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Why Headstones Face East

Definition: Do you know why most headstones face east?

 

In many, but by no means all, early New England burying grounds the graves are positioned east/west. This east/west orientation is the most common orientation in other parts of the country and world as well. The earliest settlers had their feet pointing toward the east and the head of the coffin toward the west, ready to rise up and face the "new day" (the sun) when "the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised" or when Christ would appear and they would be reborn. If the body was positioned between the headstone and the footstone, with the inscriptions facing outward, the footstone might actually be facing east and the decorated face of the headstone facing west. If the headstone inscription faces east, the body would most commonly be buried to the east of it. Much depends on the layout of the graveyard -- if there was a church or other building in the center of the burial site, where the high ground was located, the location of access roads, etc. Early graves were seldom in the neat rows that we are used to seeing. Burials were more haphazard, more medieval in their irregularity; families didn't own plots and burial spaces were often reused. The north side of the cemetery was considered less desirable and is often the last part of the burying ground to be used, or you may find the north side set aside for slaves, servants, suicides, "unknowns," etc. In many burial grounds graves face all four points on the compass. Sometimes a hilly site will have stones facing all four directions. With the coming of the Rural Cemetery Movement in the 1830s and 40s, an entirely new style of burial became popular. The ideal of winding roads and irregular terrain dictated the orientation of the monuments to a large degree.

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Cemeteries and Burials

 

Related Categories:

| Gravestone Symbolism | The Association for Gravestone Studies | | Conducting Research in a Cemetery | Free Family History and Genealogy Records | Calvary Cemetery | Find A Grave - Millions of Cemetery Records | Alma Cemetary | LakeView Cemetery - Cleveland | Oak Hill Cemetery - Youngstown | Oakland Cemetery | Sleepy Hollow Cemetery | Picture of Cemetery Ghost Baby | Tolomato Cemetary | The Ghost of Boothill Cemetery | Gettysburg National Cemetery | National Cemetery Administration Home | 10 of the world's most scenic cemeteries - CNN.com | The Official Website of Arlington National Cemetery | Nationwide Gravesite Locator | Cemetery Records Online - Search Cemeteries | Online Cemetery Records & Burial Indexes (USA) | Potters Field |

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