Messages from the Grave - Listening to Your Ancestor's Tombstone

Messages from the Grave - Listening to Your Ancestor's Tombstone


by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL

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Messages from the Grave - Listening to Your Ancestor's Tombstone


In order to find an ancestor's tombstone, the burial ground must first be found. Tips are given on how to find the different cemeteries depending on the time period, type (church or commercial), and economic condition of the deceased. Tombstones are the last monuments to our lives on this earth. In their shape and inscribed symbols, they can speak of the lifestyle of the deceased or the attitude of death of the loved ones left behind. They are being destroyed by many factors, which make them illegible or eradicate them altogether. Abandoned and "lost" cemeteries can be found through records and natural signs. Discussion includes ways to read "illegible" stones, which may be the last time a person may hear the tombstone "speak." This webinar illustrates these techniques and shows what problems are encountered in reading a variety of markers and what might be done to overcome them. Internet sources and resources are also discussed throughout the lecture.


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Presenter: Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL

Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, a western Pennsylvania researcher for over 30 years, is the co-director of the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP), and Genealogy as a Profession course coordinator at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR). She was an instructor and module creator for Boston University’s Genealogical Research Certificate program (2008-2016). She was the mentor for ProGen Study’s first and 25th groups and author of two chapters in the 2018 Professional Genealogy: Preparation, Practice and Standards book. She was the course co-coordinator of the AG/CG Preparation Course at the 2010 and 2013 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG). She won the Association of Professional Genealogists 2017 Professional Achievement Award. She was honored in 2010 with the NGS President’s Citation in recognition of outstanding, continuing, or unusual contributions to the field of genealogy. She is a regional and national speaker on such topics as Pennsylvania records, methodology, professional development, and society management. 


She was a Trustee for the Board for Certification of Genealogists for nine years, their President (2012-2014), and past Outreach Committee Chairperson for eleven years. She was a Director for the Association of Professional Genealogists for six years; taught genealogy courses at the local community college for fourteen years; co-edited a cemetery book series, appeared on the PBS-TV show Ancestors2 cemetery episode and on the Travel Channel’s Dead Files in the 2015 “The Instigator” and the 2019 “Devil’s Advocate” episodes. She is a past-President of two local Pittsburgh area societies and a contributing author to many publications including the NGS Quarterly and the APG Quarterly.


An NSDAR member, she is also a lifetime member of the Ohio Genealogical Society; the Medina County Chapter, OGS; and the Baltzer Meyer Historical Society (Greensburg, PA) which was named for her ancestor.

Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL