Nothing lasts forever, even a tombstone.
While personally visiting a cemetery, having a local person take pictures, or using modern pictures on websites such as FindAGrave are options, there are times when the stone is weathered and unreadable, broken into too many pieces to read, or simply no longer extant.
That’s one reason why published or unpublished transcriptions of stones can be helpful, even if those transcriptions were made decades ago and contain no photographs. County historical societies and other local groups may have unpublished transcriptions of stones. Sometimes DAR chapters transcribed tombstones as community service projects in the early 20th century. It’s possible that when earlier transcriptions were made the stone in which you have an interest was still extant.
And sometimes a person gets really lucky. There’s a sketch of the tombstone of John Sargent published in a 1895 genealogy of the Sargent family. Sargent is buried in the Bell Rock Cemetery in Malden, Massachusetts.
Sargent’s stone is still standing, so a comparison can be made. Not everyone is as fortunate. Based on the photographs on FindAGrave, it’s a pretty authentic rendering of the stone-including the imagery. The sketch of the stone appeared in the 1895 book by Aaron Sargent, Sargent Genealogy: Hugh Sargent, of Courteenhall, Northamptonshire and His Descendants in England (page 32).
Not every genealogy has pictures or even transcriptions of tombstones of long-deceased family members. But it’s worth remembering that someone may have captured what was on that long-lost stone years ago and that image or transcription may be sitting on a shelf somewhere in a library.
Note: The images of the stone as published on FindAGrave were not used in this post because permission had not been obtained from the submitter to use them elsewhere. It has always been our policy to never publish images from FindAGrave unless express permission has been received from the original submitter.