Sunday, April 17, 2011

Is This Stone Primary or Secondary

We've talked about John M. and Franciska Trautvetter several times in Casefile Clues. This is a picture of their stone in the Bethany United Christ of Church Cemetery in Tioga, Hancock County, Illinois. Thinking outloud, there are four dates on this stone. The stone would not be primary for Francis' dates and John's birth. I know from other records that a $30 stone was put on Francis' grave in 1903 and this is not that stone. This one was put up after John's death. I'd be inclined to say the stone was a primary source for information on John's death. It would also be primary information on where the Trautvetters were buried.

If time allows and there's enough to write about, we may include an article on sourcing this stone, sourcing our picture of it, and discussing the various aspects of what primary and secondary information it provides.

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  1. Hi Michael,

    My opinions:

    1) The stone itself is an Original Source for John, but not for Franciska, since it was replaced after she died. The stone is Primary information for the burial place of both persons, and is Direct Evidence of their burial.

    2) The information on the stone for John's name and birth are Secondary Information, since they occurred well before the stone was placed, they are not contemporaneous with the events, and may be hearsay. John's death date is Primary Information since it was contemporaneous and presumably provided by a knowledgeable informant.

    3) The information on the stone for Franciska's name, birth date and death date are Secondary Information, since they occurred well before this stone was placed and are not contemporaneous with the events, and may be hearsay, not knowing the informant.

    4) All information on the stone is Direct Evidence - the names and dates are explicit and require no estimates. They could be wrong, of course!

    Neat question! -- Randy

  2. I'm in general agreement with you on this Randy and thanks for submitting the post. There is always the chance that a stone was put up when the first person died and completed when the surviving spouse passes--however, there's not always any way to really tell that from the stone.

    In this case, I have some information indicating there was an earlier stone. That information is something I'll have to include in my analysis.

    This stone doesn't really have the look of most of the other stones that were put up in the 1880 era when Franciska died. That's something that I'm thinking should be in my analysis as well.

    I really hadn't thought about doing an entire article on the primary and secondary nature of tombstones, but after this post, your comments, and a few other thoughts I have running around in my head, I'm thinking it would make a great Casefile Clues article. Too often we really don't think about the nature of information on a tombstone.

    This really was a totally off-the-cuff question that's got me thinking more than I ever really thought it would.

  3. The question of whether there was an earlier stone is interesting. In this case, you know there was.

    Sometimes the double stone is placed after only one person dies. I have taken pictures of plenty of stones for two people with only one yet buried. In some cases, one side of the stone is still blank. In others, all the information is listed for the spouse except for the date of death. There was even one stone with spaces for three people and nobody yet buried there.

    In another case, I know someone who designed her own double stone and her husband's previous stone was replaced with it after her death.

    In your case, the stone placed in 1903 was not even at the time of death, so even if the information was copied perfectly onto this stone, it's still questionable.