Cemeteries are magical places to genealogists

BY NANCIANNE PARKES SUBER

Special to the Daily Journal

Cemeteries to genealogists are magical places, guardians not only of the relics of our ancestors, but a record of their lives … if only we know how to read those records.

When you study a gravemarker, you can expect, at the very least, an individual's name and the dates of his/her birth and death. If you are lucky, the name of his/her parents, place of birth, spouse, children and military service will also be given.

But gravestones can offer so much more hidden information if only we know what to look for. Cemeteries are virtual encyclopedias of symbolism. Universal symbols abound that tell an individual's religion, ethnicity, clubs, organizations, hobbies, occupation and other historical information in the twinkle of an eye.

Author Doug Keister, a noted architecturalphotographer who has spent years studying mortuary symbolism, has finally published the definitive field guide to cemetery research in “Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography.”

“Stories in Stone” provides history richly illustrated with pictures taken in cemeteries around the world. In the introductory chapters, Keister provides an overview of various types of funerary architecture and monuments found. The guide includes stunning full color as well as black and white photographs of mausoleums, chapels, tombs, sculptures, memorials and markers along with detailed explanations for their meaning and customs.

But the book truly shines in the discussions of the symbols and engravings used on these works and what they mean. The codes, meanings, importance and context of some 350 symbols are presented and fully indexed.

Written with a wicked sense of humor – which helps when dealing with such a potentially morbid topic, the book is well organized for quick reference of the symbols you find and explains them thoroughly in easy-to-understand text.

Perfect as a Christmas gift or stocking stuffer (even for yourself), the guide is in stores now. The volume has 256 pages and retails for about $25, although I have seen it online at Amazon for considerably less. This guide is one of those 'must have' volumes. You will never view a cemetery in the same way again.

Does anyone know?

n Gary W. & Christie J. Brazel Cooper (653 Lover's Lane Road, Dawson, Georgia 39842; e-mail garluke@juno.com) are desperately seeking information on Breazeale-Brazeal-Brazile-Brasil lines in Mississippi who have early Georgia connections. In a recent DNA test project their family Brazel line has been genetically matched with others in the project with names spelled Breazeale, Brazeal and Brazil. Their great grandfather, William B. (or H.) “Will” Brazel, lived almost his entire adult life in Calhoun, Randolph and Terrell County areas of South Georgia. It is not known where he may have lived as a child. Born in 1863/64 anddied in 1944, his death certificate says his father's name was mark, but this cannot be verified. He was married to Ida Jones per his death certificate. One son, Ben Brazel, remained in Georgia except for a few years in Alabama and then returned to Georgia. Another son, Gus Brazel, migrated west – possibly living in Mississippi for a number of years,but eventually ending up in Texas and New Mexico. A thirdson, Allen Beazel, relocated to Holmes County, Florida. Can any Mississippi Brazel's/etc. connect with these names? Does anyone know who Mark (possibly a nickname) was and if he indeed was the father of this clan? Does Gus have Mississippi descendants? Can any reader help?

n Audrey Galloway (audrey.galloway@amsouth.com) is looking for relatives in the Yazoo area of Mississippi. Her grandfather was Shadrach Meshach Abengdego Galloway who lived in Yazoo, but died when her father,Lawrence Galloway, was a small boy. Lawrence remembers very little about his father. He did remember visiting an uncle there years later, but has had no contact with the Galloway family since. Can any reader help put Audrey in touch with her paternal line?

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