29 November 2011

Why You Read the Back of a Tombstone

.     My Great-Great-Grandmother's sister is buried in Duluth City Cemetery (Gwinnett County, GA), just a few miles down the road. Her headstone is shown on FindAGrave.com, but since it was so close, I thought I'd check it out for myself. And when I did, I realized that not all of the information from the tombstone had been put online.

     You can see here, the stone of Mary J Smith Hollis Herrington and her husband, Newton Herrington.

     I snapped photos of other Herrington graves and thought, "let me check the back to make sure there's nothing there." Sure enough, there was something carved into the back of Newton Herrington's side of the stone:



   From what I can tell, it says:

S. L. E. No 34
L. O. O. F.
A. L. No. 14
I. O. O. F.
G. T. No. G
I. O. OF R. M.

     I'm not sure, I think they could have been a little more vague.... 

     With the help of 'Tombstone Symbols and Fraternal Abbreviations,' I've figured out that I. O. O. F. is Independent Order of Odd Fellows and I. O. OF R. M. is The Improved Order of Red Men

     I can't figure out the rest. I thought that AL might be American Legion, but that was founded after Newton died.  I figure the SLE might be Southern or Sons, but I'm not sure what else. Anyone have any guesses for the rest?

     Since this is a collateral line, I'm only curious. If this were my direct line however, I'd be very interested in researching any organization that this man belonged to. It would tell me a lot about his religious and political beliefs and point me in the direction of further genealogical sources.

     Here are some photos of the cemetery itself:




Ruby Craft said...

Great advice on reading the back of tombstones. Hopefully someone will be able to tell you what the other initials stand for.

Jenny Jones said...


I don't know what the initials are for. However, newspaper death notices AKA obituary listings are a great place to find out. These fellowship groups would often place a notice in thee death notice columns. Check for the
week or two following his death.

My great uncle was a member of three fellowship groups, and I found out through the death notices.

Good luck.

Denielle Radcliff Koch said...

I always check the back of tombstones. Many of my family members have the names of their children there. A few even have their grandchildren listed.

I wish I could recognize the abbreviations, but the only one that rings a bell is IOOF, which you already figured out. Some of my paternal ancestors were members as well.

Marian said...

Great post! And I love that you included photos that give a sense of what the whole cemetery looks like. Very nice.

Kathleen Brandt, Professional Genealogist said...

Here's my 2cents: SLE#34 is probably S.L.(E): Sons of Liberty (East) a local chapter; LOOF: Local(Lodge) Order of Odd Fellows, aka or the state Grand Lodge of Georgia chapter(usually had their own budget separate from Independent), AL: American Legion of Honor was started in 1874; and GT No G: Good Templar of Georgia (or Gwinnett). I would start there for your research. Many of these organizations are listed. The cemetery book may also specify.

Kathleen Brandt, a3Genealogy.blogspot.com

Catherine Pendleton said...

Hi Valerie,

Lovely photos of the cemetery. I agree...great advice about looking at the back of tombstones. I've never seen one with so many abbreviations.

Jo said...

I can't help with the abbreviations either, but look forward to hearing what you find out. In Scotland, headstone insciptions can be a mine of useful info :-) Jo


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