Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cemetery Project Q&A: Markers at babies' gravesites

The Jewish Graveyard Rabbit
welcomes contributor
Steve Lasky,
creator of the
online cybermuseum,
Museum of Family History.

Recently, someone wrote me with a question about baby markers, and how to keep the gravestone from completely sinking into the ground over time.

The question was:

"I recently had a baby marker created but the monument dealer/installer never heard of adding cement around the bottom of the stone and doesn't see how it prevents the stone from sinking. My question to you is: Do you know where I can obtain proof to show to the dealer? "

I then wrote to Todd Ivler, cemetery manager at Mt. Judah Cemetery (Ridgewood, Queens, New York), whom I've interviewed in the past. I know Mt. Judah has handled a good number of such burials, so he was the one to ask.

I thought his response might be of interest to readers, as many of us who have visited our Jewish cemeteries have noticed that these small markers often appear eroded, oriented on a slant, or partially or completely sunken into the ground.

I don't doubt that decades ago baby markers were sometimes made of sandstone and probably not set in cement, etc., but Todd's response at least can be said to reflect the method commonly used today, at least at his cemetery. Here is his answer:

"We call a baby marker a piece of granite that is twelve inches from left to right, usually at least three feet high and about two inches thick. When placed in the ground, we pour concrete in the hole first, then on the sides which leaves about an inch or two around the whole stone. This helps keep the marker from sinking."

You can well imagine how difficult it is to find a baby's burial site for the reasons I've mentioned above.
It's one thing for a cemetery to have a searchable burial database; at least one can look up a name, even if the gravestone marker is nowhere to be found or is highly illegible. Without such a source of data, one can always, of course, try contacting the cemetery office, though there is often less burial information about a baby than an adult.

For the complete interview with Mt. Judah Cemetery manager Todd Ivler, click here.
Read all about the The Museum of Family History's Cemetery Project here.
Questions? Contact me.

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