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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pennies on Grave Stones

Recently, while attempting to solve one of the many mysteries of my family, I came across several family grave stones in a cemetery in Rhode Island. On top of each stone, there was a penny. I had never seen that before. My initial thought was that someone left a penny to let people know that someone still cares about the person buried there. It seemed like a nice idea to me.

Arriving at home, I decided to learn more about this and find out if others do it too. Where else to look for such things besides the Internet? It turns out there are a whole assortment of reasons why people leave pennies on grave stones. These are the ones I found most fascinating:

1) Leaving pennies on a grave can be done as a token of thanks - a way to show gratitude for someone who had touched your life.

2) Charon is the ferryman who takes the dead across the river Styx. The river Styx is the dividing line between the living and the dead. Coins are used to pay Charon the fee so that the dead can cross. (Greek mythology -- "save yourself a penny for the ferryman")

3) A penny says "In God We Trust", thus leaving a penny on the grave says that God is now entrusted with this person.

4) There is an old superstition that if you leave a coin on a grave, the spirit will grant you a wish (similar to throwing a coin in a fountain).

5) A penny is a wish for a call from heaven to let us know that the person buried there is alright.

6) Put a penny on the person's grave because you want to have their thoughts back with you (as in "penny for your thoughts"). It also indicates that you have this person in YOUR thoughts. It tells people that someone is thinking of this person long after they are gone and in essence they are not dead because their life had meaning and purpose to those who followed after them.

7) They are "pennies from heaven" or a form of a hug.

In any event, it felt good to see that someone had left something in memory of their/my ancestors. It's a similar feeling when you find a family member's grave and someone has left flowers. I will be leaving pennies from now on, wherever I go. Flowers, too, if I get a chance.
Penny for your thoughts? :-)

For more genealogy stories visit: Genealogy Tips for Beginners: It's All About the Stories

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