The gravestones of our ancestors are deteriorating quickly, largely due to acid rain. This is a genealogical tragedy as it makes locating and reading the gravestones of our ancestors continually more difficult. Below you will see two photos I took of the gravestones of Jacob Skillman (born in 1735), his wife Ann (unknown last name) and daughter Tamson. These gravestones are in the Kingston Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Kingston, Somerset County, New Jersey. The earlier photo was taken in 1972 and the later photo in 2007. The difference in legibility between the stones in the two photos in just 35 years is significant. In another 35 years they may be completely illegible.
For this reason, I urge all members of the Skillman Family Association who may have photos of their ancestors’ gravestones to join Find A Grave and create perpetual memorials for your ancestors by adding the photos of their gravestones. (For more information on Find A Grave, please see the blog post entitled Find A Grave — An Invaluable Genealogical Resource.) This will preserve their gravestones on the internet for posterity while acid rain does its best to erase their memory.
John E. Skillman III
Editor’s Note: The color change between the photographic technologies and reproduction over 35 years is obvious, as is the differnce in groundskeeping. However, the odd situation of the height of the headstones remains. Judging from the dingbat characters (—•—), the center stone (Jacob) has not moved an inch, while the headstones of Ann and Tamson have either sunk dramatically or been purposefully reset lower. It is difficult to imagine that the two outer headstones have sunk uniformly a foot or more over the course of only 35 years while the center stone has remained completely stationary, although the techniques employed at time of burial may be the cause. Without verifiable documentation or a proper archeological dig, we may never know the true circumstances.