Archaeologists frequently excavate historic burials and the vast majority of the graves will be unidentified. It is rare, and also surprisingly difficult, to unite documentary sources and gravestone identities with the burials underneath. Sites are therefore interpreted and analyzed as holistic anonymous populations rather than as individual graves. Excavation of a 19th and 20th century cemetery in Copenhagen created an opportunity to explore the topic of working with identified graves through connecting to genealogical sources and theoretical approaches which are rarely encountered in archaeology. This study used alternative genealogies of grave plots based on different source materials: family trees, burial plot registers, and excavated archaeological evidence to illustrate the complementary interpretations that can be created. The research touches upon important issues of the rights and responsibilities of using the names and personal data of the dead; particularly in relation to their descendants. The conclusion is that it is vital to consider including names and sometimes personal information as doing so has deepened understanding of the variations within burial customs, the use of grave plot space and invited more personal narratives within a heavily structured system of burying the dead.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited