Headstone Replacement: Tips For Honoring Past Generations

Posted on: 30 April 2019

If you visit cemeteries that were first established a century or more ago, you will likely notice that some of the headstones and grave markers on the oldest graves are showing signs of deterioration that make them more difficult to read. This can mean that your own generation, as well as future ones, may soon lose this valuable connection with their past.

Because of this concern, many families have become interested in working to restore or replace the deteriorated headstones and grave markers of their ancestors. If your family is considering doing this important work, you can use these tips to help get started. 

Restore, when possible 

If the older headstones appear intact but are unreadable due to dirt or the growth of lichens on the stone, you should first opt to try careful restoration of the stone surface. Be aware that removing the lichens could cause damage to the stone and complete removal is not recommended by some authorities on the subject. Instead carefully cleaning away the lichens that grow inside the engraved lettering and adornments is often the better choice. 

In addition to lichen growth, headstones may have become covered with layers of dirt and debris from wind and weather. This can often be carefully swept away using a brush with soft bristles. 

Replace, when necessary 

If the headstone has been vandalized or heavily damaged by weather, age, or other other causes, you may want to consider replacing it with a new headstone that has been custom made to resemble the original. If however, the original headstone is largely intact but no longer readable, adding a smaller plaque with the deceased person's name, birth and death dates, inscriptions, and other information may be more feasible. 

Respect, always

In addition to honoring your own ancestors through the work of restoring or replacing damaged or unreadable headstones, you may also want to consider seeking out other ways to pay respect to their final resting place. If the cemetery is not being properly maintained, you may want to form a group of like-minded friends and relatives willing to volunteer time periodically to help clean and preserve the area. 

To learn more about restoration and headstone replacement, start by speaking with a trusted funeral home director in your area. These professionals will be able to help you locate professionals who you can trust with delicate headstone engraving and restoration work, as well as skilled craftsmen who can create a new replacement head stone in the same style, size, and material.