Indecipherable inscriptions on centuries old tombstones revealed using 3D technology.

Indecipherable inscriptions on centuries old tombstones revealed using 3D technology.

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Stuart, Erin and Alan Melanson in graveyard.
Erin and Stuart sit through an enthralling tale told by fellow ‘Melanson’ cousin, Alan Melanson.

This new technology is so very exciting to me. I’ve found that the information that proves to be most valuable from tombstones is that found on those from before 1850.

After 1850, most of the information is available in accessible records. Although there are records prior to 1850, the information on them is minimal at best. The earlier US censuses are the best example because the censuses prior only provide the full name of the head of the family and age ranges of spouses, children and others. This leaves a wide margin for error that is much narrower in later censuses that reveal names, ages, birth years, immigration data, occupations and relationships to the head of the household.

In a previous post, I described the fun my family and I had ‘tombstone hunting’ in Nova Scotia. We made a point of stopping at as many graveyards as possible and taking photos and transcriptions of the tombstones that had related surnames. The most memorable graveyard we visited was that of the well known “Graveyard Tour” at Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. Our tour guide was a fellow Melanson family member and his knack of weaving entertaining and enthralling stories was evident as he led us through the maze of tombstones, recounting the most scandalous and mysterious tales. Several of these tombstones from the 1600s and 1700s were unreadable and this new 3D technology seems to be the answer to discovering and recording many of the actual transcriptions.

Grant Aylesworth, a Mount Allison anthropology professor, and the Government of New Brunswick’s archaeological services division are now reading the inscriptions on those illegible grave markers from the 1700s, using this new 3D software technology. The software derives the inscriptions from digital images of these tombstones. The innovative technology is freely available and is easy to learn and implement, although attempts are being made to streamline the process to encourage others to explore these old tombstones and recover as many inscriptions as possible.


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