Tombstone Photographs

Prior to the early 1900’s, residents of the small villages in Trentino tended to remain there for many generations, marrying residents of their own or nearby villages.  Some of the cemeteries in Trentino are very old and therefore could be the resting place of three or four generations of the same family.  This does not mean that the tombstones of all the generations will still be available.  Due to space limitations, some areas recycle graves after a set period of years (e.g. 50), so older tombstones may or may not exist.  In some cases, I have seen photos of cemeteries where older tombstones were removed and simply leaned against the ancient cemetery walls. 

For those tombstones that are available to researchers, we can often find information about our families that would not appear on tombstones in the U.S.  For example, many of the more recent tombstones bear ceramic or otherwise weather-protected photographs of the deceased.    In some cases, these may be the only photographs of a grandparent or great-grandparent in existance.  Additionally, since it was (and still is) common for women in Italy to retain their maiden names for all legal and civic purposes, maiden names often appear on the tombstones.

Cemetery photo - Trentino

In the above tombstone, in addition to names and photographs of the deceased, we see that Fortunata’s maiden name is Tame (n= nata = born).  Under Primo’s name is inscribed “disperso in guerra 1912” , which indicates that he was born in 1912, and missing during wartime (World War II). 

In the tombstone below, we are shown photographs of the deceased, their dates of birth (n = nata = born), death (m = morto = died), and the wife’s maiden name.

Tombstone photo - Trentino

As you can see, the Italian customs of using photos and other information can provide leads to our research.  Online friends and contacts in our ancestral villages can be sources of these photographs, as can professional researchers.  Some areas have specific rules about taking such photos, so it would be wise to inquire before asking someone to take those photographs.  Generally, being courteous and asking permission will be enough.

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