Walking among the dead, 2
By whatever they’re formally called, cemeteries and the tombstones in them are also very good sources for family historians. Absence of information that could have been found in public deeds like settlements of estates, but where the documents have already been lost, family mausoleums oftentimes have siblings and other family members entombed in them. Thus, their headstones are the easiest sources one can obtain dates about the individuals.
But be especially mindful in using these data because a good number of birth dates in the cemetery markers are wrong. Blame it on poor memory. Usually, when an old person dies, his or her family already harbors a wrong idea of his actual age. And, with birthday celebrations being markers, sometimes, a person himself not used to celebrating birthdays will have little to remember his age by.
Thus, if the family thinks that this person who dies this year is 90, they’ll simply conclude that he was born 1924, and put that on his headstone.
I found one, among others, this one who’d died in 1975 where the year of his birth was wrong. The correct one could have been found through the baptismal registers of the church, although that is a process easier recommended than undergone. The church clerk may not be that unoccupied to leaf through a number of years, or, as accommodating, especially with what he knows is the effort required of him. Anyway, what I found for the example I mentioned above was a year later than that etched on his lapida.
Sometimes, even the date of birth is wrong. Again, the reason may be because he never celebrated his birthday even from year one.
Not that we will come across many of these in Carcar, but the Chinese have a different way of counting age. Our common way is to count the number of years and so the first birthday means the child is one year old. But some Chinese view the birth as the first birthday itself, not an anniversary. You cannot fault the logic. Thus, we may meet some who will give you an age one bigger than we would normally count.
Note. There are times when the family goes the extra distance and procures a baptismal certification itself, but even then they erroneously use the date of baptism for the date of birth. And that, I tell you, is not an uncommon mistake.
For just the purpose of taking notes, I walked among the dead in the old (St. Lazarus) and the new (St. Martha) of Carcar , the Bantayan, the San Fernando and the Barili cemeteries.