Backwards Gravestones

Vicki’s note – article from Family Tree Magazine Plus:


The full text of this article is available to Plus members only.

For full access to all of our articles, please Join or Log In.
Not a Plus Member?

Now What: Do Backwards Gravestones Indicate Suicide?

Q. My grandma once told me a gravestone facing the opposite way of all the others in the cemetery indicates that person committed suicide. Is this true? 

A. Cemeteries follow different traditions, but if a person who committed suicide were to be ostracized after death, it’s more likely that the body would be buried apart from others. According to the Association for Gravestone Studies, the north side of a cemetery was often considered less desirable, so suicides might be buried there along with paupers, slaves, members of minority religious sects and the unidentified deceased. Suicides also were sometimes buried upside-down, with the head vertically below the feet, as a post-mortem punishment; this required considerably deeper digging and, of course, is impossible to check without excavation.

Rather than a suicide, you might find that someone buried the opposite way is actually a minister. Many church graveyards were laid out east-west, with the head at the western end of the grave, to be facing the risen Christ on Judgment Day. But the minister was sometimes buried with his head at the eastern end of his grave so he’d be facing his flock at the time of Resurrection.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s