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"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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What if I still can't read thegravemarker?

You have cleaned the gravemarker and you still cannot read the inscription on the stone. What do you do next?

There are two PREFERRED and RECOMMENDED methods:

Aluminum Foil - I buy the cheapest, thinnest, no-name brand aluminum foil. I place the shinny-side towards the surface of the gravemarker so that it does not reflect the sun into my eyes. Taking a damp kitchen sponge, GENTLY press the foil and magically your inscription will appear in a 3-dimentional form. You can flatten and reuse the foil two or three times, or bring along poster board and lay the sheets in-between and take them home, or crumple the foil into a ball and place it in your recycle bag.

Mirror - Using a large mirror reflect the sun onto the gravemarker to highlight the inscription. On a cloudy day, bring along a large flashlight to enhance the reflected light. This method usually takes two people. Remember to be careful handling the mirror.

(Above: Photograph of a pre-1890 gravemarker written in Hebrew located in the Jewish Cemetery, Milam County, Texas - taken Oct. 2000)

The following methods are DISCOURAGE and NOT RECOMMENDED:

Rubbings - Not recommended - Some people utilize butcher or other paper and a pencils or chalk to make a rubbing. While this method does not add any chemicals to the gravemarker surface, on brittle or gritty markers (like sandstone) it does not make a clear image and the rubbing can cause damage to the stone.

Shaving cream, chalk dust, dirt/mud, etc. - NEVER USE SHAVING CREAM to fill-in the inscription! Shaving cream contains perfumes, alcohol and other emollients, which can leach into the pores of the gravemarker and cause permanent damage. Even with thoroughly flushing the shaving foam out of the inscription you will never be able to get all of the chemical elements out of the stone. Using other items to fill-in the inscription will also cause damage if they are not flushed out. You cannot fully flush out items because there is usually no running water or water hose to provide sufficient volume and force.

A photograph is NEVER worth the risk of damaging a gravemarker by using shaving cream!

For EXPERT information on the topic of the use of shaving cream and other agents on gravemarkers, visit the PRESERVATION section of the Association for Gravestone Studies at: http://www.gravestonestudies.org/preservation.htm.

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This webpage was last created on 14 Sept 2000 and was last revised on 24 Oct 2000

Copyright © 2000 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604

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Lynna Kay's Other Websites

"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column by Lynna Kay Shuffield

You can visit my personal genealogy research at My Loose Ends Family Tree Database

San Jacinto County TXGenWeb

Milam County Texas War Dead Project which will document the biographical, genealogy and military history of the 270 men from Milam County who have died in the four-wars (WWI, WWII, Korea & Vietnam)

“Clippings from the Cameron Herald

The Scrapbook of Seaman First Class Guthrie F. Layne, Jr., U.S.N., Compiled Aboard the USS Houston (CA-30) from November 2, 1940 through October 2, 1941.

SS Paul Hamilton Personnel Lost at Sea - 20 Apr 1944 - which will document men lost at sea as result of this Liberty Ship sinking off the coast of Algiers, North Africa


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Links to Lynna Kay's articles published at "Ancestry Daily News"

World War I Burial Case Files and the WWI Document Archive - 25 May 2000

100 Years of Submarine History and the Sailors in Your Family Tree - 1 Jun 2000

A Korean War Story & Wartime Experiences Are Being Collected - 22 Jun 2000