It's been ten years since 26 gravestones were discovered in a shed in Coventry. No one knew how they got there, or where they came from. Now, thanks to a team including historians and some help from Ancestry.com, at least two of them have been returned to where they belong.
“These poor stones,” said Claudine Vieten, a member of the Coventry Cemetery Commission. “Nobody cared about them. It’s been years. That they’ve been there”
Vieten put out a call for help identifying the “orphan gravestones.”
“I didn’t expect anybody to recognize them,” she said. “I just thought if I put them in the paper, if I put them in the visitor center then some people would go to the Strong Porter House, and someone would appreciate the stones.”
Sara Vance, a Coventry resident who considers cemeteries her hobby, answered that call.
“I said if you can send me photos, I’ll see what I can find, and I just went from there,” she said.
Vance used her Ancestry.com account to search official gravestone records.
“I was able to find them all,” Vance said.
They contacted Ruth Shapleigh-Brown, an expert who has been working with gravestones for more than 30 years. She was able to verify Vance’s work.
“They were always made in the early times as a matched pair to mark the head and the feet have a grave, so that it wouldn’t be dug into,” Shapleigh-Brown said. “It’s important that they are left in place. Now that we put them back, even if we don’t put them exactly at the feet of the stones, art work wise, The historical relevance of it should be back in the cemetery where belongs”
Two of the footstones that have been separated from their headstones for about a century will be returned at the Old South Burying Ground in Coventry this weekend.
Most of the remaining headstones and footstones have been identified. The hope is to get as many of them as possible back to the rightful place.
“These are people at some point, and we can’t just forget about them,” Vieten said. “We have to try to remember them.”