If so you may well find the inscription carved onto it has been preserved in the Society of Genealogists’ family history library, which has the largest collection of such inscriptions in the country. They are a much underused resource, particularly as they can throw light onto the relationship between people buried in a grave.
Now the Society has started to make its collection more widely available by adding some of them to the Members’ Area of its website.
Amongst the first inscriptions to be included are those recorded by the professional genealogist L Haydon Whitehead and donated to the Society in 1985 after his death. They are part of a much larger collection of material compiled by Whitehead that included transcripts of wills, Hearth Tax returns, parish registers, Bishop’s Transcripts etc many of which can be found on the county shelves in the library.
The Whitehead collection of gravestone inscriptions focuses on East Anglia, and the greatest number of recordings are for Essex (31,000) and Cambridgeshire (12,000). However there are entries for many other English counties (Derbyshire, for example, has more than 6,000). Some of the stones recorded by Whitehead are no longer legible, making the collection particularly important for family historians.
At present the Members’ Area includes only an index to the Whitehead MIs. The index entries show the name, place, church and year of burial. The full, and often more detailed, inscriptions can be consulted on cards in the Upper Library, or photocopies ordered through the Society’s ‘Search and Copy’ Service. However the cards have recently been scanned and it is hoped to include the full images of them on the Members’ Area in due course.
A basic search of the Members’ Area can be done here by entering the surname you are searching for in the ‘Quick search’ box, but to view the full record you will need to be a member.
To find out if the Society holds the gravestone inscriptions (MIs) for your ancestor’s parish just go to the library catalogue.