Visiting the graves of relatives was a common part of life in Johanna's time (1840s). In the mid-19th century mortality rates were much higher than today, particularly due to accidents, illness and childbirth. Graves are important sites of family history and can provide valuable historical information.
- Ask students to research examples of 19th century family gravestones in Australia. To assist this task, arrange a visit to a historical cemetery in your area. Ask students to consider how the inscriptions found on the graves can be used to interpret history and help us to learn about how someone might have lived and died. For example, if the child's date of birth and the date of the mother's death are the same, this most likely implied death due to complications of childbirth.
- Students could collate images and inscriptions on gravestones.
- The following websites may be helpful:
Interment.net, 'Toowong Cemetery', http://www.interment.net/data/aus/qld/brisbane/toowong/toowong_ag.htm
Websites for Genealogists, 'Cemetery Records - Australia', http://www.coraweb.com.au/cemetaus.htm
White Hat, 'Melbourne General Cemetery', http://www.whitehat.com.au/cemetery/FCemetery.html
City of Sydney, 'Old Sydney Burial Ground', http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/aboutsydney/historyandarchives/SydneyHistory/SocialHistory/OldSydneyBurialGround.asp
- Using their research as inspiration, ask students to create a fictional gravestone for Johanna's family or an imaginary 19th century family. The gravestone would tell the story of the family through the dates and inscriptions.
- How old were the people when they died?
- Who were their relations?
- Did their death occur naturally or was it caused by accident or illness?
- Students could create a graveyard by combining gravestones made by other members of their class. Students take a tour of the class graveyard, reading the inscription on each gravestone to deduce its family history.
- Students could reflect on the reasons why unmarked graves exist in a cemetery. Ask students to research the reasons why a person might not have been given a recognised burial. Students could look at graveyards from the perspective of Australia's Indigenous and non-white population.
Student Activity Sheet H17.3: Graveyards