Making a Tombstone Rubbing

Posted February 10, 2011 by Amanda | One Comment

Making tombstone rubbings is an easy and fun activity to preserve the headstones of your ancestors. Before embarking on your adventure to the cemetery, make sure to first get permission from the proper authorities. Some cemeteries have banned this practice in order to preserve fragile headstones and prevent further damage. Once you have permission, it’s very important that you check the structural integrity of the tombstone. Do not attempt a rubbing on a stone that is crumbling or appears weakened. If the stone looks too fragile, it’ll be best to take a picture instead.

Materials you’ll need:

  • Soft bristle brush
  • Spray bottle of water
  • Masking tap
  • White or rice paper or Pellon
  • Scissors
  • Black crayon, charcoal, chalk or rubbing wax

Steps to create a great rubbing:

  1. Clean the stone with a soft bristle brush and some water. Clear any weeds or overgrown brush around the tombstone.
  2. Cut a large piece of paper (plain white or rice) or Pellon. Make sure the piece is large enough to cover the entire headstone. You don’t want to accidentally leave any markings.
  3. Secure the paper to the tombstone with masking tape. Be sure it’s tight enough so the paper doesn’t slide as you rub.
  4. Starting from the top of the tombstone, use a black crayon, chalk, charcoal or wax to gently rub the stone from the sides and work your way inward. Carefully apply more pressure as needed to capture the details.
  5. When your rubbing is done, carefully remove the rubbing from the stone.
  6. Lastly, be sure to pick up any trash before you leave!

If you used chalk or charcoal to create your rubbing, spraying a little bit of hairspray can help preserve the image and prevent smearing. Take care to not get any hairspray on the tombstone!

For more detailed information on tombstone rubbings, check out The Association for Gravestone Studies.

Once you’re done, scan your rubbings and share them with your relatives on Geni!

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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