Posts Tagged ‘consort’

When we traveled to Boston and Salem in the fall of 2018, I was of course excited at the opportunities to explore some of the oldest cemeteries in North America. I also realized I needed to brush back up on my cemetery symbolism and language. As I’ve written before, when a woman is described as the consort of her husband on a gravestone, she usually predeceased him. If he predeceased her, the inscription may refer to her as a relict, an old-fashioned word for widow.

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts
Old Burying Point, Salem, Massachusetts

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Cozad (2)

Cozad (3)

I’ve always been a big fan of language and enjoyed learning about how it develops. If you followed this blog in its first incarnation, you know that I’m particularly fascinated by some of the archaic words and phrases you can find on tombstones.

Anna (2)//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

One of my favorite examples of old language is the use of “consort” in place of “wife” when the wife predeceased the husband.

Dunlap Sarah (2)//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Dunlap Sarah (3)//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

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Clarissa M. Gilmore

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

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Clarissa M. Gilmore

In memory of Clarissa M., consort of Eli Gilmore (Historic Hopewell Cemetery)

Walking through cemeteries with some friends, they noticed that some women’s tombstones, rather than having the typical pattern of saying “wife of” a particular man, listed the women as his consort. My friends and I discussed whether there was some particular significance to naming a woman as “consort” rather than “wife.” Perhaps the man and woman were not legally married, they mused.


Tombstones for Adam and Ann Titler (Old Carlisle Burying Ground)

A distinction does exist, but it is nothing so lurid as naming a mistress as such on her grave marker. After consulting a dozen or so cemetery symbolism websites, it appears that the word “consort” on a women’s tombstone usually indicates that she predeceased her husband. A “consort” was still most definitely a wife.


Jane, consort of Tobias Miller (Old Carlisle Burying Ground)

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