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History General

Old Canadian Cemeteries

Places of Memory

by (author) Jane Irwin

photographs by John Visser

Firefly Books
Initial publish date
Oct 2007
General, General, Death & Dying
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2007
    List Price

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Canada abounds in historical burial places. Once you begin noticing their presence, old cemeteries seem to be everywhere. But these important links to the past are in danger of disappearing forever. The expansion of cities and roadways reclaim valuable land, and inscriptions are worn away by weather and time. Older cemeteries may be important records of immigration, settlement, armed forces, epidemics, class and religious schisms, and upward mobility of ethnic groups.

In Old Canadian Cemeteries, Jane Irwin invites the reader on a visual tour of historic cemeteries across Canada, examining such diverse topics as:

  • Burial traditions, including customs from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Ukranian, Quaker, Pioneer, Acadian, Chinese, Japanese, Inuit, First Nations and African-American cemeteries
  • War memorials
  • Graveyard symbols and motifs, and their meanings
  • Materials used in cemeteries-stone, wood, bronze and cast iron
  • Historic graveyard conservation.

Old Canadian Cemeteries is a must for anyone interested in Canadian history.


About the authors

by Jane Irwin, photographs by John de Visser, R.C.A.

Jane Irwin's profile page

John de Visser, R.C.A. and the Grand River Conservation Foundation

John Visser's profile page

Editorial Reviews

A deeply moving and treasured experience.... Irwin's admirable approach reveals historical and cultural sensitivity, plus an uncompromising dedication to human scale and human values.

On the Arts (Toronto)

Presents a coast-to-coast tour of Canada's most striking and historical burial grounds. Jane Irwin ... is articulate and passionate in recounting the stories that underlie these haunting photos.

The Ottawa Citizen

This big book shows the variety of monuments, describes the evolution of traditions and portrays the symbols and motifs of Canadian cemeteries in 250 colour photographs and erudite text.

The Beaver

Old Canadian Cemeteries is a must for anyone interested in Canadian history.

Heritage Matters, vol. 6, no. 1

The book, which again benefits from John De Visser's brilliant photographic eye, is a definite must for all who love the exploration and the celebration of this almost forgotten part of our Canadian heritage.

Edifice Old Home Magazine

A comprehensive, beautifully illustrated survey of Canada's historical burial places.

Built Heritage News

[reviewed with Canadian Churches] This hefty coffee-table book is far more than a trip down a well-trod memory lane.... This is surely the last general interest Canadian book that will need to be written on such matters for years to come.... Irwin has done a masterful job of retelling Canadian graveyard history; and she has given us an outstanding compendium on topics -- literally, the last things we must think about -- that have long delighted and intrigued her.

The Globe and Mail

Every genealogist's dream book.

Muskoka Today

Packed with hundreds of photographs accompanied by an intelligent text.

The Sun Times (Owen Sound, ON)

The book provides a thought-provoking examination of some of this country's oldest public spaces.

The Vancouver Sun

There is a serenity to this book.... It is the ultimate tribute to those who have gone before us, a wonderful book of remembrance.

Shelf Life

Irwin looks at the historical context of both small rural and large urgan graveyards. The book is illustrated with stunning photos.

Have you ever walked into a graveyard and been fascinated by the dates and inscriptions on some of the stones? If you have, this is the book for you.... Stunning pictures ... Angels, sleeping lions, lambs, skulls, ornamented mausoleums -- all make for all magnificent viewing.

Alberta History

Spectacular ... Offers a fascinating look at some of the most exquisite architecture and compelling history of our nation. Whether to marvel at the breathtaking photographs or to delight in our nation's diversity, you'll be drawn to the book again and again.

Westwords, (Westminster United Newsletter, Waterloo, ON)

Rich with history and information... With beautiful photographs by Paul G. Hoffman, this fascinating book captures many important faith and cultural traditions before we lose them.

The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)

The pages of this book depict places of memory, reflection and beauty -- and the result is a fascinating excursion into history that is at once very personal and shared.

Arts Forum no. 15

Cemeteries are important vessels of our history, as Irwin and de Visser ably demonstrate.

The National Post

[reviewed with Canadian Churches] It is de Visser's images that really make both books sparkle, with his heavenly sense for new angles and shafts of light. For their part, the authors of both books manage to keep up with de Visser's brilliance, covering their respective topics with impressive passion. ... The book works brilliantly as a reference.

Quill and Quire

Other titles by John Visser