The earliest cemetery can be traced back to almost 78,000 years ago when loved ones took the time to carefully bury and mark their dead.
Most sites of this age however, are lost forever due to neglect, weather, vegetation, and many other factors. It is vital that cemeteries are documented due to historical significance of the ones buried there, their link to the community, and even genealogical reference. Their markers reveal many things to include religion, possible historic events, lifestyle, and ancestry. They also show settlement patterns. A certain area could have once been a booming town that became a ghost town. Many younger cemeteries face the vulnerable status of being forgotten forever. However, some cemeteries do not face the same fate and are cared for by communities and local churches. Roman Catholics and other Christian denominations observe every year on November 2nd, All Souls’ Day, where the faithful (baptized members) are remembered and prayed for.
Prayers for the dead were observed at various times of the year up until the thirteenth century when Italy and Rome adopted the November date.
This Catholic custom was passed down and it traveled to other continents to include Nova Scotia and the Acadians.
When the Acadians were expelled from their homes in Nova Scotia in the mid eighteenth century, many settled in south Louisiana bringing their religious customs with them. For hundreds of years, Acadians grew and developed to what is now known as Cajun culture.
One such Cajun tradition is observing All Souls’ Day, although for the Acadiana region, prayers and remembrance grew into upkeep and beautification. “Years back, people used to come with paint and tools and cut the grass and have picnics for All Souls’ Day…The whole family would come together.”
Church members brought paint for white washing the headstones and many brought wax flowers and wreaths to decorate the sites. This tradition has seen a lot of change in the past fifty years. Now, most cemeteries are kept by trust funds from perpetual or endowed care for the grounds upkeep, although the gravesites themselves are cared for by family and friends.
This drop in custom has caused many cemeteries in Acadiana to be eventually lost and forgotten.