"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed Taylor Daily Press - 16 Sept 1999

Historic Texas Cemeteries and Tombstones

In the cool of the fall last year, I visited an old country cemetery with several family members. One remarked, “That there rock is your Cousin George who died before World War II.” It’s a frequent story about cemeteries, the unmarked grave!

As a genealogist, you shutter to think how many other family members are buried within eyesight and the graves were never marked and are now forgotten. An even greater tragedy in our communities is the lost or forgotten cemetery.

To help stop the destruction and loss of graves and cemeteries in the State of Texas, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) has hired, Gerron Hite as a full-time historic cemetery preservation coordinator. Hite has established the “Official Historic Texas Cemetery Project” to collect a comprehensive list of all historic cemeteries.

Hite reminds us that cemeteries are like open history books whose pages are tablets of stone. Genealogists use tombstones and cemetery indexes to base a considerable about of the data and information. As a child, I can remember tagging along with my mother and Cousin Iva as they went through cemeteries and wrote down the names on index cards. The information on the cards were later typed and printed into books, which grace the shelves of many libraries and are used by genealogists everyday.

Cemeteries tell us about the people who lived in the surrounding community. They tell us about the ethnic background of people, how long they lived, great tragedies, epidemics, social customs, military history, and much more.

According to Hite, there are approximately 50,000 historic cemeteries in Texas. “You can’t preserve cemeteries unless you know where they are located,” said Hite. While the designation as an “Official Historic Texas Cemetery” cannot guarantee a cemetery will not be destroyed, Hite states, “it does help make present and future landowners aware of the resources on their property.”

The designation encourages landowners to undertake preservation efforts. However, the designation does not restrict private landowners’ use of their land.

Hite encourages non-profit groups, such as genealogy and historical societies and families, to register historic Texas graveyards. To request an application form for the project, write: Gerron Hite, Texas Historical Commission, P. O. Box 12276, Austin, Texas 78711-2276, telephone 512/475-4167, e-mail: gerron.hite@thc.state.tx.us or visit the THC website at: http://www.thc.state.tx.us/.

For more in-depth information about how to safeguard a cemetery in your community, you should request a copy of the THC booklet “Preserving Historic Cemeteries.” You can also download a copy of this booklet from the TCH website listed above. This free booklet gives an overview of cemetery laws and offers information on how to protect and restore historic cemeteries. The booklet also includes tips on cleaning, repairing and maintaining tombstones and cemetery grounds.

Internet Tip

“The Political Graveyard” is a database of historic cemeteries that tells you where approximately 35, 000 dead politicians are buried. You can search the database by an alphabetical index; offices held or sought; date or year born or died, state and county of birth or death; or, leading political family. Visit the website at: http://politicalgraveyard.com/index.html.

Society News

On Thursday, October 7, 1999 at 6:30 p.m., the Milam County Genealogical Society will hold its Annual Seminar and Dinner at the Patterson Civic Center in Rockdale, Texas. Cost $7.00 per person including meal and gift bag. No tickets will be sold at the door. The speaker will be Ed T. Magre, a noted Civil War historian.

Book Review

Milam County, Texas in the Civil War. 1993. By James E. Williams, Rt. 1, Box 864, Milano, Texas 76556. Soft-cover, 8½”x11”, 68 pages, index, $15.00 (including postage & tax) or visit his website at: http://members.tripod.com/~jamesewilliams/index-2.html.

This book contains information related to men who served in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War from Milam County, Texas. Using service records, the author has compiled a list of all known soldiers from this county. Mr. Williams estimates there were 900 soldiers, of which approximately 140 were casualties. The soldiers are listed by unit and researchers will certainly appreciate the full-name index. Also included, if known, are the dates of enlistments, promotions, resignations, deaths and locations, discharges, disabilities, wounded, POW camps, and much more.

In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.

Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 8 Sept 1999 and was last revised on 10 Jan 2000, 15 Nov 2001

Copyright © 1999, 2000 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604