Tombstone tourist (otherwise known as a "taphophile", "cemetery enthusiast", cemetery tourists or "grave hunter" or "graver") describes an individual who has a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries. This involves epitaphs, gravestone rubbing, photography, art, and history of (famous) deaths. The term has been most notably used by author and biographer Scott Stanton as the title of his 2003 book and his former website on the lives and gravesites of famous musicians.
Cemetery tourists can be interested in the historical aspects of cemeteries or the historical relevance of its inhabitants. The Central cemetery in Vienna Zentralfriedhof, the Recolleta cemetery in Buenos Aires La Recoleta Cemetery carry a large array of famous inhabitants and their tombs, that make the cemeteries significant tourist destinations.
Also geneaology tourists make considerable effort to search out cemeteries and their records, to verify grave records, and ancestral burial locations.
For centuries, people have made pilgrimages to the burial sites of religious icons and leaders. In fact, such was common during medieval times when people went to gravesites or to shrines to venerate saints. In China, the ancient tradition of Ancestor Worship also involved a veneration of dead relatives with visitations to shrines and gravesites.
During the 19th century, garden cemeteries began to appear that encouraged a visitor to stay and visit in the cemetery. Famous among these is the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France, which continues to invite tourists to visit and see elaborate memorials not only to the world famous, but to lesser known individuals.
Cemetery records have also been a way of verifying genealogical data. Making gravestone rubbings was in practice for centuries as a way of providing this documentation and appreciating the carvings on the tombstones. Among genealogists, scouring cemeteries looking for the graves of dead ancestors is a common and longstanding practice with individuals often relying on limited and outdated information to find burial sites.
The appreciation of cemeteries has evolved along with science and technology. The Internet allows enthusiasts to visit cemeteries (and in some cases the gravesites of their own ancestors) on websites such as Find A Grave. There are also many websites and books devoted to people's personal explorations into cemeteries, particularly ones that contain the remains of famous individuals. There are also tour companies that organize and plan tours to famous cemeteries.
The hunting of graves has become digital with the use of GPS systems to locate the area where a graveyard containing a grave is reputed to be. Many cemetery transcribers and ancestor hunters have been using this equipment in the pursuit of their goals. Find A Grave in particular includes GPS coordinates whenever possible.
- Christensen, George A. (1983) Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices, Yearbook. Supreme Court Historical Society.
- Christensen, George A., Here Lies the Supreme Court: Revisited, Journal of Supreme Court History, Volume 33 Issue 1, Pages 17 – 41 (19 February 2008), University of Alabama.
- Rogak, Lisa (2004), Stones and Bones of New England: A guide to unusual, historic, and otherwise notable cemeteries, Globe Pequat ISBN 0-7627-3000-5
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