Thursday, July 28, 2016

Seeking Dead People

{available here}

The Captain is obsessed with genealogy.   He has traced our family histories,  watches every genealogy show on TV  (yes, that's right - there ARE shows about genealogy), and we have all contributed DNA so he  can trace our ancestors' migrations across the continents  (or so Homeland Security or the NSA can keep track of us in their databases).   Since he puts up with my obsessions, which are legion,  I try to humor what I can his  "certified old man  hobby".

Hence a trip to a local cemetery to search for a local ancestor.

As you can see, this is a cemetery from the Pilgrim  era.   Many of the stones are broken and many of the engravings are worn away.   These folks were a serious lot and lived a hard and often short life.  One family plot had parents and their three daughters who died at 3 , 8, and 20 years old.

Some of the stones are still legible, and the inscriptions are heavy on the religious fervor of the day:

"Here lyes Interred the body of the Revd. MR NATHANIEL GOOKIN M.A. & Late the Pastor of the 1st Church of CHRIST in HAMPTON, who died Augt. 25th. MDCCXXXIV in the 48th. Year of his Age, & the 27th. of his Ministry. He was A Judicious DIVINE, A Celebrated Preacher, A most Vigilant & faithfull PASTOR, a bright Ornament Of Learning and RELIGION & An excellent Pattern of PIETY, CHARITY, & HOSPITALITY"

"In memory of Reverend Ebenezer Thayer, who for nearly twenty-six years dispensed the bread of life to the S"ociety in this place and on September 6th 1792 fell asleep in Jesus, supported by the Christian hope of a resurrection to eternal life. AE 58 "While o'er this modest stone religion weeps, Beneath an humble, cheerful Christian sleeps, Sober, Learned, free from care and strife, He fill'd the useful offices of Life; Admired, endeared as Husband, Father, Friend, Peace bless'd his days and innocence his end; Blameless throughout, his worth by all approv'd, True to his charge, and by his people lov'd, He liv'd to make his hearers' faith abound, And died that his own virtue might be crown'd."

"In Memory of Mr. John Moulton, who died March 4th, 1794 aged 45 Years "In his death, his Consort has Lost an affectionate & Loving Husband; his sisters a kind & friendly Brother; & the publick a useful member of society & one courteous & hospitable to strangers."  We noticed several stones with either the husband or wife listed as "consort" which apparently was used to mean spouse.  It seemed odd that the Puritans would be announcing a less than sanctioned relationship!

Not even an old cemetery is safe from The Google!

While he was looking for his ancestor,  I was just appreciating the headstones.   

This weird alien-like head , the Death's Head,  is common in stones of this era.   The Puritans were a cheerful lot - this head symbolized mortality and got around the prohibition of creating religious images that looked like real people.

The stones were shaped like headboards with the high center arc and smaller ones on each side.  This was supposed to symbolize  the headboard for your final sleep.   

This one isn't so dark - the face looks more human, less alien and there are flowers and flourishes- how worldly !  This is about the time of the Great Awakening when things lightened up for the Puritans - less gloom and doom.

 I am fascinated by the lichen growth on the stones.


Many have a green lacy growth, but  there  was this beauty nearly covered with white lichen and green lacy lichen along the bottom.

I did a little research on lichens, a combination of algae and fungus that grow slowly -- about a millimeter a year.   They can  eat away at the engraving over time.    I discovered that there is a British Lichen Society (why are we not surprised?) that is dedicated to the preservation of lichens.    Cleaning stones to remove the lichens damages both the stones and the lichens - and the British Lichen Society is having none of that!

The Captain didn't find his long-lost, but added to another of his obsession - factoids - this time  about headstones and lichens .  You know how often both come up in everyday  conversation  !

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