Thanks for reading and commenting about my blog postings. My goal is to accurately document the genealogy of my family and allied families living in Chesterfield County, SC and Anson County, NC. If you have a Chesterfield County surname you are interested in please send me an e-mail.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday~Can You Really Trust That Tombstone

We should never rely on a single information source to documents facts about our ancestors. An “exhaustive search” of all available records should be made before we settle on a single concrete date for an event. Any  conflicting data must be resolved.

Birth and death dates from tombstones are often a major data source for genealogist and family historians. As genealogist we must be cautious when relying on the information chiseled in granite. Mistakes can and are often made either by the informant or sometimes by the headstone engraver.

Here are a few cases why you should be cautious of dates on tombstones.

32256021_122961037770-James P. Brock
Photo Courtesy of Julious Burr

James Paul Brock is my 1st cousin 4 time removed. His tombstone says that he was born on Feb 29, 1845. The problem here is that 1945 was not a leap year and February only had 28 days. His parents reported his age as 6 years old in 1850 Census.  If his birth date was in fact February 29 then his birth year must be 1844. [1]


Jacob Burr Tombstone
This is a real ‘classic”. This tombstone was originally placed on the grave of Jacob Burr after his death on  23 June 1921. About 1926-1929 there was a big effort in Chesterfield County to acquire tombstones from the Veterans Administration  and mark the graves of every known Civil War soldier in the County. When Jacob Burr’s tombstone was received it was placed on his grave.

His original tombstone was removed, engraved with  the words “WIFE OF” and then the tombstone was placed on the grave of his wife, Henrietta Jane Hancock Burr. Henrietta was actually born on August 17, 1843.
8774604_122485404134 -Jacob Burr

Another tombstone is that of my 1st Cousin who passed away from diphtheria at the very young age of 5. His name was Vinson Lee. His tombstone reads:

90735538_133800128892-Vinson Lee2

If you are using tombstone names and dates just be aware that mistakes are made, do an exhaustive search of all records and documents your family history as accurately as possible with existing records.

Good Luck in Your Research

[1] Find A Grave Memorial# 32256021
[2] Find A Grave Memorial# 8774604
[3] Find A Grave Memorial# 8774623
[4] Find A Grave Memorial# 90735538


  1. So true! In my research I've come across so many discrepancies on headstones. For example: The headstone for Martha Hancock Welsh (wife of my 3rd great grand uncle, Sebra Welsh) lists that she was born in the year 1835 however when she submitted her application for Confederacy Pension in 1919 she listed her age as 81, which means she was born in 1838.

  2. It's definitely a problem to watch for in both names and dates.