The Gravestone Cemetery Project

Chaired by Judith Taylor McGarvey, the Society's Cemetery Project was inspired by the work done in the early 1970s by Jane Kirkpatrick Wall, one of the founding members of the Fairfax Genealogical Society. Recognizing the need to record gravestone inscriptions before they were destroyed by weather, vandalism, theft or development, she surveyed many of the county's cemeteries and graveyards, extracted information from extant gravestones and then donated her work to the Virginia Room of the Fairfax City Regional Library. Her surveys have been a valuable resource to genealogists researching in Fairfax County for over two decades.

In the mid 1980s, the Society decided to update and publish Jane Wall's work, and to survey other graveyards and cemeteries not included in her original project. The administration of the Fairfax County Public Library granted the Society permission to use Jane Wall's documents in our publications.

The Society began by locating all known surveys of Fairfax County cemeteries and comparing them to the Wall surveys. We are especially indebted to Carrie White Avery, who conducted surveys in the early 1920s; Aurelia M. Jewell, who conducted surveys in the late 1940s and early 1950s; and to Brian Conley, Information Specialist in the Virginia Room, Fairfax City Regional Library, who has expended much effort to pinpoint the locations of the more than 350 burial locations in the county.

After all surveys were compared, each cemetery containing gravestones was surveyed again, and then checked again in the months before publication. All discrepancies between readings were carefully analyzed. If the surveyor felt that discrepancies arose because a new gravestone had been erected or there were other extenuating circumstances, the inscription from the older survey is included. If a gravestone was recorded in an early survey, and not found several years later (or is illegible), the extract from the earlier survey is included and we indicate the source of the information.

Unless otherwise stated, each cemetery in our volumes has been surveyed or resurveyed during the year preceding publication.

Of the many burial locations in the county, our main focus has been on those that have gravestones or markers with inscriptions; but information about cemeteries with unmarked graves is included as well, to provide as many clues as possible for the family historian.

Because the location of a burial site may be important to family research, we have given detailed directions to each cemetery. Please ask for permission to visit cemeteries that lie on private property.

Early in this project, Society members realized how difficult it is to avoid mistakes. We hope that by recognizing our fallibility we have minimized the misinformation we may pass along to our fellow researchers. We have checked, double-checked and triple-checked our surveys and investigated discrepancies with further field checks in order to report the most accurate information possible.

The inscriptions and other information presented are not primary evidence. We have gathered together a wealth of clues that we are eager to share with our fellow genealogists. We wish you much luck with your search!