Things to consider about a grave memorial
I am not in the memorial business. This makes me unbiased, but also less knowledgeable than an experienced memorial dealer. My comments are not intended to make you less trusting of a reputable memorial dealer.
If you need to order a memorial, here are some things to consider. Bring this list with you when visiting dealers. If you have obtained grave memorials, or your late family members did, and you are in charge of any graves now, check to make sure that care is taken of the grave memorials.
Above: Some grave memorials, whether flat or upright, get covered over and become unreadable. These need to be cleaned. Check who is responsible, the cemetery or you.
Above: It is common to have one monument for a family plot, and smaller individual markers for each person. Visitors can figure out who MOTHER is, by refering to the family monument.
Above: Some flush memorials become overgrown by grass, and need to be cleared. If they are sinking, this needs to be addressed, too, so that all of the inscription always remains visible. Find out from the cemetery who is responsible for fixing this, you or the cemetery. A person looking for somebody elses grave may feel uncomfortable pulling grass and mud off your memorial. It may feel like digging somebody up.
Above: Before you order a memorial, check the order form carefully. Ask family members to review it, or perhaps even ask the funeral director to help spot any errors. Take your time to avoid any errors, which do not look good when corrected.
Above: This also applies, of course, to flush memorials.
Above: Make sure that the cut is deep enough and distinct enough that the inscription is easily readable.
Above: Time also takes its toll on readability.
Talk to the memorial dealer about what materials are most durable. Remember, the cemetery will have rules about what is allowed, also. Acorns borne by strong winds will strike the memorial for many years.
Above: Deep cuts make a memorial much more readable than the style shown above, especially on a background so freckly.
Above: A freckly background can make a memorial harder to read.
Above: A shiny, reflective background can make a memorial harder to read.
Above: Another memorial with readability issues.
Above: Do not inscribe anything you are not sure you want to say.
What it should say.
Above: There are artistic ways to add the marriage date, which is an important genealogical fact. If future generations are unlikely to guess where the wedding happened, include the place also. Note how the wifes maiden name is clearly denoted.
Above: Another inclusion of a wedding date.
Above: Include the full name, and the full dates of birth and death. Many persons with the same name may have been born in the same year, but far fewer were born on that day. Cramming them in later is possible, but it is best to include the full dates when ordering the memorial.
Above: Including the exact town of birth is a good idea, especially for immigrants.
Vital records often frustrate researchers by giving only the name of the country where the person was born. To find birth records requires knowing the exact town. Otherwise, though the name matches, it might be a different person.
Above: Avoid any fancy font or script that can make an inscription less readable. It takes time to determine that it probably means Oct. 24th 1813, Aged 27 Years & 4 months.
Always make sure that the letters and numerals are unmistakeable. Let there be no question, even after some weather and wear, whether it is a C or a G, a 7 or a 2, or whether it is a 0, 3, 6, 8 or 9. Also, a 5 and a 3 can look similar. Emphasize this when talking to memorial dealers.
What is the point of a middle name if you would abbreviate it, even on a grave memorial? Include the full name, and the full dates of birth and death.