Published July 24, 2017

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Many Pennsylvania German tombstones are works of art as well as practical sources of information. 

The symbolism often found engraved on tombstones – as well as their symbolic value as perhaps the closest “representation” of an ancestor before photography – has long endeared genealogists to the markers and graveyards.
So it’s fitting that the upcoming “Genealogy Conference 2017” sponsored by Kutztown University’s Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center has as its theme “Sacred Landscapes in Lancaster County” and will include presentations on tombstones, architecture, the Ephrata Cloister and German-language Bibles.
The conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 9 in the university’s Academic Forum. A “Sacred Landscapes” bus tour will be held on Sept.8 and is open only to those who also register for the conference.
The bus tour will leave from Kutztown and visit the Cocalico and Brubaker valleys in northeastern Lancaster County with tombstone expert Michael Emery. Included in the day will be a stop at the Muddy Creek Farm Library and Museum, which is rich with Anabaptist materials.
Other stops for the bus tour will include Swamp Union Church and Cemetery, Muddy Creek Lutheran Church Cemetery and Emanuel Lutheran Church and Cemetery.
Saturday’s conference will feature four speakers:
• Architectural historian Jerry Clouse will present “Meetinghouse Architecture in Pennsylvania.”
• Emery, who is an educator at the Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster County, will talk on “Pennsylvania German Gravestones.”
• Michael Showalter’s lecture will be titled “Ephrata Cloister: Celibacy, Genealogy and Legacy.” Showalter is a museum educator at the cloister.
• The heritage center’s director, Patrick J. Donmoyer, will anchor the day by speaking on “The German Bible in America.”
The conference will also include a number of vendors displaying and selling materials relating to Pennsylvania German history, culture and genealogy. It’s the seventh biennial conference to be sponsored by the heritage center, having been previously coordinated by the center’s longtime librarian, Lucy Kern. This year’s conference represents somewhat of a “changing of the guard” with Donmoyer now coordinating it with help from Kern.
The conference and bus tour each cost $60 ($55 for members of the heritage center). Lunch is included each day (lunch for the tour is choice of boxed lunch while the conference lunch is a buffet).
For more information on registering, see the center’s website at the URL, or write to Heritage Center, Attn: Genealogy Conference, 22 Luckenbill Road, Kutztown, PA 19530