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Ancient Cemetery encompasses 300 years of social and economic history of Cape Cod recorded on stone. The data we collect and analyze enriches the history of Yarmouth. (Did you know that one little period, extra space, or gravestone with no death date can trigger research insanity?)

An Analysis of Epitaphs from Ancient Cemetery Gravestones


An Epitaph is the added sentiment, poem, or short eulogy usually found beneath the name, death date, and age inscription.  An inscription and an epitaph are not the same thing, although they are sometimes all referred to, erroneously, as an epitaph. Now you know the difference: the section with the information is the inscription; the added sentiment is an epitaph.

Read the entire analysis here.

Click the image, left, to enlarge

Analysis of Inscription Data on Ancient Cemetery Gravestones

by Laurel K.Gabel

An analysis of the introduction or dedication phrases of a gravestone inscription (e.g., “Here lyes,” “Here lies,” and “In memory of”) is one way to illustrate what can be learned from the markers we clean. Just as the shape, stone material, and iconography of gravestones themselves evolved over time, so did the language of the  inscriptions. Read the entire analysis here.


This preliminary analysis is an overview of collected data of a modest percentage of gravestones in Ancient Cemetery. Data were collected by Project volunteers in this collaborative effort between the Town of Yarmouth Cemetery Department and the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth. These results change continually as additional stones are included in the database.

Some Results of Recent Analysis of Data
Largest Number of
Family Names


Most Popular Male Names

William, James, Joseph

(3-way tie)

Most Popular Female Names

Lucy and Thankful (tie)

The highest death month is October; the fewest number of deaths occur in January.

Largest number of memorialized deaths are from the 19th Century.

There are:

31 Captains

(both seafaring and military)

7 Deacons

6 Esquires

1 Doctor

1730 -1830 gravestones were predominately slate

1830 -1930 stones were mostly marble
1930 to today, gravestones are almost all granite

288 gravestones refer to a wife, mother, widow
7 gravestone refer to husband, father or widower

WOMEN were described solely by their relationship to a man:




MEN were identified by:



social station


closeup of hand carved headstone of winged skull at ancient cemetery

photo david and pauline schafer

Stone Facts

- 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.

Carvers Signed Stones
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

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