Tag Archives: Old Burying Ground

Recording Available – Reading the Gravestones of Old Cambridge

We were fortunate to have John Hanson, expert on early New England epitaphs and bibliophile, give the lecture Reading the Gravestones of Old Cambridge. The talk, part of the Spring Lecture Series from the Cambridge Room, was recorded on June 8, 2022.

The following is a description of the workshop and a short bio of John Hanson:

The burial grounds of old New England hold a wonderful range of poetic messages in the epitaphs carved on their gravestones, each a profound expression of emotion, culture, religion, and literature.  Too often dismissed as mere sentimental doggerel, these passages can be fascinating and well worth paying attention to.  After all, every single epitaph was chosen, deliberately, on an occasion of the utmost gravity and importance, the death of a parent or child or spouse or neighbor.  Join John Hanson, expert on early New England epitaphs, as he shares some outstanding verses on old stones in Cambridge’s Old Burying Ground.  He will reveal their sources of inspiration, including Scripture, hymnody, poetry, and epitaphs made-to-order for a particular individual.  We will consider what these very personal choices tell us about early New Englanders’ attitudes towards life, death, and eternity.

John Hanson has been collecting early New England epitaphs for years, examining where the verses originated, how their source texts were accessed, and the spiritual and commercial context in which they were chosen and carved on gravestones.  He is the author of Reading the Gravestones of Old New England (McFarland, 2021), and has published and spoken extensively on his research.  Hanson is a Massachusetts native, and lives in Cambridge and the Berkshires.  His book, Reading the Gravestones of Old New England, can be ordered directly from the publisher or from Amazon.

Register Now for Reading the Gravestones of Old Cambridge

Date & Time:
June 8, 2022
12:00pm – 1:00pm
Virtual
REGISTER HERE

The burial grounds of old New England hold a wonderful range of poetic messages in the epitaphs carved on their gravestones, each a profound expression of emotion, culture, religion, and literature.  Too often dismissed as mere sentimental doggerel, these passages can be fascinating and well worth paying attention to.  After all, every single epitaph was chosen, deliberately, on an occasion of the utmost gravity and importance, the death of a parent or child or spouse or neighbor.  Join John Hanson, expert on early New England epitaphs, as he shares some outstanding verses on old stones in Cambridge’s Old Burying Ground.  He will reveal their sources of inspiration, including Scripture, hymnody, poetry, and epitaphs made-to-order for a particular individual.  We will consider what these very personal choices tell us about early New Englanders’ attitudes towards life, death, and eternity.

John Hanson has been collecting early New England epitaphs for years, examining where the verses originated, how their source texts were accessed, and the spiritual and commercial context in which they were chosen and carved on gravestones.  He is the author of Reading the Gravestones of Old New England (McFarland, 2021), and has published and spoken extensively on his research.  Hanson is a Massachusetts native, and lives in Cambridge and the Berkshires.  Hanson is the author of Reading the Gravestones of Old New England and can be ordered directly from the publisher or from Amazon.

Get in the Halloween Spirit and Do Some Cemetery Research

Gravestone in Cambridge’s Old Burying Ground, courtesy of Ajna Photography.

Cambridge’s spookiest cemetery is by far the Old Burying Ground in Harvard Square, nestled between First Parish and Christ Church.  Set aside from the Common, the land was marked as a cemetery before 1635.  Prior to that Cantabrigians buried their dead, “beyond the Common Pales,” or outside the fence erected between what we now refer to as the corner of Mt. Auburn and Linden Street all the way to East Cambridge.  The Old Burying Ground’s eerie charm comes from both the grisly Puritan tombstone art and its apparent neglect, which has as long a tradition as the city records go back.

Stop by the Old Burying Ground for inspiration or try these free online cemetery resources:

1. Epitaphs from the Old Burying Ground in Cambridge (1845) by William T. Harris available on Google books.

2.  findagrave.com – Lists 34 million graves.

3. Cemetery and Tombstone Transcription – a search engine for free cemetery transcription websites.

4. interment.net – free online library of burial records from thousands of cemeteries around the world.

5. Tombstone Transcription Project – Volunteers have transcribed thousands of cemeteries’ tombstone inscriptions.  You, too, can volunteer.