Understanding Cemetery Symbols: Excerpt and Giveaway

A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards
(Messages from the Dead)

  Genre: History / Landmarks & Monuments / Iconography
Publisher: Castle Azle Press
Date of Publication: August 19, 2017
Number of Pages: 250

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Understanding Cemetery Symbols by Tui Snider helps history buffs, genealogists, ghost hunters, and other curiosity seekers decode the forgotten meanings of the symbols our ancestors placed on their headstones. By understanding the meaning behind the architecture, acronyms, & symbols found in America’s burial grounds, readers will gain a deeper appreciation for these “messages from the dead.”


Praise for Understanding Cemetery Symbols:

“When I ordered this book I thought it would be good for information concerning cemetery symbolism. I was wrong. It is GREAT!!!! This has already become my go to guide for all types of cemetery information. By far the best book I have come across!”  – Amazon verified purchase, wearylibrarian

“Wow! What a great book! I got bit by the bug doing genealogy research. I always wondered what the symbols meant and could not find a reliable resource for the info. With Ms. Snider’s book along with the symbiology and great pictures, also a creative process of Tui’s, are plenty of interesting tidbits! Useful and entertaining! The book is small enough to keep in the glove box or your handbag or backpack!!” – Amazon verified purchase, Rev. Joy Daley
“I always enjoyed walking through a cemetery and looking at the stones. Now it will give it a much deeper meaning. I really enjoyed reading this book!”  – Amazon verified purchase, Deborah D.

“Perfect book to get an idea for symbols and meaning. Only glanced through it and already picked up a few facts! Welcome addition to our growing library…” – Amazon verified purchase, Toripotterfan


Check out the book trailer! Music by Tui Snider!


What are scraped graves?

Excerpt from Understanding Cemetery Symbols

by Tui Snider


Lush green lawns have become such a common feature of today’s burial grounds that if you could travel back in time to the 1800’s for a graveyard tour through the rural South, you might be in for a shock. It’s easy to forget that the first lawn mower wasn’t invented until 1830. Even then, lawn grasses weren’t developed by the US Department of Agriculture until the 1930’s, a good 100 years later.

To early settlers, grass had different connotations than it does today. Not only could it harbor bugs and snakes, but in the days before lawn sprinklers, a large expanse of dried grass could be a fire hazard. Just as a homesteader’s cabin often had dirt floors, their yards, as well, were often kept free of vegetation.

By the same token, early cemeteries throughout the South were often scraped clean of plant life. This practice spread throughout 19th century cemeteries in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

Historians now think this practice came to America through the influence of African Americans, since a similar custom of scraped burial grounds with mounded graves is seen along the slave coast of Africa. It’s assumed that the custom then gained popularity throughout the South due to its practical aspects.

Over time, however, people forgot the original how and why behind this tradition began and simply assumed it was a way of showing respect for the dead.

Although dozens of scraped burial grounds still existed throughout the South as late as the 1990’s, few, if any, remain today. You may still, however, find a few graves here and there that are covered in gravel or mounded up and decorated with shells. When you find graves like this, you are likely standing in one of these formerly scraped grave cemeteries that has since been covered with grass.


Scraped earth or not, it was the responsibility of the deceased person’s family to maintain their grave. For this reason, family plots were clearly marked so people knew exactly which area they were in charge of maintaining.

Throughout the 19th century annual cemetery cleanup days, often called “Decoration Day” or “Homecoming,” were the norm, especially in rural communities. In the 1800’s these cleanup days were major social events for the community. These were festive gatherings, with picnics, prayers, and even games and frivolity for children and adults. In this way, the maintenance and upkeep of the community cemetery allowed people to maintain social ties with the living, while also paying respect to the dead.

As families have scattered, annual cemetery cleanup parties are not as common or as big of a community event as they once were. Sometimes you will see information about these events posted by the cemetery gates or outbuildings. Even today, in smaller rural communities, many historic cemeteries rely on volunteers for maintenance.

Tui Snider is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in quirky travel, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!”

Tui lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences and bookstores. Her best-selling books include Paranormal Texas, The Lynching of the Santa Claus Bank Robber, Unexpected Texas, and Understanding Cemetery Symbols. She recently taught classes based on her books at Texas Christian University.

When not writing books, you can find Tui exploring the historic graveyards and backroads of Texas with her husband, Larry. 
Grand Prize: Signed Copies of Understanding Cemetery Symbols + wGraveyard Journal Workbook + Ghost Hunters Journal 
2nd & 3rd Prizes: Signed Copies of Understanding Cemetery Symbols
October 18-October 27, 2017
(U.S. Only)
Excerpt 1
Guest Post 1
Author Interview
Excerpt 2
Top 5 List
Guest Post 2
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