Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
A tombstone is a somewhat archaic term for headstone, grave stone, or grave marker, which are often used synonymously. Use of the word tombstone is often associated with the rugged days of the American West. A tomb stone in the original sense may refer to a massive stone placed in front of an open tomb or a stone covering the top of a tomb, in ancient and modern times. An actual tomb stone may weigh several tons and may or may not bear inscription.
Tombstones, headstones, and grave markers are of keen interest in genealogy, as they can help to identify or confirm that an ancestor is buried in a particular place, and may provide significant genealogical information beyond the date of death. Many organizations and interested individuals have initiated Tombstone Projects which may involve photographing of tombstones and transcribing of inscriptions, and then publishing them on the Internet. Contributions are typically made by volunteers and family members. The goal of such projects is to provide a record and preserve inscriptions, which are subject to decay, and to make the information more widely available through publication.