Norwich has many cemeteries. You can learn a lot from the gravestones by looking at the art and learning about the families.

In New England, there were three basic designs carved into gravestones between c. 1620-1820: death’s-head, winged cherubs, and urn-and-willow.  Creating a detailed sketch will help you slow down and really look.

Choose a stone and see if the artwork and type of stone match this chart (you can also download it here to take with you):

Dates Social Change Type of Stone Carvings Epitaph
Through 1775 Pioneer and colonial life Slate, usually archshapes Death’s Head


Inscriptions reflect piety, church going, thrift, hard work. Carvings warn of inevitability of death; graphic reminder of death and resurection. Decay of man, life’s brevity, or Calvinistic emphasis on hard work.
1776 – 1815 New religious revival Slate; beginnings of classical, rectangle shapes Cherub American revolution documented on stones; inscriptions talk about eternal peace and reunions in heaven. Epitaphs move from “here lies X” to “here lies the body of X”  Cherubs stress resurrection, death’s head emphasize mortality of man.  Epitaphs stress later heavenly reward.
1816-1870 Great social change and humanitarianism marble Urn & Willow Epitaphs written to soothe the bereaved. Now they say “in memory of.” The earlier stones are markers designating the location of the deceased (or at least a portion of him).  Rise of less emotional, more intellectual religions—Unitarianism. Also part of Greek Revival.
1871 – Present Decline of Yankee epitaph as declaration of belief Granite Laser carvings Today usually only name and date recorded