Cemetery research can be an extremely useful tool used for understanding the lives of our ancestors. One of my museum projects is to update a database of war veterans who lived in Atikokan. Previously, a preliminary Excel spreadsheet was created through obituary and newspaper research, but it was inconclusive. Recently, during our spare time Adam and I walked through the two town cemeteries: Little Falls and Atikokan Cemetery, looking for veterans' final resting places. Some gravestones proudly boasted information, like the war they fought in, their rank and unit. Others were more non-descript. Unless you know about military and cemetery symbols it is easy to miss important information. Luckily for me, my fiancé Adam has his PhD in Canadian Military history, and offered helpful insights into this type of research. I thought that I would create a post of helpful tips for researchers wishing to research war veterans through this avenue.
The Cross of Sacrifice
Many Canadian veterans' grave markers have a mixed Latin/Celtic Cross, referred to as the Cross of Sacrifice. This cross is a commonwealth war symbol created by the Imperial War Graves Commission in 1918. Typically, when a cemetery has more than forty veteran graves, a large Cross of Sacrifice memorial is seen. This however, is not always the case.
Emblems of Belief
While walking in the cemetery you may come across an individual who fought for the United States. Their graves are marked with emblems of belief that have been approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These symbols "represent the sincerely held belief of the decedent that constituted a religion or the functional equivalent of religion and was believed and/or accepted as true by that individual during his or her life."  This particular picture shows a cross surrounded by a circle, a symbol used until the 1980s. It has since been replaced by a different cross.
A comprehensive list of emblems of belief can be viewed here.
Some other useful tips:
Click here to view the database that Adam and I created on behalf of the Atikokan Museum that lists information about Atikokan's war veterans. Any blank spaces means that information was not available. This list is not conclusive, as it was only conducted by cemetery and obituary research; however, it is a good starting point for future researchers.
 J.L. Granatstein and Dean Oliver. The Oxford Companion to Canadian Military History (Oxford University Press, 2011), 120.
 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. National Cemetery Administration: Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers http://www.cem.va.gov/hmm/emblems.asp (accessed September 19, 2016)
 DC by Foot. Guide to Symbols and Emblems of Arlington National Cemetery Headstones http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/guide-symbols-emblems-arlington-national-cemetery-headstones/ (accessed September 19, 2016)