Wander through a historic cemetery with your kids and history will come alive. Some tombstones may be too weathered to read completely, but for those that aren’t, your kids will get a sense of the people who lived around here over a hundred years ago.
There are numerous cemeteries to visit in Fairfield County. A few of the larger ones are The East Norwalk Cemetery on Gregory Blvd. in East Norwalk, established in 1655. The Umpawaug Cemetery at in Redding is another one, and the Old Burying Ground in Fairfield is also worth a visit. But be on the lookout for the numerous pocket-size cemeteries tucked into hillsides and along local roads. These may be family plots with only a dozen or so tombstones. Seldom are they fenced, which makes it easy to pay a quick visit.
To generate your kid’s interest make this exploration something like a scavenger hunt. Before getting out of the car give each child a clipboard and pencil, a list of things to look for and an iPad or iPhone to retrieve dates. A calculator comes in handy for the math, but pencil and paper subtraction works even better.
The following are a few suggestions to include in your list of things to look for:
- Names have changed over the years. See if you can find a few peculiar first names that we don’t hear today.
- Who is the oldest person in this cemetery?
- How old would he or she be today?
- Were any men married more than once?
- Why do you think that after one wife died, her husband may have remarried within a year?
- Can you find a tombstone of someone who lived when Abraham Lincoln was alive? Thomas Jefferson? John Adams?
- Can you find anyone who was alive before the invention of the automobile? The washing machine? Indoor plumbing?
- Locate a family plot or several gravestones with the same surname. Do you think these people were related? How?
- Tombstones today list the year of birth and death. Why do you think historical ones give more details like DIED on April 8, 1896, at the AE (age) of 37 years, 9 months?
- Parents buried child after child during the flu epidemic in 1918. Can you find any tombstones from this time?
- Does this cemetery seemed planned or are the graves located haphazardly?
- Are there any tombstones with angels? Obelisks?
- The people who lived during these times were often creative with the epitaphs they engraved on the tombstones. Some are poems, some are sayings, and some are from the Bible.
A touching example is:
“There was an angel band in heaven, that wasn’t quite complete,
God took our little Martha, to take that vacant seat.”
Can you find an interesting one?
End the list you’re writing with something like this:
Did you find anything odd or surprising? Is there something you wish you knew the answer to, but never will?
When everyone’s finished, find a shady spot to sit and compare lists. This gives them the opportunity to show what they found to the others.