Making Connections: Tombstone Tips, Ethnic Heritage and Online Genealogy

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Home Sweet Home Page

Thank you for the great information that you provided in your article “Build Your Own Home on the Web” in the October 2000 issue. It’s important that all family histories around the world are preserved in this manner, giving other families access to vital information in searching out their own roots. Web sites truly are the best way to go in preservation of family histories.


Elk Grove, Calif.

Midwifing a Diary

What a wonderful surprise to find “A Midwife’s Web Site” on page 8 of the October 2000 issue of Family Tree Magazine. We are proud to say that we played a part in it, as we were the ones who transcribed Martha Ballard’s two original journals. A copy of the article will be sent to the Harvard Film Study Group as we’re sure they’ll be pleased to know that their work has been noted by a genealogy magazine such as yours. We think they have a fantastic Web site <www.>. And yes, wouldn’t Martha be astounded?!!


Virginia Beach, Va.

Oh, Canada?

I really like your Family Tree Magazine, and though I’ve only been reading it for the past two months, I have found a lot of very good articles. In fact, I’m starting to wish my family had come from the US! I live and am researching in Canada, but most magazines and Web sites are based in the US. Most of the information that I have found electronically is all about the US as well. Do you have any previous issues that have more information on Canada? Still, your magazine has been a great help.

Thank you very much for this wonderful resource, I have already found a few individuals based on information and Web sites that you have given in your August issue. Now, if only I can find more!


via e-mail

Editor’s note: We’ll be beefing up our Canadian coverage in future issues. In the meantime, check out the recommended Web sites and Resource Guide on our own Web site <www.>, such as the Canadian Genealogy and History page <www.∼jveinot/cghl/cghl.html>.


I would like to know if your magazine articles will give attention to all computer platforms when discussing computer specific aspects of genealogy work. The Macintosh is my choice of computer platform. I have no delusions that Macintosh computers will receive, or should receive, a disproportionate amount of coverage or exposure in your magazine. However, to totally ignore a large segment of the genealogy computing world would be grossly unjust.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to try another genealogy magazine, which carried a review of numerous genealogy applications. They chose not to compare any Macintosh applications with PC applications. Instead the reviews were done in separate issues. I feel this was grossly unjust to the readers of the magazine and informed the editor that I would not subscribe to his magazine because of this fact. I hope your publication will have a more even-handed treatment of computer platform issues and coverage.


via e-mail

Editor’s; note: We’re absolutely committed to covering the Macintosh side of genealogy computing. We included Mac choices in our extensive roundup of genealogy software in the June 2000 issue, and reviewed the new Mac-only Reunion 7.0 in our December 2000 issue.

Close shave?

I read with interest your article found in the October 2000 issue titled “Grave Concerns” by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack. She includes a section on tombstone rubbing in which she uses rubbing wax or jumbo crayons, scissors and paper to get impressions from the inscriptions found on hard-to-read tombstones. While this method is somewhat successful, it is cumbersome and time-consuming.

I would like to suggest a method of reading tombstones that is quick and far superior to the method mentioned in your article. All a person needs to do is purchase a can of shaving cream and a small squeegee. Spray the face of the tombstone with the shaving cream and then remove the surplus cream with the squeegee. The soap fills the etchings on the tombstone leaving a vivid picture that can be read and photographed. This method is environmentally safe, since the rain or cemetery watering system washes away the soap without any damage to the surface of the stone marker. I believe this information will be of value to your readers whenever they need to visit cemeteries.


Bountiful, Utah

My daughter recently purchased a copy of the October 2000 issue of Family Tree Magazine. I had never seen it before, and was pleasantly surprised. The purpose of this letter, however, is to add something to the list of “cemetery equipment” on page 36. What has proven so very valuable to me is a can of foamy shaving cream and a wide-blade putty knife. After a light scraping with a wire brush, you spray some shaving cream over the lettered portion of the headstone, and smooth it out with the putty knife. This removes excess cream and forces the cream down into the lettering. In most cases, the letters jump out at you, the clear white standing out against the dull background.

The cream will not harm the stone; it usually starts to deteriorate shortly and the first rain will remove all traces of the cream. In the meantime, others can clearly see the lettering.


Overland Park, Kan.

Editor’s note: We received a number of such suggestions about using shaving cream to make tombstones more legible. Author Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, however, cautions that shaving cream is acidic and thus can damage the very surface you’re trying to copy and preserve. The Saving Graves Web site, which is devoted to cemetery preservation, agrees: “By putting shaving cream on the stone, you are doing the same thing acid rain does over a long period of time, only you are hastening the destruction. … The chemicals in shaving cream will permeate into the microscopic pores of the stone and will not be readily washed out.” For an excellent discussion of this topic, see <www.savinggraves. com/shavingcream.htm>. Based on the experts’ opinions, we’d have to advise readers to resist the temptation to use shaving cream on tombstones.

Caribbean seeking

I have just started purchasing your magazine at my local bookstore. It is filled with wonderful ideas, more than I could ever imagine. I am searching for my family roots as we speak. I am Puerto Rican, English and Slovak. It is difficult to trace these roots because I have no grandparents left to speak with. I wish I could have started tracking earlier, but it is a moot point now. I wanted to request a section on searching for Puerto Rican roots. It is rather difficult to get to Puerto Rico to search the tombstones and local papers. Are there any options I can do from a distance? Keep up the good work and I will continue to buy this wonderful learning tool.


Pittsburgh, Pa.

Editor’s note: Thanks for the suggestion! We’re eager to hear what ethnic ancestries readers are interested in. In the meantime, you can find in-depth help with those English roots in our June 2000 issue.


I recently ordered a back copy of your April 2000 edition featuring German roots. I enjoyed it very much, but was a bit disappointed that no mention was made about the Port of Baltimore being one of the most-used entry points by Germans into this country. The North German Lloyd Line had an agreement with the B&O Railroad at the Port of Baltimore. One ticket took the passengers straight through to the Midwest. The B&O even built special passenger cars to accommodate the large number of immigrants. The railroad had special hotels through which the passengers could safely proceed through customs and onto the trains. This was considered a much safer travel route for the newcomers.

The B&O Railroad has a great railroad museum in Baltimore. Also, through the Family History Library you can get a book called Germans to America by Ira A. Glazier and P. William Filby (Scholarly Resources) that gives some history about the Port of Baltimore and lists ship records on microfiche by years. I was very fortunate to find my Michigan grandparents on the ship log of the S.S. Ohio, arriving on May 24, 1879. Before that, I thought they had come through Canada.


Wayne, Pa.
From the February 2001 issue of Family Tree Magazine