Merry Cemetery Displays ‘Dirty Little Secrets’ of the Dead

A gravestone creator in a small town in Romania took his mission seriously to memorialize the dead. But he did in, er, “living color,” so to speak. With plenty of colorful images and even dirty little secrets and gossip carved onto tombstones of the local residents at the “Merry Cemetery.”

The “Merry Cemetery” Sapanta, Romania. Image credit: “Merry Cemetery – Sapanta – Romania 01”, by Adam Jones (Adam63). Wikimedia Commons image at- http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Merry_Cemetery_-_Sapanta_-_Romania_01.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Merry_Cemetery_-_Sapanta_-_Romania_01.jpg.

As reported in the New York Daily News,  the woodcarver responsible for over 1000 gravestones in the “Merry Cemetery” would wander through town, taking notes on people’s quirks and secrets. Some flaws–drinking and carousing among them–are memorialized colorfully on their tombstones. On other stones, you’ll find his sad laments for the untimely passing of a child or the death of an adult by  a sad accident.

“There’s no point in hiding secrets in this small town in Maramures, so people’s lives are captured honestly in their epitaphs,” reports the article.

The woodcarver was Stan Ion Patras, who lived from 1908-1977. Conscious of the legacy he was leaving–and perhaps anxious to tell his own story rather than have someone else do it–Patras carved his own tombstone before he passed away. He trained his replacement, who continues to add to the brightly colored crosses.

Here’s another detail I thought was neat: Patras’ folk art was highly symbolic. According to a New York Times article on the cemetery, “The portrait of the deceased is central, surrounded by geometric designs in symbolic colors: yellow for fertility, red for passion, green for life, black for untimely death. The color scheme is keyed to the subject’s life — if, for example, the deceased had many children, yellow carries the design. Some crosses are crowned with white doves representing the soul; a black bird implies a tragic or suspicious end. The background is always blue, the color of hope and freedom.”

What’s the most fascinating cemetery you’ve ever visited? What’s the most memorable epitaph you’ve ever found? Share it on our Genealogy Gems Facebook page!

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsHere’s our weekly list of new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with your genealogy buddies or with societies that might be interested!

AMERICAN LOYALIST CLAIMS (U.S., U.K., CANADA). A database of claims and cases heard by the American Loyalist Claims Commission (regarding British subjects in North America who remained loyal to the crown during the Revolutionary War) has been updated at Ancestry. “These documents include books of evidence and memorials given by witnesses, accounts of losses (which can provide detail about places and possessions), evidence of claims, correspondence, indentures, and other documents collected over the course of these examinations.”

BRITISH NEWSPAPERS. Over 5.8 million new newspaper articles are online at Findmypast. According to the site, “This includes 22 brand new titles and additions to a further 94 publications. The new titles come from all over England, Scotland and Wales and include newspapers from Edinburgh, Liverpool, Sheffield and Wolverhampton. The largest of the new publications is Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser which contains over 939,000 articles covering 1805-71….Over 1 million articles were added to London Evening Standard. There were also substantial updates made to Falkirk Herald, Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle and Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer.

CALIFORNIA NATURALIZATIONS. Original naturalization records from the state of California, 1887-1991, have been updated at Ancestry. “Most pre-1906 naturalization papers contain little information of biographical or genealogical value….There are, however, wonderful exceptions, so it is worth seeking pre-1906 naturalizations. Records created after 1906 usually contain significant genealogical information.”

DUTCH EMIGRANTS TO CANADA AND U.S. A new Ancestry database captures information on Dutch emigrants who relocated to the U.S. or  Canada between 1946 and 1963. “Details from those lists are included in this database. You may find name, birth date, place of origin, arrival year, destination, sponsor year, religion, relation to head of household and family size.”

ENGLAND AND WALES PROBATE CALENDARS. Findmypast subscribers now have access to an index to the Principal Probate Registry system for England. In these indexes, you can find the deceased’s name, death date, address, occupation, marital status, spouse’s name, names of executors/administrators and beneficiaries and their occupations and the size of the estate. Use this data to request a copy of a will from the National Probate Registry.

U.S. QUAKER RECORDS. A substantial Ancestry database of Quaker meeting records (1681-1935) has been freshly updated. According to the site, “Quakers recorded a variety of details in their monthly meeting minutes which can be searched by name, location, and event date; or browsed by state, county, meeting, and record type….This collection marks the first time a major collection of Quaker meeting records has been made available online with a comprehensive index.”

sign up newsletterSign up for our weekly newsletter, and this weekly round-up of major new record collections will be among the “gems” you find in it! With your sign-up, you’ll receive a free e-book on Google search strategies for genealogy. Simply enter your email address in the box in the upper right-hand corner of this page. Thank you for sharing this post with anyone else who will want to know about these records (and this weekly blog post.)

World’s Oldest Message in a Bottle: Why Not Make Your Own?

world oldest message in a bottleMSN recently reported the surfacing of perhaps the oldest known message in a bottle. If YOU sent one, what would it say? Warning: craft idea ahead!

British scientist George Parker Bidder set afloat a flotilla of 1,000 bottles in 1906. According to MSN, the vessels were “designed to float above the sea floor in attempts to study ocean currents. All of the bottles contained a postcard that listed instructions in English, German and Dutch to return the note to the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, England, in exchange for a shilling. When most of the bottles–not all–were found a few months later, Bidder was able to confirm his theory that the deep sea current flowed west in the North Sea, a body of water that borders Great Britain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.”

Then recently, a newly-discovered bottle came ashore on the beaches of Amrum, a German island in the North Sea. The woman who recovered it did get her shilling–which had to be purchased from eBay.

My Message in a Bottle Experience
A few months ago, I discovered for myself that the tradition of sending out messages in bottles was still alive. While participating in a local Lake Erie beach cleanup near my home on the east side of Cleveland, a member of our group discovered a bottle. Someone buy medicine online japan gave it to me. Inside were several letters written fairly recently. As I scanned them, I gradually realized they were all love letters to a baby who had passed away. We gently put the letters back in the bottle and the bottle back in the water. But I haven’t forgotten it.

Does the idea of sending a message in a bottle appeal to you?
It doesn’t have to be a pain-filled message cast on the waters, though that might be a therapeutic way to say goodbye or “I miss you” to loved ones. Another option is a happy letter, placed in a cute bottle and given right to a loved one (I suppose you could float it in their sink at home!).

I found this cute how-to craft on YouTube that could inspire YOUR message in a bottle. What would you say? To whom would you send it? Where would you launch it, and how would you hope it would be found?

For more craft ideas, check out our Pinterest page on Family History Crafts & Displays or click to read the blog posts below.

Resources

My Name is Jane: Heritage Scrapbook Celebrates Family Tradition

Old Objects Become New Again: Heritage Jewelry with Found Objects

Family History Photo Display with Mementos

www.geneaogygems.comThank you for sharing this post with someone special!

Write Your Life Story: Good for Your Health?

Did you know that writing–and then re-writing–our personal stories can be good for our health? And even better for our future, 

Preserving Old Letters Archive Lady

 

Courtesy Houston County, TN. Archives.especially if we are struggling to define that future optimistically. 

So says a recent New York Times blog post. “We all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves,” writes Tara Parker-Pope.

“But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.”

She’s not talking about writing childhood memories or ancestral anecdotes. In several studies, people who were struggling in an area were asked to write about it. Then they were presented with optimistic scenarios about how others had overcome difficulties. Those who rewrote their narratives were able to grab onto some of that optimism. They actually changed the way they thought of their “problem,” whatever it was. And long-term results in some studies showed that these people DID in fact improve.

We often see celebrities on Who Do You Think You Are? talk about how their ancestors’ lives inspire them or teach them new ways of understanding their own lives. Many who write their own family histories say the same thing. As we wrestle with memories or facts and how to present them in writing, we also interpret the past in new ways and, often, this new insight brings hope for a better future.

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family HistoryOne more GREAT reason to write your life story and family history, don’t you think? Thanks to my brother Chris McClellan for sharing this blog post with me.

Listen as Lisa and I discuss different styles for writing about your family history in the FREE Genealogy Gems podcast episode 176. Or get inspired by the family history-themed books we love and share on our Genealogy Gems Book Club page. Click here for great suggestions on what to read!

 

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

 

We learn about great new genealogy records online every week! On Fridays we round up a few for you. Watch for databases and documents that your ancestors might appear in–and get inspired by the types of records that may be out there for your family, waiting for you to discover. This week: Michigan death certificates; Zimbabwe death notices, wills and trusts and an oral history archive of New Zealand nursing.

We dig these gems

MICHIGAN DEATHS. Images of Michigan death certificates from 1921-1939 are now available for free at Seeking Michigan. “The index for records from 1940-1952 will be made available in the next few weeks, with additional certificate images to be released each year as privacy restrictions are lifted (1940 images will be released in January 2016),” says a press release.

“Together with the records from 1897-1920 that have been available at the site for years, this collection makes Seeking Michigan the one-stop destination for more than 2.6 million free, publicly-available 20th century death records for Michigan ancestors.”

ZIMBABWE DEATH NOTICES. Over 130,000 indexed and browsable records from the Zimbabwe, Death notices, 1904–1976 are now available on FamilySearch. According to the description, “The records included in this collection consist of death notices and registers obtained from the National Archives at Harare and Salisbury, Zimbabwe. The collection includes indexes of closed and open files. The records are written in English. It appears those records that are labeled ADM are probably administrations which are separate from the death registers and they contain wills and living Trust records. Birth and death registrations did not include African tribal members until 1963.”

NEW ZEALAND ORAL HISTORIES. A new web archive of oral histories of New Zealand nurses is now available. “The aim of this website is to capture this rich history and create a resource that nurses, students, academics and family members can access in order to gain a better understanding of nursing history in New Zealand,” says the site’s home page. The site contains a “large collection of oral histories including abstracts, recordings, photos and other information. These histories have been collected from nurses who trained during the 1950s and 1960s and capture both the everyday elements of nursing practice along with some of the more unusual. Here you are able to listen to stories, read brief abstracts, and view photos of the nurses.” Got a story to tell? They are accepting new interviews. There’s also a section on hospitals and one on nursing uniforms.

 

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Not sure how to find record sets like these for YOUR family history? Here’s a tip! If your keyword searches for record types aren’t bringing up good results, try switching the order of the search terms. In English-language searches, word order counts.

This tip comes to you courtesy of the book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition by Lisa Louise Cooke–the fully-revised 2015 edition that’s packed with strategies that will dramatically improve your ability to find your family history online.

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