history

Ancient Cemetery is the oldest of Yarmouth’s seven municipal burial sites.  No one knows for sure when the first burials took place, but it was probably very close in time to the establishment of the settlement's first meeting house, believed to have been located near the large landmark boulder in the center of the burying ground.

commemorative plaque at ancient cemetery

While impermanent wooden posts or unadorned field stones may have been used to mark the early graves, the oldest surviving permanent marker is that for Margaret Miller whose slate gravestone records her death in 1698. Slate headstones and footstones mark a majority of the 18th-century burials, overtaken by marble monuments in the 19th century, with granite markers attaining dominance in the 20th century. Today the expanded cemetery contains 21.6 acres and almost 5,000  recorded graves in addition to the unknown number of unmarked burials.

commemorative plaque on boulder at ancient cemetery
hand carved tombstone of margret miller at ancient cemetery
Preliminary Results of Data

This data represents a random sample of information from less than 700 stones in oldest sections of Ancient Cemetery that were cleaned by January 2021.


. the most prevalent family names are Matthews, Hallet, Taylor, Eldridge, Gray and Bray


. most frequent female names are: Mary, Sarah, Hannah, Rebecca and Sally

. most widespread names for males are: John, Thomas, Isaac, Joseph, James

pie chart of tombstone titles at ancient cemetery

. men were identified by an occupation, education, social station or accomplishment

. women were described solely by their relationship to a male, e.g., daughter, wife, mother

. more adult deaths occurred in October. largest number of memorialized deaths are from the 19th Century

. most Ancient Cemetery’s 18th century gravestones are made of slate, decorated with winged skulls

closeup of hand carved headstone of winged skull at ancient cemetery

photo david and pauline schafer

. earliest stones were imported from Boston

. Nathaniel Holmes was the Cape’s first resident carver

 

. Holmes supplied urn and willow style stones

. Jabez Fisher & Son, William Fisher were local carvers after the mid-1840s

 

. Carvers sometimes signed their stones 

To read more about various carvers from Ancient Cemetery, click here.

engraved signature of grave stone carver at ancient cemetery

Engraved on Nantucket by WM. Sturges.

engraved signature of grave stone carver at ancient cemetery

BURT, Taunton

engraved signature of grave stone carver at ancient cemetery

J. Milmore. Boston

engraved signature of grave stone carver at ancient cemetery

R. Needham, Chelsea

engraved signature of grave stone carver at ancient cemetery

A. Cary, Fecit., Boston.

engraved signature of grave stone carver at ancient cemetery

[F. Cooley. Prov. R.I.]

tombstones at ancient cemetery

photo melanie barron