Most tombstones give minimal information: name of deceased, year of birth, and year of death. If the deceased is a married woman, it is rare to include her maiden name. However, some tombstones include epitaphs.
An epitaph is a short text, many times a poem, found inscribed on a tombstone. The epitaph, as a rule, honors the deceased person. In my family research, the epitaphs I have found are on tombstones from the 1700s. However, epitaphs are not limited to that time period. Clay Allison (no family relation), 1840-1887, a Texas rancher and sometimes gunslinger has on his tombstone: “He never killed a man that did not need killing.”
In working on my sons’ families, I came across quite a few epitaphs. Here are three that are a good representation of epitaphs.
|Sarah Swift Adams, 1711-1774|
“Death is a debt to nature due, / As she has paid it so must you. / In life then strive to get prepared, / To fly with her to meet the Lord.” You will notice the unique sculpture on the top of her tombstone: A skull with wings. This symbolizes the ascension to heaven. Sarah is buried in the Milton Cemetery located in Milton, Massachusetts.
|Abigail Adams Kneeland, 1737-1770|
“The sweet remembrance of the just / Shall flourish when they sleep in dust.” Though slightly different, Abigail has the same symbolism on her tombstone as Sarah. Abigail is buried in the Milton Cemetery located in Milton, Massachusetts.
|Anne Oliver Goddard, 1764-1832|
“Blessed are the dead / that die in the Lord.” Anne is buried in the North Orange Cemetery located in Orange, Massachusetts.
Sarah and Anne are first cousins 1x removed. Abigail and Anne are third cousins 1x removed. Sarah and Anne are second cousins 2x removed