Putting markers on unmarked graves has been important to me for a long time. One of my proudest moments, as a researcher, was finding my infant aunt's plot and working with my family to put a marker there (read about that here). The thought of being able to provide identity to someone else is an awesome thing. That being said, markers are expensive and if you're trying to get something done for a great-great grandparent (or another member of the family) it can be hard to spend $500-$1000 a pop for a headstone. So, that's the problem. Here's the solution:
A fellow researcher has been spending her summer spraying headstones in her families cemeteries with a chemical mix that will help preserve the stones. This mix kills algae, mold, moss, and other materials that grow on headstones and often cover up crucial information. This has become a cause she feels very strongly about. This summer project has led to another project: creating her own headstones. She had a cousin (a mutual cousin, as it turns out) come to town and they visited some cemeteries to see the plots that their common ancestors were buried in. It bothered her that many of them either had no marker or had very damaged markers. In an attempt to find a solution, and to preserve this family information for the next generation, she began looking at what it would take to make her own headstones.
My fellow researcher stumbled across the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project (you can read about it here) and decided that this is the kind of project she wanted to undertake to put on the graves of family members with missing markers (or damaged markers that won't stand the test of time much longer). Upon further discussion (and the realization that we can definitely make our own molds for these markers), it was decided that it would be awesome to put an ancestor's picture in the headstone itself.
It's not uncommon to see headstones with pictures in them (I know one family who showed their grandfather pictures of his grandparents taken from their headstones - he hadn't seen their faces since they died and thought he'd never see them again). What a gift to give to other researchers - not only a name and dates, but also a face! When she began reaching out to other companies she encountered two problems 1) the price of picture tiles was very expensive 2) many of the picture tiles were not meant to be outside and their images would badly fade. Then, she reached out to a Canadian company called Paris Group Incorporated (you can check out their website here).
She explained her project (making her own headstones and the desire to use ancestral photos in the headstones) to Eric Partanen, her company contact. He said that the company loved her plans to put markers on the graves of people who don't have them and that they'd be willing to work with researchers who were trying to do the same thing. Contact Eric today for help with your DIY headstone picture tile project! Eric's picture tiles are approved for out-door use and are guaranteed by the company for 100 years. Y'all, that's something that I'd love to work with and this is a company that I will work with. I encourage you do to the same. Put markers on those unmarked graves, and if you have a picture put that there too.