Saturday, April 3, 2010

Flat Grave Markers Are Just No Good

I took a stroll through the Philadelphia Memorial Park this morning seeing if I could locate some requested grave markers from

It's a really big cemetery and it's about 99% flat grave markers (there's one small spot where there are a couple dozen regular grave stones from a cemetery that was re-located from Philadelphia).

You know what that means of course...

Me saying: I hope they didn't just move the headstones! (although according to the blurb on the about the cemetery - they weren't too careful!)

Sorry, I've seen Poltergeist WAY too many times.

Anyway, back to the story...
So it's a very pretty cemetery, lots of rolling ground and trees. I went to the section where people thought a bunch of their markers would be and was bitterly disappointed.

It never occurred to me what happens to flat grave markers once there's no family around to maintain them.

Yep, totally grown over. I wish I'd known to bring my gardening tools this morning, I spent a lot of time scraping debris off of markers with various sticks.

It broke my heart.

And it's not like this is some ancient little cemetery - it's a modern facility with burials going on right now. But this area I guess was "full" because it seemed like the most recent death date I came across was 1996. I didn't find ONE of the requested names from

It just seems a shame.

So, moral of the story is, don't use a flat marker that will disappear under grass and leaves in a few short years. Please, on behalf of all future genealogists!!

Now, I realize that the office has a map of all plots, it just wasn't open this morning, so I can always try that, but still, in my opinion, above ground markers are better!

Below is a pic of one I came across that I un-earthed, literally. There were a lot of veterans in this particular part of the cemetery.

Poor guy fought in World War I. I tried to find out about Battery A, 311th Field Artillery but nothing comes up easily in the search engines. There's tons on Battery D, but I didn't see anything on A. I looked him up in ancestry and there's a few possiblities - I found a WWI draft registration card, but it lists the birthdate as March 19, rather than 17th. Of course, the grave marker could be wrong...

Of course, flat grave markers are protected from the elements, but even so I'd still rather have them above ground.


  1. I agree. It is a shame. And, unfortunately, it is getting harder and harder to find cemeteries that will use upright gravestones. I know they are easier to maintain, but I don't like it!

  2. Hi Dave - yes, sure, I imagine it's easier for them to use the huge mowers and just mow right over top. Kind of takes away the need to mark your grave though, if no one will be able to find it because it's under several inches of rotting leaves and grass clippings!

  3. When my sister died unexpectedly in 1975, she was buried at the foot of what will be my mother's plot. Her marker is a flat heart. A couple of years ago, I went to visit her grave, and almost had a heart attack ... it was gone! I marched right up to the office and flipped out on the nearest employee. They sent a crew out to the site with me to investigate. Turns out, it had been severely grown over, and because of the massive storms (snow and rain), the marker was under about 4 inches of dirt. They uncovered it right there while I was watching. Since then, they've made improvements in how they deal with the upkeep of their markers, especially after storms. Unfortunately, ALL of the markers at this cemetery are flat.

  4. In my county in Idaho, there are several municipal-owned cemeteries that require flat stones rather than the upright version and it is precisely because of maintenance issues. These are taxpayer-owned cemeteries and costs are lower if they can mow right over the top of them. Now it is also their responsibility to maintain the stones and keep the grass from growing over the top. I would guess since the cemetery you mentioned has mostly flat stones that the cemetery requires those.