Tombstones are not usual garage sale fare. But when locating stolen headstones and forgotten gravesites, Nebraska State Historical Society employees and volunteers often encounter strange circumstances.
Volunteer Cynthia Monroe reunites stolen tombstones with their owners. Tombstones have been thrown in road ditches, used as stepping stones in backyards, and have even adorned dorm rooms. One stolen stone was five feet high and about eight feet square. It required a front loader to return to its original location.
“We don’t understand that one,” Monroe said.
Monroe has returned approximately twenty-five stones over the past fifteen years. Some are returned right away, but other searches take as long as ten years. It takes persistence and a zealous search of cemetery records.
The full article describes a stone that Monroe has been unable to return even after five years. But thanks to the article, a reader recently contacted her with burial information for the person named on the stone, which can now be returned to its proper cemetery.
Little-known and even lost rural cemeteries exist throughout the state. Some are only family plots or overland trail graves. Pat Churray of the NSHS staff has been compiling the Nebraska Statewide Cemetery Registry.
“It’s very important for people to register if they have a grave on their farm or property so people can find their family members,” Churray said. “People need to report it. And now we have the registry they can report to.” (Contact her at .)
—David Bristow, Associate Director for Research & Publications