We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Are Grave Rubbings?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
InfoBloom is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At InfoBloom, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A grave rubbing is an impression of a headstone made by rubbing a soft pencil or charcoal across a clean sheet of paper taped to the headstone. When done well, grave rubbings can capture an immense amount of detail from the headstone, and they can be an interesting way to record genealogy, history, and particularly interesting headstones.

You may also hear grave rubbings referred to as tombstone rubbings or headstone rubbings. Given the abundance of beautiful and ornate headstones in the world, many grave rubbings are works of art in their own right, beyond their historical interest.

To make grave rubbings, people first gently brush down the headstone of interest with a soft, natural fiber brush to remove debris and grime. Next, they attach a piece of paper to the headstone with masking tape, painter's tape, or another type of tape with a very mild adhesive which will leave no residue. As a general rule, the paper is larger than the headstone, ensuring that all the detail is captured. Then, pastels, charcoals, soft pencils, or chalk can be gently run across the headstone, starting in the middle, to capture the design.

After a grave rubbing is complete, the paper is removed and often sprayed with a fixative to prevent the design from smearing. Most people also like to make notes about the headstone the rubbing is from, including details about the cemetery it is in and the date. The finished rubbing can be displayed as a work of art or kept in storage, depending on personal taste.

There are some cautions to keep in mind when making grave rubbings. It is extremely important to avoid using techniques which could damage the stones, which means that no coarse wire brushes or solvents should be used in cleaning. Grave rubbings should also only be performed on stones in good condition: if a stone is soft and crumbling or it sounds hollow when tapped, it may be damaged by even a gentle rubbing, so it should be avoided.

While making grave rubbings can be very enjoyable, it is also important to remember that one is in a cemetery. Some cemeteries explicitly forbid the practice of making rubbings, due to concern about damage, so cemetery officials should be asked before taking rubbings. It is also a good idea to photograph stones to document their condition before and after rubbings, and as a courtesy, many people trim or remove weeds from graves to tidy them up, as a way of thanking the occupant.

InfoBloom is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon50696 — On Oct 30, 2009

chinese rice flour is an extremely fine powder (like gun powder, only white and lighter in texture). Gently sprinkle it on the indentation and gently shake the extra off (not rub or brush). what you are searching for should appear. The flour can then just be brushed off.

By anon20207 — On Oct 27, 2008

Eight years ago, I wrote a check (#94) for a considerable amount of money. The bank indicated that they have no record of this check since the timeframe is too long >7 years. The checkbook did not have a carbon copy, however I have the next check in the checkbook, #95. Examination with strong side lighting shows a very slight indentation, however I cannot read what was written. I am reluctant to rub a pencil across the surface (as is done with grave rubbings) because I may destroy the evidence. Does anyone have a suggestion regarding the best way to read the indentation?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
InfoBloom, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

InfoBloom, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.