Category Archives: Cemeteries and Tombstones

Civil War Tombstones: A Quick Primer

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After bragging on my daughter last week for knowing the difference between a Union and a Confederate tombstone, I thought it would be good to look at government-issued Civil War tombstones in a bit more detail.

In a nutshell, the difference between Union and Confederate tombstones is the top of the stone. Union tombstones, such as that of Chas. Fetters, have rounded tops. Confederate tombstones, like that of Sgt. R. Shipp, have pointed tops.

Tombstone of Sgt. R. Shipp, Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery. Photo by Amy Crow, 8 Oct 2004.

Tombstone of Sgt. R. Shipp, Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery. Photo by Amy Crow, 8 Oct 2004.

Tombstone of Chas. Fetters, Stones River National Cemetery. Photo by Amy Crow, 4 June 2005.

Tombstone of Chas. Fetters, Stones River National Cemetery. Photo by Amy Crow, 4 June 2005.

A common question about tombstones such as Chas. Fetters’ is “How do you know what war he was in?” It’s a good question, since U.S. government-issued tombstones (other than Confederate) have this same basic shape. The answer lies in the shield.

The shield surrounding the name and the state (and, in this case, the grave number) was used by the federal government for graves of two wars: the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Graves of Spanish-American War veterans should have “Sp. Am. War” inscribed on the stone, though this was occasionally missed.

Genealogy, The Walking Dead, and a Proud Mom Moment

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My daughter and I both love “The Walking Dead” on AMC. When she was getting ready to head off to college, one of the things she sad about what that we wouldn’t get to watch “The Walking Dead” together. Skype to the rescue! Most Sunday nights will find us in front of our respective TVs and laptops, watching it “together.” (It’s especially fun when there’s a 4-second difference between our two TVs.)

She has also been to more cemeteries than most people her age. (Some moms take their little girls to Build-a-Bear. I took mine to cemeteries. Don’t judge.)

Confederate tombstones, Camp Chase Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow, 8 Oct 2004.

Confederate tombstones, Camp Chase Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow, 8 Oct 2004.

The March 9 episode of “The Walking Dead” featured the characters Daryl and Beth. Early in the episode, they walk through a cemetery. (Yay! A cemetery!) They stop to look at a tombstone; all the audience can see is the back of it.

The tombstone they’re looking at appeared to be white marble and was shaped like the ones here at Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery. Wanting the zombie apocalypse to be historically accurate, I said, “That better be a Confederate tombstone they’re looking at.”

My daughter, via Skype, replied, “Yeah. Union tombstones would be rounded on the top.” She’s exactly right.

It was indeed a Proud Mom Moment.

[UPDATE: See this post for a quick primer on Civil War tombstones.]

A Scary Cemetery Story

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It was a blustery Halloween, and I was reading a scary news article from the 9 July 1874 (McArthur, Ohio) Vinton Register. (Isn’t that how every genealogist spends Halloween?) It was a tale of murder and intrigue…

Elias Irvin had been drinking for several days. His nephew George came up to his fence and accused him of stoning his house and cursing his wife. Their words became more heated until finally, the two came to blows. Elias swung a rake at George. George threw whatever he could. Elias turned for the house; George threw something that hit Elias on the back.

A witness said there was blood only on Elias’s cheek. But by 10:00 the next morning, he was dead.

Elias was buried in the Zion cemetery in Clinton Township, Vinton County. Nobody thought to examine the body until after the burial. The body was dug up. There were cuts on his arms and blood had run from his left temple.

Dr. D.V. Rannells examined the body and found no brain injury, though his lungs were congested. “I do not think the wounds alone could have caused the death of the party,” he told the jury.

The only other witness who testified was Joseph Johnson, who saw the fight between George and Elias.

After a short deliberation, the jury returned with its verdict:

“The deceased came to his death by causes unknown to us.”

George Irvin was a free man.

(McArthur, Ohio) Vinton Record, 9 July 1874, p. 3. Downloaded from

(McArthur, Ohio) Vinton Record, 9 July 1874, p. 3. Downloaded from

But for a genealogist, the scary part of this story wasn’t the death of Elias Irvin. It was the description of Zion cemetery, where Elias was buried (and presumably re-buried after his autopsy):

Zion graveyard is situated on a high hill hear Wm. Crow’s, in Clinton township, with beautiful surroundings and commanding a magnificent view of the adjacent country. The graveyard itself was in a shameful condition of dilapidation and neglect. It is unenclosed, grown up with underbrush, and heaped up with rails which had formerly been pens enclosing graves. It would be hard to imagine a more dilapidated place for christian burial.

If that doesn’t send shivers down your spine, I don’t know what will…

The Kidneys and Their Stones

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Catharine and Jacob Kidney tombstones

Catharine and Jacob Kidney stones, Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus. Photo by Amy Johnson Crow, 12 Oct 2013.

It was probably impolite of me, but when I saw these tombstones at Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, I giggled. (Quietly, of course. I was in a cemetery, after all.) When I saw them, it occurred to me what these are: the Kidney stones. :-)

You might have already seen this on the NSTS Facebook page, where I shared it for a Saturday evening chuckle. (Apologies to any Kidney descendants.) But I couldn’t let Jacob and Catharine just stay names on their tombstones.

Jacob and Catharine were born in New Jersey. They were in Franklin County, Ohio, living the 1st ward of Columbus by 1840. They were still there in 1850. Jacob listed his occupation as “carpenter,” though he was 82 years old. Their census entry has an usual note: “Married 60 years.”

Jacob Kidney household, 1850 U.S. census, Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, p. 393B.

Jacob Kidney household, 1850 U.S. census, Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, p. 393B.

There is some ambiguity about where Jacob was originally buried. Unlike Catharine, there is no burial record for Jacob at Green Lawn Cemetery. Donald Schlagel, noted Columbus historian, theorizes that many of those without burial cards at Green Lawn were originally buried in one of the Columbus city cemeteries and then reinterred at Green Lawn when the city cemeteries were closed. (It’s also possible that if Jacob was originally interred at one of the city cemeteries, he was never actually reinterred…  I’ll let you do the math on that one.)

Catharine’s father’s name was Henry Jacob, per her cemetery record.

Jacob’s will, written in 1843 and probated in 1854, lists the following:

  • wife Catherine
  • son John
  • daughter Ann Maria’s heirs
  • daughter Rachel, wife of Joseph Styler
  • daughter Sarah, wife of Asher Jacobs
  • daughter Esther, wife of Andrew Little
  • son Henry

I don’t know what other stories Jacob and Catharine have. But I do know that they gave me a story about the time I found “Kidney stones” in the cemetery.


  • “Abstracts of Wills, Franklin County, Ohio” in Ohio Source Records From the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly. Baltimore: Clearfield, 2007. (Found on Google Books.)
  • Catherine Kidney burial record. Green Lawn Cemetery Burials, Columbus, Ohio, 1848 to 1981. Letter K.
  • Jacob Kidney household. 1840 U.S. census. 1st ward, Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio. Page 1.
  • Jacob Kidney household. 1850 U.S. census. 1st ward, Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio. Page 353B.
  • Schlegel, Donald M. The City of Columbus Cemeteries. Columbus: Columbus History Service, 1985. (Found on [Jacob Kidney’s entry is on page 129.]

An Unexpected Tombstone for Matt Chopps

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One of the neat things about wandering around in cemeteries is that you never know what you might find. That was certainly true with this tombstone I found near the children’s section of Mount Calvary Cemetery in Columbus. I saw the back of the stone first. The motif was so sweet, I was sure that it was for a child.

Matt Chopps tombstone, Mount Calvary Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio

Back of Matt Chopps tombstone, Mount Calvary Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow, November 2010.

It is always sad to find a child’s grave. But the back of this tombstone was so unusual that I had to know more about whose grave it marked. When I walked to the front of the tombstone, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t for a child, but for a 53-year-old man named Matt Chopps.

Front of Matt Chopps tombstone, Mount Calvary Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow, November 2010.

Front of Matt Chopps tombstone, Mount Calvary Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow, November 2010.

Maybe the tombstone was wrong. Maybe one of the dates was incorrect. Why was there such a sweet, childlike design on the back of the tombstone for an adult? I found his death certificate and, sure enough, the tombstone was right. Matt Chopps was born 17 January 1879 in Austria and died in Columbus on 26 June 1932 of tuberculosis. He was the son of John and Katherine (Werchel) Chopps and the husband of Matilda. He was a laborer at Columbus Packing Company.

If I had to picture the tombstone of a 53-year-old meat packer who died in the early 1930s, this wouldn’t be it. Was the design on the back a reflection of a kind personality? Was it just a design that the family liked? We may never know the story behind why that design is there, but this unexpected tombstone turned out to bring an unexpected smile in the cemetery.

Reference: Matt Chopps death certificate, Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, certificate 36308 (1932), viewed on

I Started Young

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People sometimes ask me how long I’ve been doing genealogy. I often reply with “I’ve always been interested.” It’s true — I’ve had an interest in my family’s history for about as long as I can remember. I was so lucky to have been able to spend time with my grandma Johnson. She was the Keeper of Stories and Labeler of Family Photographs. She even wrote her memoirs. (Yes, my Grandma wrote her life story.) So I come by this “genealogy thing” pretty honestly.

We also used to take drives. Lots of drives. It wouldn’t be unusual for us to end up at some family-related location, like a cemetery. (Ever have a tailgate picnic in a cemetery? I have…. and I thought it was normal!)

But I didn’t realize quite how young I started in genealogy until I found this photo.

At Locust Grove Cemetery, Lawrence County, Ohio

At Locust Grove Cemetery, Lawrence County, Ohio

This was taken at Locust Grove Cemetery in Lawrence County, Ohio, where Grandpa’s parents (Linton and Margaret (Kingery) Johnson) and grandparents (Eber and Ann (Stephens) Johnson) are buried. This was probably Memorial Day weekend.

That’s my grandma Adah (Young) Johnson in the blue dress, my mom in the white dress, my grandpa Stanley Johnson… and 4-year-old me.

I started young with my genealogy.

Seeking Sadie Gurevitz

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Part of the joy of genealogy is discovery. Sometimes that discovery doesn’t even have to be related to your family. Such was the case for me and seeking Sadie Gurevitz.

It was in November 2010 that I found Sadie (or she found me; I’m still not sure which). I was working on my final project for my Digital Collections class at Kent State and was taking pictures of photoceramics — those photos on ceramic tiles that you sometimes find on tombstones from the early 20th century. I had taken pictures of several in Agudas Achim Cemetery in Columbus and was almost done, when I saw her.

Sadie Gurevitz

Sadie Gurevitz, photo on her tombstone at Agudas Achim Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio. Photo taken by Amy Johnson Crow, November 2010.

It was the cloche hat that first drew me to her. This was a stylish, attractive young woman with an impish smile. What was her photo doing on a tombstone? Maybe her family wanted to remember her in her younger days, not wishing to think of her in advanced years.

Sadly, this was not the case. The tombstone revealed that Sadie Gurevitz — “Mother” — was born in 1902… and died in 1929.

I had to find out more about Sadie.

My first stop was to find her death certificate. As I suspected might be the case with such a young woman, she died from complications of childbirth. Her cause of death was listed as “Childbirth (placenta prev),” an abbreviation for placenta previa, a condition that can cause extreme bleeding before or during delivery. Her death certificate told me even more about her. Sadie was born in New York City, was a housewife, married to Max Gurevitz, and lived at 855 S. 18th Street. She was the daughter of Harry and Bessie (Miller) Freedman, both Russian immigrants. She died 18 November 1929 at St. Ann’s Hospital in Columbus.

The Ohio Memory Project has digitized several years of the Ohio Jewish Chronicle newspaper. It was there that I found her obituary, with this headline:


Sadie Gurevitz, “popular young Jewess,” died of “complications incident to childbirth.” Her baby boy also died. She was survived by her husband Max (“of the Superior Auto Wrecking Co.”), another son, her mother, and three brothers.

What of Sadie’s other son? The 1930 census, taken just months after Sadie’s death, lists Max Gurevitz with 2 year old Norman. (A search of Ohio birth records confirms that Norman, born in April 1927, was the son of Max and Sadie Freedman Gurevitz.)

Sadie Gurevitz. Daughter. Wife. Mother. Popular young woman. Gone too soon.


Sadie Gurevitz tombstone, Agudas Achim Cemetery, Columbus. Photo by Amy Johnson Crow, November 2010.


  • Gurevitz, Sadie. Ohio Death Certificate 70276 (1929). Original held at the Ohio Historical Society. Digital image on
  • Gurevitz, Sadie obituary. Ohio Jewish Chronicle. 22 November 1929, p. 4. Digital image on
  • Lakin, Harry household. 1930 U.S. Census, Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, ED 25-23, sheet 22B.
  • Gurevitz, Norman birth record. Ohio Birth Records 1908-1987. Database on
  • Mayo Clinic staff. Placenta previa definition.