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Cemeteries and Graveyards (Paperback)

A Guide for Local and Family Historians in England and Wales

Family History P&S History > Social History World History > UK & Ireland > England World History > UK & Ireland > Wales

By Celia Heritage
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
Series: Tracing Your Ancestors
Pages: 248
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526702371
Published: 17th March 2022


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This comprehensive and fascinating guide from genealogist and historian CELIA HERITAGE will prove indispensable for both local and family historians. A wide-ranging examination of historical and archaeological findings means that the book will also appeal to anyone with an interest in death and burial.

Celia throws light on changing social attitudes to death and burial from pre-historic times to the modern day, investigates the origins and evolution of cemeteries and graveyards, and discusses the many different types of graves and memorials as well as looking at how memorial designs have changed.

One chapter takes an in-depth look at the origins of the parish churchyard, while another looks at graveyards associated with nonconformist churches and institutions, including workhouses, asylums, hospitals and gaols.

Celia details a wide range of online and offline sources that will help locate burials and memorials, also offering vital advice regarding good research practice. There is plenty of detail about less well-known genealogy sources such as records relating to re-interment, undertakers’ and stonemasons’ records, together with better known sources such as burial registers and memorial inscriptions.

Throughout, there is a wide range of hands-on case studies which bring the subject to life and put it right into the hands of the researcher. This is far more than just genealogy, and Celia portrays this fascinating subject from the view of both historian and archaeologist.

Cemeteries and Graveyards is clearly written and accessible... the appendices, bibliography and chapters on archival records are all essential resources for researchers.

Church Monuments Society members new to the field or those undertaking academic research for the first time will find this volume an invaluable companion. It is also a bargain!

Journal of the Church Monuments Society

As featured in

Who Do You Think You Are

5 out of 5

Like the author, I find the history of burial places fascinating. As I have been researching my family tree for many years, I have done my fair share of graveyard hunting.

There is a great deal of useful information in this book, covering all sorts of places and ways that ancestors were laid to rest. It is not to be underestimated how much research the author has undertaken.

I particularly liked the explanation of the meaning of symbols depicted on gravestones and the guidance for trying to read an apparently illegible gravestone.

There is a section to help you locate where your ancestor might have been buried and some resources to help you search online too. This book contains a great deal of information and clues for a successful search for an ancestor’s resting place. Admiration for the author for drawing all this together in a logical format.

Amazon Customer, Jayne

A really fascinating book with brilliant details.. I've ordered a copy for my sister in law who shares my love of cemeteries.

NetGalley, Anna Mazzola

This is a fab book to add to ones own Family History library, it is absolutely packed with everything one needs to know about researching ancestors in cemeteries and graveyards. Celia Heritage explains things in a very easy way and the book is organised into seven chapters. I found this book very easy to pick up and put down and to easily locate information about cemeteries or graveyards that I was searching for.

Wiltshire Family History Society

Upon reading the title, you might think this book is a little somber, but not at all. Heritage has gone to great pains over researching this book including a history of how our ancestors dealt with death, the disposal of bodies, and touches on faith and the afterlife.
We all have ‘those’ questions about practicalities after death, and many of those are answered here.
There’s some fantastic photographs on headstones past and present, inscriptions, and details on the types of head and footstones around during the 1600s to present.
Written in a factual yet sensitive style, Heritage educates the reader.

For the Love of Books

"A useful and up to date aid for those researching family history, packed with useful guidance on web sources and repositories."

Archaeologia Cambrensis - Volume 171 (2022)

Having already read another book by Celia Heritage which I found to be brilliant, I was eager to dig into this new book. The author has managed to include everything you need to know about cemeteries and graveyards in a really absorbing read... Whether you read this book from cover-to-cover, or choose to dip in to the chapters, you are sure to find it a very informative read and a handy reference. It is an extremely readable book, with touches of lightness, on what could be a dry subject. I would recommend it to both family history researchers and local historians.

Everyone, whether they’re new to research or more experienced researchers, will discover something useful from this very enjoyable book.

Linda Hammond

"A valuable addition to the Family Historian’s library."

Jean Fowlds - Glamorgan FHS

This comprehensive and fascinating guide will prove to be indispensable to both family and local history enthusiasts, wide ranging historical and archaeological findings will mean the book will appeal to anyone with an interest in death and burial. Changing social attitudes from pre-historic times to the modern day, investigation into the origins and evolution of cemeteries and graveyards, and details of the many types of graves and memorials will be of interest as well as discussion on how memorial design have changed.

It is almost impossible to separate and define them precisely in the ways that they have been used and applied by various groups of people and authorities over the years, but the word cemetery is most often associated by the general public with large municipal cemeteries found in towns and cities today. It simply indicates a place designated for people of any faith not associated with a Church and can include a place where cremated remains are contained. The Anglo-Saxon word for cemetery was lichburg, deriving from words meaning ‘corps’ and ‘settlement.’ Graveyard is generically used to define an area used for a churchyard, and to denote smaller burial areas attached to workhouses, jails, asylums, hospitals and other institutions.

Throughout this interesting book is a wide range of case studies which bring the subject to life, this is far more than just genealogy, the author portrays the subject from the view of both historian and archaeologist and cites plenty of detail such as records relating to re-interment, undertakers and stonemasons’ records, together with better known sources such as burial registers and memorial inscriptions.

Cumbria FHS

As featured in

Family Tree

Celia Heritage has produced a comprehensive guide for those interested in researching cemeteries and graveyards in England and Wales, covering a history of burial places and guidelines for those searching them.

At first this may appear a rather sombre and uninteresting subject for a book, but the author provides very intriguing case studies, knowledge and ideas so that the book is both readable and informative. This book is recommended for anyone who needs a more detailed background of burial places and finding deceased ancestors.

Reviewer: Sue Honoré

Oxfordshire Family Historian, August 2022

As featured in

The Essex Family Historian, August 2022

There is so much interesting information in this book and will help people searching for a burial and those with an interest in the history of graveyards.

I thoroughly recommend it.

London Westminster & Middlesex FHS

"In summary, this is a book throughout which Celia Heritage’s passion for, and intimate knowledge of, her subject matter shines brightly and deserves a place on any serious family historian’s bookshelf."

Chris Broom, Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group Newsletter No.57 July 2022

"This comprehensive guide, with it's range of historic and archaeological information, will be of value to anyone interested in matters to do with deaths and burials."

Journal of the Bristol & Avon Family History Society - June 2022 - Number 188

As featured in

Who Do You Think You Are

"This is a good book with lots of useful information."

Tim Valder-Hogg

"It will prove very useful and readable."

Clwyd FHS

"This is definitely a reference book to keep on your book shelf, I feel certain that you will look at it in order to enhance your research techniques and knowledge."

East Yorkshire Family History Society

This is a very readable and comprehensive guide for anyone looking at researching either graveyards and cemeteries, or their family history. There is an interesting overview of burial customs and the development of both churchyards and later cemeteries, as well as highlighting variations, such as non-conformists, Jewish cemeteries etc. There is also a wealth of reference sources and tips on how to get the best out of your research, all with links and relevant illustrations.

NetGalley, Cathy Petersen

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love cemeteries and graveyards and this book provided an amazing opportunity to tour and learn about so many that I will never be able to visit. This book is a must-have for all graveyard aficionados.

NetGalley, Teresa Grabs

This genealogy series from Pen & Sword should really be praised very highly, but what they have done is rather than lump everything into one book, the process has been broken into its important sections and each section is allowed to shine. This allows all the important details to be conveyed to the reader and supported by a very comprehensive contact/link section that would really be too vast for one book. This book about cemeteries and graveyards is brilliant, because who doesn’t love walking around a graveyard learning all the information you can acquire there. A great book and a perfect addition to the series.

Read the full review here

The History Fella

Professional genealogist, historian, tutor – and a long-time LostCousins member – Celia Heritage has impeccable credentials as well as wonderful name for someone involved in family history. Her latest book is titled Cemeteries and Graveyards: a guide for family and local historians in England & Wales, but I should make clear that you don’t have to live in England or Wales to benefit from this book – it’s where your ancestors were buried that matters!

One of the author’s previous books was Tracing Your Ancestors Through Death Records, which focused on the documentary evidence. This book addresses the locations: parish churchyards, burial grounds (including those at prisons and workhouses), as well as private and municipal cemeteries and crematoriums. It also considers gravestones, and how these have changed over the centuries.

However Celia Heritage also addresses the records (in Chapter 6): what records were kept, what they’re likely to tell you, and where they can be found. Burial registers are the most obvious source of information, but they’re far from the only source – consider also the records of stonemasons and undertakers.

In Chapter 7 she considers what records can be found online, but also offers words of warning for the unwary – it’s as easy to identify the wrong burial record as it is to identify the wrong baptism record.

There are notes and source for each chapter, including web links and other references, and there’s an extensive bibliography with suggestions for further reading – but I suspect that many readers will find that this book alone is sufficiently comprehensive for their needs!

Read the full review here

Lost Cousins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I loved this beautiful book. I was very intrigued by the information in this book. I felt like I was walking through the cemeteries to look at the graves. I am definitely adding this book to my personal library.

NetGalley, Annalisa Alberti

Churchyards hold a peculiar fascination for all sorts of people and feature in many works of fiction. Numerous guide books to cemeteries have been written and recording memorial inscriptions has become an important aspect of Family History Societies. This comprehensive volume is a useful addition covering a wide range of historic and archaeological finds as well as numerous interesting case studies. It contains a useful Notes section, a good Bibliography and Further Reading list and an Index.

The author firmly believes that cemeteries and graveyards “are not just places where we go to look for our ancestors”, they “tell us something of the history of the locality, the people who lived there, and the burial places available to them” and they “provide an insight into religious beliefs and the attitudes of society to death”. She traces the historical background and development of burials and cemeteries, devotes a chapter to the parish churchyard whilst another looks at non-conformist and institutional graveyards, including workhouses, asylums, hospitals, prisons and ‘Plague Pits’. The section covering the nineteenth century onwards, particularly about municipal cemeteries and crematoria, is most interesting, as is her well-illustrated review of gravestones and gravesites, discussing the different types and how memorial designs have changed over time. Celia deals with original records explaining what they are, who created them and where they can be found and details numerous online sources, listing useful websites, to help locate burials and memorials. She covers less well-known genealogy sources such as undertakers’ and stonemasons’ records, re-internment, newspapers and wills, together with the standard burial registers and memorial inscriptions. She offers sound advice regarding methodical research practice and how to carry out a churchyard survey. A most readable and essential reference book for the topic.

Norfolk Family History Society - 'The Ancestor' magazine, June 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In superlative Cemeteries and Graveyards, Genealogist Celia Heritage shares her personal journey to discover more about her family's history through meticulous research. Of course death and burial are part of life. Heritage defines cemeteries, graveyards and churchyards and describes the roles of each in different types of burial circumstances and religious affiliations (such as suicides, prisoners, peasants, cremations) throughout history. She discusses the importance of archaeology and political legislation. Readers learn about chancels, vestries and crypts; past and present landscaping and maintenance; church bells and sheep grazing; religious and secular purposes; and modern conservation and disintegration methods. The author writes academically but with a personal touch and wit.

This book is jam packed with information such as burial depths (varies depending on religion), the evolution of head (and foot) stones including decoration and materials (stone, bronze). The photographs are evocative and reminiscent of my own wanderings through European cemeteries and graveyards, not only in search of history but to enjoy tranquility and beauty (some of my favourites afford stupendous views) and to make cultural observations.

The most memorable information to me is the arm bone story (!), "eaves-drip burials", various religious requirements, poignant and lovely headstones/monuments (the tree of life!), what various symbols (skull and crossbones, lions, overwritten text, chronosticon) signify and the phenomenal story of Isabella Holmes.

The author provides copious resources to aid readers in their searches, too, such as archives, parish records, churchyard surveys and the internet.

My sincere thank you to Pen & Sword and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this compelling and enlightening book. After reading this book I know vastly more than before!

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Even though I do not have any ancestors in the area of Britain, this was quite a fasinating read. The author's personal experiences were a nice touch to the already interesting topic. I learned a lot about burial trends in the UK and in general.

A very informative book for every person who wants to find out more about their own ancestors (not just in Britain) or who wants to learn more about burial culture.

NetGalley, Bettina Bergmann

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating and comprehensive history of graveyards and burials as well as a very helpful guide for family historians and genealogists. Although the focus is on England and Wales, much of the information is generally useful, such as the history of gravestones, for example. I have long been fascinated by this subject and can’t pass an old church or graveyard when I’m in England especially. There is so much history to be found in both. Strongly recommended to anyone with an interest in this subject, If nothing else, you will enjoy the personal anecdotes and the many photographs.

NetGalley, Fiona McKinlay

It was a fascinating and informative read. It can be read as a history of the evolution of burials and as a guide if you want to research your ancestors.
I liked the style of writing.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If you are like me, fascinated with genealogy, this is for you. Celia Heritage has written a book which is filled to the brim with interesting facts about delving into the history of churches and burial sites of all religions. More than this is her exceptional attention to detail, how to trace descendants while providing lots of details on how to access this information. You might read it all as I did or dip into it for the bits which are relevant to your research. This book is valuable for researchers or lay people alike and I highly recommend this book.

NetGalley, Carol Elizabeth Keogh

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The synopsis of the book calls it “a comprehensive and fascinating guide” and that is correct. This research-assist book is packed, and I mean packed, with information. And while it focuses on England and Wales burials, there is important information for the American researcher. Read the original synopsis. This book delivers on all points.

Example: I have Quaker ancestors that arrived very early in Colonial America. The writer explains that early Quaker burials had no gravestones as that was regarded as vanity. Thus grave mounds were relied upon for grave locations. A “rule” was the burial yards of the Quakers should not be leveled and graves should be laid in “orderly rows”. That was the tip of the iceberg re information on the Quakers and their burials. And so my mind wonders — did some of these Quaker burial practices carry over to America?

Case Studies are used throughout to illustrate how the explanations are used in “real” research.

The section on to clean or not clean gravestones was the most comprehensive I have personally seen. How oblique light can greatly aid reading a dim stone. Another section is how to Carry Out a Churchyard Survey. Another is not only a Listing of Useful Websites but also how to effectively use the sites.

Included are End Notes, Bibliography, and Index. "Cemeteries and Graveyards" is definitely a book to have on your shelf if you are an England/Wales history buff OR a genealogy nut, like me.

The publisher has produced all the "Tracing Your ____ Ancestors". I have several of those on my genealogy research shelves. Yes, I recommend and would consider a must for those researching burials in England and/or Wales.

NetGalley, Lynda Peach

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Very interesting for those want learn more about grave sites etc.
Well written.
Worth reading.
Helps people understand how track down information about ancestors.

NetGalley, Karen Bull

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I think I either own or have read the majority of Pen and Sword publications dealing with family history and Genealogy . These books have been an invaluable addition to my bookshelf , while researching my family tree. They are always informative and interesting and this book is no exception. Celia Heritage is a well respected author so I knew I would particularly enjoy this handbook.
As someone who , strange to many, loves walking around a cemetery , reading the headstones and trying to find familiar names this book was perfect.

NetGalley, Alison Bevington

This book is a good guide for genealogist and family historians for Cemeteries and graveyards. A treasure trove of genealogic information that people tend to overlook. Because they either don't' want to go to the cemetery or graveyard for whatever reason. Or they don't think it would have anything of value. Every genealogist needs this in their library.

NetGalley, Carissa Miller

About Celia Heritage

A graduate of King’s College London, CELIA HERITAGE is a popular and respected lecturer in family history, regularly presenting at family history conferences both in the UK and abroad. Passionate about history since childhood, Celia gained a distinction in the Higher Certificate in Genealogy in 2008 and established her own Kent-based research company Celia Heritage Family History. For many years a tutor at the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, she currently works for Ancestry ProGenealogists; the research wing of Ancestry.com.
Celia is also the author of ‘Tracing Your Ancestors Through Death Records' and ‘Researching and Locating your Ancestors’. A native of Kent, England, but with strong roots in Westmorland and Warwickshire, she has a great love of the countryside and exploring history on the ground.

Perfect Partner

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