Friday, January 6, 2017

Should You Mark That Grave?

I've been involved in putting a permanent marker at the poorly marked grave sites of three ancestors.  While I've felt it was important to do it, I've also had a few qualms.  I've wondered how sure I am that they were buried at the indicated location.  The evidence might be questioned, even though I did my best to find the correct location.  But I felt it was important to mark the grave both to make sure that what I had learned about their burial location was not lost and most importantly to commemorate the impact of their godly legacy on my life.

Here is one example:  Johann Sudermann #26667 (1817-1907) died near Gotebo, Oklahoma.  His obituary from Mennonitische Rundschau confirmed that he died there.  According to my aunt, he was buried in the Gotebo Mennonite Brethren church cemetery.  When that church closed in the 1910s, all their graves were moved to the Gotebo town cemetery.  I checked FindAGrave and found his name listed in the Gotebo town cemetery but with no photo  I put out a photo request, and a volunteer kindly offered to do it but replied that there was no such tombstone in that cemetery.

My aunt and I went to the Gotebo town office to ask for information, and they gave us a cemetery register that showed an unmarked grave ("grave here" in the image below) in the Suderman plot at the cemetery.  She had been told by older relatives, now deceased, that that was Johann Sudermann's grave.  The Aster Wiebe buried in the plot was Johann's great-granddaughter who died at Gotebo in 1911, so it all made sense.
Suderman family plot, Plot #10 West half, Cemetery register book, Gotebo City Hall, Gotebo, Oklahoma.
But there was no written confirmation - only what my aunt had been told by older relatives.  However, since my aunt is a careful genealogist, I felt that her information was reliable.  We went to nearby Clinton, Oklahoma, and purchased a granite marker to be put on the grave.  Maybe we made a bit of of a leap, but I'm glad that we put up the monument because otherwise my aunt's knowledge, even though it was not direct knowledge, would soon be lost forever.

Here's the new marker that we put up:

Johann Suderman tombstone, Gotebo City Cemetery, Gotebo, Oklahoma, 1 mile east of Gotebo on Highway 9, south side of road, plot #10.  Photograph by Viola (Fast) Funk on 13 September 2013.
If you know of ancestors' graves that are unmarked or poorly marked, I encourage you to do something to make their memory more lasting.  First, do your research to make sure that you are really marking your ancestor's grave.  Ask older relatives what they know.  Then go to FindAGrave and BillionGraves and upload photos of what is in place.  If you have a blog, post what you know online.  If you can afford it, get a granite marker with engraved (not raised) lettering to put on the site.  Or even a metal plaque pressed into concrete is better than nothing.  Other descendants may be willing to help with the cost, especially if you share some of your research that you have done, some of the stories that you have found, to make your ancestor come alive to them.


  1. Wow, that is a great idea. I didn't know that you could put up a monument, so long after the death.

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