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Genealogy Q&A: Cemetery and Tombstone Research

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Q: I’ve been trying to find more about the low wooden structures built over some graves in mostly (or only?) Southern cemeteries.

A: Grave houses, also called a grave shelters, were common in the South, especially Appalachian areas, to protect loved ones’ graves from the elements and grave robbers. They usually resemble small houses with peaked roofs, and could be made of logs, lumber, stones or brick. Some grave houses were open sided, like the one in this Melungeon cemetery

Sometimes a single house may have sheltered more than one grave, such as the Airmount Grave Shelter, built in 1853 in the Airmount Cemetery near Thomasville, Ala.

According to Tennessee GenWeb, a grave house is different from a mausoleum: “The grave house is built over an ‘in earth’ interment, while in the mausoleum the bodies are above ground, often being placed in a alcove in the walls.”

Answer provided by Diane Haddad