Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Willard Davis

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My fourth great grandfather, Willard Davis, is buried in Baldwin Cemetery in Baldwin, St. Croix Co., Wisconsin.  He was born in Franklin County, Vermont, and moved to Baldwin around the time of the Civil War

Ashes to Ashes
One thing that this inscription illustrates is the persistent use of Latin.  Although the use of Latin is more strongly associated with Catholicism, the language remained a mark of learning among English-speaking protestants.  The motto for the oldest university in the United States is the Latin phrase Veritas "Truth".  Latin is especially common in abbreviations.  Even, today, abbreviations like etc. are common.  So, if you can't figure out what an abbreviation is, consider the possibility that it might be an abbreviation of a Latin word.  In this inscription, we find the abbreviation Æ. for Latin Aetatis, meaning "of the age (of)". Of course, you can probably guess the meaning from the context.  The word aetatis may also be abbreviated as Æt. or Ætat. as it is on the tombstone of Ruth (Denison) Kingsbury (here).  Also, notice how the A and E are written as a single character.  This letter is called "ash" and was originally used in English to represent the vowel in ash.  It still has this use in phonetic transcriptions, like ash [æʃ].  This letter was also commonly used to represent the Latin combination "ae" even though this combination doesn't have the same sound.     

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