grave marker of Dan and Margaret Camp

Husband-Wife or Brother-Sister?

I usually assume that if a man and a woman are memorialized on the same grave marker that they were married. More recently, the same conclusion could also apply with same-sex couples.

There’s a saying about the danger of “assume”… (it does not always impugn the other person!)

The question arose because of a few grave markers I have encountered, or those photographed by others.

Looking at the grave site photo above, we see Dan D. Camp (1909-1938) and Margaret Camp (1913-1951). Seems like a typical married couple, albeit both dying young.

Things not always as they seem….

The Atlanta Constitution, 11 Feb 1938, Pg 4

Except it seems they were brother and sister. They were both apparently married, just not to each other.

There was also some drama in the family. Dan received fatal injuries under uncertain circumstances while serving a 10-day sentence at the city prison farm, dying about a week later at Grady hospital.

His death certificate:

Another example

In the Roswell, Georgia, Green Lawn Cemetery, I have encountered several more examples among the 7000+ graves I have photographed. One recent example is with Mary Jo Lance (1938 – 1976) and her brother Bud Lance (1945-2020).

The first hint is that she was born seven years before he was. While this is not rare, especially among people who marry later in their lives, it is often a clue to look a bit deeper.

Another clue is that there are adjacent graves with the same last name of people about the right age to be parents. It is much more common for siblings to be buried together if near their parents. In this case, parents Marley (1909-1980) and Louise Lance (1912-1976) are right there with an identical style marker.

A quick search for their obituaries reveals their relationships. There are also those inevitably sad indicators of relationships that didn’t work out, such as the fact that Mary Jo has a son who is a “Jr” and no evidence that his father predeceased them.

What do we so with this?

First, we always work to be aware of our assumptions. “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”*

Next, find reliable sources of information. Realize that people’s lives are complicated and family structures are unique to every family. While some people do make arrangements that are honored, many people die with out such planning and their families make the decisions.

And perhaps most importantly, remember that graves are for the living. Parents who outlive their children are in grief and want a memorial for their children. The brother-sister bond usually transcends marriage bonds in many important ways. Especially to the parents.


Photo of Dan D. Camp (1909-1938) and Margaret Camp (1913-1951) grave marker was taken in 2014 by “Swangirl” – Traci Rylands of Adventures in Cemetery Hopping

* Quote is from the Oscar-winning 2015 film “The Big Short,” however the originator is unknown.

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