Cemeteries, Culture, History & Genealogy


Joy has spoken at national conferences like Midwest Roots and RootTech along with state, regional and local genealogy associations, historical organizations and libraries.

To schedule a single lecture, a half-day or a day-long presentation, visit the Contact page.

A Grave Interest:
Searching for Clues in the Cemetery

Cemeteries are treasure-troves of genealogy records and can hold a wealth of information - if you know where to look. During this session, we’ll focus on the various kinds of records available in the cemetery, what types of graveyards exist and whom to contact for assistance. You’ll learn where to search for the 21 Nuggets of Information that can make your ancestors come alive. Discover where those clues about your family may be hiding in the cemetery.

Book Talk:

The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide

Not all of your family research can be done online; sometimes you have to head into the field, or in this case, the cemetery. Learn research tips on how to locate and decipher your ancestors’ gravestones. Discover what records to ask for in the cemetery, and how to find a missing grave. Plus, Joy will share family secrets and scandals she uncovered while writing the book. Copies of The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide will be available for purchase and signing at the end of the presentation.

Forgotten Records of Death

We know about death certificates, burial records and cemetery deeds, but there are over a dozen more records related to your ancestor's death that should be considered. From court records to casualty reports to benevolent society forms, learn what kind of paper trail our ancestors left behind. Delve into the fascinating aspects of your ancestor’s life that may have been kept secret, but today can provide amazing information to the genealogist.

Life Stories in Stone:
True Tales From the Grave

Everyone has a story and some times the tale continues to be told even after death. Hear about the man murdered for seeking justice; a pioneer heroine who made abdominal surgery a possibility, a dog who still guards his master's tomb 100 years later, and a civil rights activist whose murder still haunts a community. With more than a decade of cemetery explorations, Joy has some intriguing and interesting life stories to share.

Rustic Monuments: A Guide to Funerary Art
and Those Amazing Tree Stones

Rustic funerary art merges the characteristics of folk art and nature into beautifully hand-carved gravestones. A person’s life-story can be revealed through the natural elements and chunky lettering. We’ll also discuss the history of the tree stone from its folk art beginnings to the fraternal organizations, Modern Woodmen of America and Woodmen of the World, which made the marker so popular. Learn about these amazing gravestones and the rustic craze, which eventually landed it in the Sears & Roebuck Catalog.

Silent Language of the Stones:

Reading Grave Stone Symbols

Symbols and icons have been used on tombstones for centuries, but it was not until the mid-1800s that this secret language became popular. Victorians began to decorate graves with carvings, symbols and statues that tell a story about the deceased including information on family relationships, religious affiliations, military service, occupations, and society memberships. Some stones even give us hints as to how the person died if we know how to read this beautiful yet silent language.

Things That Go Bump in the Cemetery

There’s a sudden chill, a strange sound; you feel like you're being watched! A figure disappears, batteries loose their charge, and then something touches you… Welcome to the cemetery! Each year, A Grave Interest goes on after-dark cemetery treks, ghost tours, and paranormal investigations to get a firsthand look at some of the ‘liveliest’ places on earth. Enjoy stories of hauntings, restless spirits and eerie encounters Joy has had in the cemetery.

Victorian Celebration of Death

During the Victorian era grief had a social status and families were judged on how well they "did death." Explore the Victorian mourning requirements including etiquette and rules of attire. Discover how vast amounts of money were spent to create socially acceptable funerals and one-of-a-kind monuments and mausoleums. Plus, discover the sudden upsurge in postmortem photography, and what part superstitions play in mourning customs.