With the creation of things like find a grave and ancestry.com, the number of people interested in reading grave markers has grown significantly and continues to grow. It’s an old practice begun by family historians and genealogy groups to document the history of those who are no longer living. Being able to read tombstones and entire cemeteries, is a priceless piece of historical documentation. All too often this is accomplished by using some rather damaging techniques. This section will give you some of the best methods to collect the information you seek in a do no harm manner. These methods may take a little thought and time, but will not damage these priceless artifacts. Thus saving them for future generations to gaze upon. Please visit our section HARMFUL METHODS…Don’t read stones with, to better understand the damaging practices that harm grave markers. You may be unknowingly using one of those practices. And for your safety, please always make sure the tombstone or monument you are working with is sound and doesn’t present a danger of falling. And for the sake of the stone, please check for sugaring and delamination so you don’t inadvertently damage it further or permanently.
Doing It With Mirrors
Cemetery preservationist Kurt Riegel of NY using a mirror to read a tombstone
Doing It With Artificial Light
This technique works very well and doesn’t rely on sunny conditions, and often works better on cloudy days or in shady areas.
Reading them at dusk with artificial light.
Doing It With Natural Light
Reading stones with natural light doesn’t require any special tools, just the right timing according to conditions.
Doing It With Photo Programs
With today’s wide variety of digital cameras and different photo programs, there are many ways to adjust your pictures to make them legible.
Doing It With A Foil Impression
Using foil to gently make an impression is becoming a popular method for reading stones. This method is harmless once you have determined there is no danger of the stone falling on someone. And after you have evaluated the stone to make sure it is not in a fragile state of extreme sugaring or delamination.
Doing It With Snow
Gently rubbing the stone with some snow and brushing off the excess allowing the snow to collect in the inscription, is another option. This method can produce some very good results. Again: After you have evaluated the stone to make sure it is not in a fragile state of extreme sugaring or delamination.