Perplexed, I reached out to some local friends who told me that they have never heard of doing such a thing. Is it American? It seems anyone researching history or family history might do it no matter their nationality.

My daughter and I decided to head to our local cemetery today to give it a go. We followed all the rules of doing it safely after having watched a YouTube instructional video. Basically, you need thin paper, crayons, pencils or oil pastels, and some tape to hold the paper in place on the headstone. We chose graves with information that was interesting to us and also in good condition as we didn’t want to damage the inscription or the stone if it seemed like it was deteriorating.

I realised while we strolled the cemetery what a great learning experience it was turning out to be. Art mixed with history and a little science. There was a lot of conversation around why so many babies died in the 1800’s (healthcare, disease, lack of vaccination, etc.) and why we found so many young men who died during World War 1. What a simple but excellent day out, chock full of fun and learning.

3 thoughts on “Gravestone Rubbing

  1. So cool! I love graveyards. When I was little, I used to call them grave gardens. We did this for my grandfather when we visited his parents’ and baby sister’s graves in central Missouri since he was unlikely to get back to them living in Michigan.

    By the way, in that case, the second twin and mom did not survive childbirth. It could lead to a very enlightening discussion about how child birthing has become much safer but is still a leading cause of death for women in a certain age group – especially in certain countries. Also, what things are thought to improve mother and infant mortality.

    • Yes, this was our discussion exactly, re: women. So many family grave sites where a 2 month old infant died, then the 4 month old and then the mom…all within a year. Small pox time period I believe. How depressing.

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