We are quickly running out of summer!
Summertime is often our best time of the year to venture out into the world of on site cemetery research before the days of fall and winter return back to our area.
I just saw an entry in Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Blog about a controversial manner of enhancing grave marker readability. Illegible gravestone markers are a common occurrence for all genealogical researchers. And the general rule of thumb is that it will definitely be YOUR gravestone markers that are illegible while the gravesites right next to yours are all pristine and readable!!
The posting by Dick Eastman seemed to indicate that there is a controversial manner of enhancing reading illegible gravestone markers by using flour!
It is apparently controversial because flour will interact with water and expand. Consequently, any flour that may remain in any tiny microscopic crevices on the gravestone marker could be cause further deterioration by inadvertently triggering expansion of the marker material and further deterioration.
Following is the text in Italics from the Dick Eastman blog post that describes the concerns of using flour on illegible gravestone markers in your cemetery research:
William Jerry (Champ) Champion has created a YouTube video that shows a quick and easy way to read and photograph grave markers that are worn or have become discolored. In years past, genealogists have used a variety of materials to improve legibility of tombstones, from shaving cream to chalk and a variety of other materials. However, most of those methods reportedly damage the stone to some extent. Many of the materials are abrasive and also may leave chemicals behind that cause long-term damage. However, Champ claims the use of flour creates no damage.
Not everyone agrees. Some so-called “experts” will tell you that flour is harmful because it can penetrate into small pores of the stone, and, when wet, the flour will swell and can cause flaking of the stone. Some also claim that flour contains yeast, which encourages the growth of lichens and micro-organisms that can then live and grow in the stone, causing expansion and cracking. Technically, flour does not contain yeast when first ground. However, yeast floats in the air most everywhere and may land on flour, where it may flourish.
has a long list of things to never do, and it cautions, “Don’t use shaving cream, chalk, graphite, dirt, or other concoctions in an attempt to read worn inscriptions.” Flour is not mentioned although it might qualify as an “other concoction.”The Texas Historical Commission’s web site has an online brochure at
that cautions to never use flour, but the qualifications of the author(s) are not listed.Fact or fiction? The video shows that the use of flour is very effective; but does it cause long-term damage? I don’t have a degree in chemical engineering or any expertise in the growth of micro-organisms, so I won’t make any judgment. I’ll let others decide. However, until I see something in writing from a person whose credentials give some assurance of the person’s expertise, I won’t be using flour for any of my tombstone work.