Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Photo Headstones: A Genealogical Treasure

During previous visits to the Santa Maria Cemetery in Santa Maria, I’ve noticed that a few of the headstones display photos of the deceased. This is not uncommon, of course, as photo headstones are found in cemeteries everywhere.

However, on a recent visit, I discovered that the Santa Maria Cemetery has an entire section of these photo headstones. What a genealogical treasure!

Here's an example of one of the photo stones in this section:

Headstone of Manuel and Belvina Madruga.

Detail of photos and dates on Madruga Headstone.

Photo of Manuel F. Madruga found on headstone.

Photo of Belvina G. Madruga found on headstone.

I would be absolutely thrilled to find such a gem of a headstone for any of my ancestors!


Manuel Felipe Madruga was born in 1871/72 in Poco, Azores, Portugal. He emigrated to the United States in approximately 1888, and was naturalized as a citizen on May 12, 1902, in San Luis Obispo, California. He lived in Nipomo and worked as a rancher in San Luis Obispo County. Manuel died in 1922.

Belvina Gularte Madruga was born on September 14, 1881, in California. She died on November 16, 1940 in Santa Barbara County, California. Belvina must have remarried after Manuel died because she is listed as Belvina Gularte Lewis in the Cemetery's records.

Manuel and Belvina were married in abt. 1900, and had at least five children.


California Department of Health Services. “California Death Index, 1940-1997.” Database. Ancestry.com,
http://www.ancestry.com/ : 2008.

California. San Luis Obispo County. 1910 U.S. census, population schedule. Digital images. Ancestry.com.
http://www.ancestry.com/ : 2008. From National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 104.

California. San Luis Obispo County. 1920 U.S. census, population schedule. Digital images. Ancestry.com.
http://www.ancestry.com/ : 2008. From National Archives microfilm publication T625, roll 144.

Madruga Headstone Photos, Photographed by Elizabeth O’Neal, November 29, 2008. Privately held by Elizabeth O’Neal, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Santa Barbara Co., California. 2008.

Manuel Madruga Passport Application. U.S. Passport Applications, January 2, 1906-March 31, 1925. Digital Images. Ancestry.com.
http://www.ancestry.com/ : 2008. From General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

"Santa Maria Cemetery District, 1872-2001." Database. Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society.
http://www.cagenweb.com/santabarbara/sbcgs/Santa_Maria_Cemetery/ : 2008.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Tragic Demise of Mary L. Sargent

"Mary L. Sargent's Headstone at Lompoc Cemetery" Digital image. Photographed by Elizabeth O’Neal, November 23, 2007. Privately held by Elizabeth O’Neal, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Santa Barbara Co., California. 2008.

My little bunny and I were out hopping around the Lompoc Cemetery last fall when we ran across this lovely, well-preserved headstone. The inscription reads:

Mary L. Sargent
Aged21 Y's & 8 D's
Murdered by Indians
Apr. 2, 1881
I had seen Mary's headstone on several previous trips to the cemetery, and had always wondered about her story. This time, I asked the cemetery manager for a bit of Mary's story. Apparently, it was quite a scandal!

Says the Lompoc Historical Society:

[Mary] had left on horseback to go to a neighbor for eggs in the Santa Rita District. Her horse returned without her that evening. A search party was formed and her body discovered in a shallow grave. An Indian sheep herder was held as suspect, since the footprints at the scene matched his. His clothes were also bloody, and there was blood on his lariat. He denied doing the deed and blamed it on another man, whom he could not identify. He was found guilty on the spot and hanged. The Chumash, who inhabited this area before European arrival were a peaceful people. The only instance of violence was an Indian revolt at La Purisima Mission. The sheep herder was of Chumash descent and had come from the Santa Cota Reservation in Santa Ynez.
Can you imagine anyone being found "guilty on the spot" today?

One of the things that struck me about this headstone (other than the "murdered by Indians" declaration) is that it is in such tremendous condition, and almost completely free of mold, moss, lichens and other nasties that grow on gravestones in moist climates. So many of the historic headstones here are rendered nearly (or entirely) unreadable, but Mary's stone is in practially pristine condition.

Perhaps her stone receives special care? I'll have to ask someone the next time I visit.

You can read more about Mary Sargent's tragic demise here.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Friday, October 31, 2008


I am so honored and excited to have been asked by esteemed genea-blogger, Terry Thornton, to become part of his new project, The Graveyard Rabbit!

As many of you know from reading my companion blog, Little Bytes of Life, Papa Rabbit and my little bunny and I regularly make the rounds of the local cemeteries. We've been members of Find A Grave for about 4 years, frequently filling photo requests for people all over the country. Papa Rabbit and I have photographed about 4 entire cemeteries, between the two of us.

I hope you will enjoy The Graveyard Rabbit of the California Central Coast as much as we'll enjoy sharing our finds with you!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal


"Ocean View Eternity" (Santa Barbara Cemetery, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Co., California). Digital image. Photographed by Elizabeth O'Neal, July 19, 2008.