Graveyard Boo-Boos

As a genealogist and keeper of the family history I’m always excited to discover the graves of ancestors, especially if I’m attempting to ascertain their death date. Cemetery stones so often give that information, plus other family members might be listed…. but of course you’re already aware of that. The tricky part comes when information on the stone is incorrect or unreadable. In among the many gravestone pictures in my collection are some examples:

Example One: The Leach Graves


Here’s the gravestone of my husband’s Great-Great-Grandfather, Solomon Leach.

Solomon Leach gravestone


The stone reads: Solomon Leach, died January 19, 1892 age 71 years 11 months & 2 days.


But wait! Have a look at this next example:


This is the gravestone for Susan Leach, wife of Solomon, and my husband’s Great-Great-Grandmother

susan higley grave

It reads: Susan, wife of Solomon, died November 6, 1901, age 76 yrs, 11 mos, 2 days.


OK now, this would have us believe that both Susan and Solomon Leach lived exactly76 years, 11 months and 2 days. Uh-huh, right.



Example Two: Gravestone of Zilpha Shipman Boss

Zilpha Shipman Boss was my great-grandmother, wife of Andrew Jackson Boss. The Boss family lived in Detroit (Lakes) Minnesota and both Zilpha and Andrew died there and are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery. The gravestone was incorrectly ingraved with the first name spelled “Zilph” instead of “Zilpha.”



Great-grandmother Zilpha Shipman Boss

Zilpha Shipman Boss Grave Marker


Gravestone of Zilpha Shipman Boss with the first name misspelled



Example Three: Gravestone of Robert Arbuckle

Robert Arbuckle was my Great-Grandfather. He was born in Scotland in 1821 and emigrated with his wife and children to America after living in Canada for a time, and is buried in Wadena City Cemetery in Wadena Minnesota. Robert’s grave marker was difficult to read. My sister and I visited the cemetery on a lovely sunny day and quickly found the Arbuckle family graves, however we couldn’t quite make out the inscription on Robert’s grave marker…. we looked from several directions, tried to trace the inscription by feeling it with our fingers and looked some more… but all to no avail, so finally we just gave up and walked back to our car. But bless the sunshine! As we neared the car we turned back for a last look; the sun had moved around to just the right angle for us to be able to make out the gravestone inscription and take some pictures. Here’s one:

Robert Arbuckle gravestone

Gravestone of Great-Grandfather Robert Arbuckle


Robert Arbuckle

Died Feb. 27, 1895

Aged 73 yrs, & 6 mos.

Take comfort Chri

stians when your

Friends in Jesus

fall asleep

Their better being

Never ends

Why then dejected


This rather unusual inscription had the added difficulty of an un-hyphenated word and line breaks that were hard to understand. And the inscription itself was especially sad, especially given the fact that Robert committed suicide by drinking strychnine.


So there you have it; three gravestone situations. Three different inscriptions that could throw a genealogist off in that search for the elusive “facts.” Maybe the fact that gravestones can be cryptic or confuse the search makes them all the more intriguing as a source.

Copyright January 18, 2009, Susan J. Edminster. All rights reserved.

Photographs are the property of Susan J. Edminster, Granite Falls, Washington

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