Demography of the Individuals

Demographics such as age, sex, ancestry, placement within the tomb, length of life, and relative worth can be analyzed to identify trends in the group of individuals entombed in Central Florida cemeteries.[1] Below illustrates the ages, sex, and decade of death for the 151 decedents.[2] Thirty-four other individuals were identified on the tombs via pre-need etching of their inscriptions, but since they are still living they were not included in the analysis.


Cultures and religions traditionally have their own burial rituals. In order to determine the ancestry of the decedents, historical records such as the United States federal decennial census, Florida state census, and Florida death records were used to identify each individual. Five of the 151 decedents (3.31%) were African American—four entombed at Page Jackson Cemetery in Sanford and one at Woodlawn Cemetery in Gotha. Aboveground tombs for African Americans are unusual in Central Florida. African American cemeteries in the survey area boast many concrete vaults buried at various depths. Most bear the same pattern of wreaths on the ends, bunting on the sides, and a swirled surface imitating water. A number of these vaults were originally painted silver to enhance the symbolized water and flecks of paint are still visible on some. The water symbolism is a West African tradition said to emulate the bottom of a river.[3] The concrete vaults were excluded from this project, as the caskets are not aboveground. Page Jackson is an African American cemetery, and the three aboveground tombs, containing a total of four individuals, are unique within the large cemetery.

Religion also plays a part in the choice of interment style. Catholics, Protestants, and Reform congregations of Judaism allow entombment while the Orthodox Jewish do not.[4] Orthodox Jews practice inhumation with plain caskets and no vaults so that the body is returned to the earth quickly.[5] All Souls Catholic Cemetery in Sanford has four single mausoleums, and All Faiths contains many different religions (hence the name), including Jewish and Kabbalah mausoleums.

Religiosity can be identified in the motifs included on the mausoleums for this project. Symbolism included in the religious category includes angels, the Bible, crosses, doves, the Kabbalah Tree of Life, praying hands, the Star of David, and statues of Jesus and St. Jude. Studies of religious symbolism in cemeteries indicate that use decreased steadily after the Civil War, reaching the lowest point in the 1930s and 1940s.[6] Zelinsky’s study showed that use of religious symbols gradually increased beginning in the 1950s—as also reflected in Figure 19—but use has not reached pre-Civil War levels. There are religiously-based funerals, and many obituaries indicate a religious belief; however, much of the symbolism in cemeteries does not reflect any religiosity.  Only 22.5% of the symbols on the mausoleums are religious based. The period of the present study (1905-2008) coincides with Hijiya’s “modern plain style,” and he suggests that during the late nineteenth-century, mankind lost its faith in heaven, which affected the symbolism represented in cemeteries.[7]


Double-crypt mausoleums with male/female pairs (n=45) were analyzed to determine if there was a pattern to which crypt was filled first and where the males and females were placed. The first entombment was twice as often on the left side of the mausoleum. Males were predominately on the left, though not exclusively, which implies that they died first more often. There is no standard for which crypt is filled first nor which direction the body faces. The family of the deceased makes decisions such as these. Unless there is visible evidence, such as the placement of the inscriptions, this type of data is not recorded.[8]

In only twelve instances were women placed on the left. Of these women, there were four tombs separated into two pairs in which a woman was the first entombment in each pair and she was placed on the left. The second woman (of each pair of mausoleums) outlived both her own husband and the husband of the woman in the first tomb, yet she was placed on the left, like the initial woman. Perhaps they followed the visual pattern, since the mausoleums were paired or the families were related in some manner and it was their tradition.


United States federal decennial census and Florida state census records were used in conjunction with contemporary property tax records to determine median property values for the families in this survey.[9]  Fifty-five families were located in historic records. The median home value was $6,000 for the sixteen families owning property at the time of the 1930 U.S. census.[10]  Using nominal Gross Domestic Product per capita calculations, the $6,000 figure equates to $380,222 in 2008 dollars.[11] For the thirty-nine families found in contemporary property tax records, the median home value was $320,710. These figures equate to the economic status of the families and are equivalent between 1930 and 2008.

Salaries for occupations change over time. What was once a high-paying job may now not be. Some occupations of the heads of household listed on early census records include owners of service stations, jewelry stores, office supply stores, and barber shops, government workers, bankers, doctors, real estate brokers, watch makers, merchants, and farmers. There were also graduates of college, business school, and the Naval Academy. Most families using private mausoleums were affluent within their communities, as shown by their occupations and the median home values.

Though the families purchasing private mausoleums were affluent, the tombs are less elaborate than those found in other parts of the country. One of the possible explanations for the creation of architecturally simple tombs is the lack of prosperity of the overall communities. The South has the lowest median household income in the country, and it has consistently been that way.[12] Grandiose tombs would look out of place in the small community cemeteries of the area. Of the seventy cemeteries in Central Florida, only one is located within an affluent city—Palm Cemetery in Winter Park. This is also the cemetery that boasts twenty-seven mausoleums, the most of any in the area.


The median age for all entombments was seventy-seven years. Figure 21 shows the number of individuals by their decade of age at death. The range of ages runs from 0 (a stillborn infant) to a woman of 102 years. Only four children are in tombs; the stillborn infant is by herself and the other three are in a single family.[13] The next youngest in age is nineteen years. Overall, 83.44% of the 151 deceased individuals were over the age of 60 when they passed on. This percentage is higher than the overall cemetery population. For example, a sample of 1,868 burials at Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando has only 49.5% above age sixty and the median age is sixty years old.[14]

An analysis was made of the life expectancy for the surveyed population to see if those using tombs lived longer on average. Using life tables published by the United States government, the number of years above or below life expectancy was calculated for each individual.[15] For all entombments in Central Florida, the average individual lived 10.91 years longer than his or her life expectancy. If the four children were removed from the total, the average rises to 12.92 years above life expectancy.

The segment of the population using mausoleums was employed in non-laborer occupations, which made them more financially secure. This security allowed them to afford better food and health care, increasing their longevity.

[1] For a detailed discussion on data analysis, see Harold Mytum, Recording and Analysing Graveyards (Bootham, York, UK: Council for British Archaeology, 2000).

[2] The unknown entombment in Oakland Cemetery, Oakland, Orange County, is excluded from the demographic analysis.

[3] M. Ruth Little, Sticks & Stones: Three Centuries of North Carolina Gravemarkers (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1998): 250.

[4] Sledge, Cities of Silence, 85.

[5] Kodo Matsunami, International Handbook of Funeral Customs (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998), xxi.

[6] Wilbur Zelinsky, “The Gravestone Index: Tracking Personal Religiosity Across Nations, Regions, and Periods,” The Geographical Review 97(4):441–466.

[7] James A. Hijiya, “American Gravestones and Attitudes Towards Death: A Brief History,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 127(5):357.

[8] Personal communication with Donald Price, April 23, 2009.

[9] Census records accessed via subscription site. Property values obtained from the Orange County Property Appraiser Office ( and the Seminole County Property Appraiser Office (

[10] Two of the questions on the 1930 U.S. census asked whether the home was rented or owned and its property value. (

[11] “Six Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount 1774 to Present.” Online at

[12] Consumer Income Reports for 1947 through 2007 are available online through the U.S. Census Bureau at

U.S. Census Bureau, Money Income of Households, Families and Persons in the United States: 1980, Current Population Reports, P60-132 (Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982): 3.

U.S. Census Bureau, Money Income of Households, Families and Persons in the United States: 1990,Current Population Reports, P60-174 (Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991): 3.

U.S. Census Bureau, Money Income in the United States: 2000, Current Population Reports, P60-213, (Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001): 2.

[13] Wilmott mausoleum, Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Orange County, section M.

[14] This small sample from Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Orange County, contains 2,053 individuals with age information interred between 1870 and 1998. The 185 stillbirths in the sample were not included in the calculations for median and overall percentage.

[15] Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, United States Life Tables 1890, 1901, 1910 and 1901-1910, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1912.

Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, United States Abridged Life Tables 1919-1920, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1923.

US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, United States Life Tables 1929-1931, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1936.

Federal Security Agency United States Public Health Service, United States Life Tables and Actuarial Tables 1939-1941, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1947.

US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Life Tables for 1949-1951, Washington, DC: National Office of Vital Statistics, 1954.

US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Life Tables for 1959-1961, Washington, DC: National Office of Vital Statistics, 1964.

National Center for Health Statistics, United States Life Tables 1969-1971, Washington, DC: US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1975.

National Center for Health Statistics, US Decennial Life Tables for 1979-1981, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1985.

National Center for Health Statistics, US Decennial Life Tables for 1989-1991, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1997.

National Vital Statistics Reports, US Decennial Life Tables for 1999-2001, Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, 2008.