Upcoming Engagements:

February 4, 2017     1:00

Book Signing

Harvard-Diggins Library

Harvard, IL

February 9, 2017

McHenry County Illinois Genealogical Society

Point Outreach Center

Crystal Lake, IL

program: McHenry County's Tales of the Interred

February 11, 2017     11:00

Book Signing

Woodstock Public Library

Woodstock, IL

February 12, 2017     1:00

Vernon Area Public Library

Lincolnshire, IL

program: Cemetery Art Symbolism

February 19, 2017     2:00

Bloomingdale Historical Society

Bloomingdale Library

Bloomingdale, IL

program: Cemetery Art Symbolism

February 25, 2017     2:00

Book Signing

Crystal Lake Public Library

Crystal Lake, IL

March 16, 2017     7:00

Geneva Public Library

Geneva, IL

program: The Celtic Crosses of Chicago

July 13, 2017     7:00

Bensenville Public Library

Bensenville, IL

program: The Art of Civil War Commemoration

September 22, 2017

Lunch and Learn

Crystal Lake Park District

Colonel Palmer House

Crystal Lake, IL

program: McHenry County's Tales of the Interred

October 20, 2017

Life Long Learning

Del Webb/Sun City

Huntley, IL

program: McHenry County's Tales of the Interred

October 26, 2017     7:00

Palatine Area Public Library

Palatine, IL

program: Headstone Ceramic Photo Memorials

McHenry County's Tales of the Interred

The truth is stranger than fiction when local history is discovered among the headstones. Spine tingling true stories will be revealed from the pages of local history books and from the microfilm of area newspapers. This is the companion program to my newly published book, History and Stories of the McHenry County Cemeteries.

The Art of Civil War Commemoration

The program discusses the origins and symbolic meanings of the icons found on both monuments commemorating the Civil War as well as headstones of it's soldiers. The presentation also includes the history of the government issued military headstones.

Laurel Mellien is dedicated to the research of cemetery art symbolism. With a concentration on the Victorian Era, Mellien will guide your group through the headstones. The programs uncover the hidden symbolism of these open air art museums and explains the history of the people laid to rest.

Laurel Mellien holds a position on the Board of Directors of the Crystal Lake Historical Society. Mellien has presented programs for libraries, historical societies, genealogical organizations, DAR Chapters, and Questers groups.

Contact me: headstonesandhistory@gmail.com

Previous Engagements:


Huntley Area Public Library (twice)

Lake Villa Library (three times)

Harvard-Diggins Library (three times)

Ela Area Public Library(twice)

Sycamore Public Library

Geneva Library Foundation

Fox Lake Library

Fox Valley/Dundee Library

Nippersink Library

McHenry Library

Algonquin Library

Crete Public Library

Burlington Public Library

Marengo Public Library

Riverside Public Library

LaGrange Area Public Library

Woodstock Public Library

Crystal Lake Public Library

Park Forest Public Library

Aurora Public Library

Fremont Public Library

Bartlett Area Public Library

Mount Prospect Public Library

Niles Public Library

Bensenville Community Public Library

Palatine Public Library

Cary Public Library

Skokie Public Library

Historical Societies:

Crystal Lake Historical Society

Huntley Historical Society

Island Lake Historical Society

Lake Villa Historical Society

Wauconda Township Historical Society

Association for Gravestone Studies:

2014 National Conference

Illinois Chapter meeting

Indiana Chapter meeting

Del Webb, Sun City, Huntley:

Life Long Learning (3 times)

History Club

Genealogy Club

DAR Chapters:

Kishwaukee Trail Chapter (twice)

Signal Hill Chapter (twice)

Ansel Brainard Cook Chapter

Anan Harmon Chapter

Aurora Chapter


Polly Crandall  Questers (three times)

Leona Farms Questers (twice)

Clarinda Cady Questers

Spring Rock Questers

Joyful Seekers Questers (twice)

Ginger Creek Questers

Salt Creek Questers

Market Square Questers

Four Silos Questers

Garden Clubs

Wedgewood Garden Club (three times)

McHenry Garden Club

Countryside Garden Club

Crystal Lake Centennial Speakers Series

Dames and Courts of Honor/Daughter's of Indian Wars (twice)

Daughter's of the Union, John Butler Chapter

Kenosha County Genealogical Society

McHenry County Illinois Genealogical Society

Rock Island County Illinois Genealogical Society

Burlington Genealogical Society

Main Street Orion, Illinois

American Association of University Women, Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake Park District/Lunch and Learn

The Gathering Lighthouse

Crystal Lake Book Club

Fox Point Manor Retirement Home

Red Hatters of Aurora

Boy Scout Troop #15, Grace Lutheran Church, Streamwood

The Huntley Cemeteries

Tour the cemeteries of Huntley, IL while delving into the symbolic art placed on the headstones. This program was originally created for the Huntley Historical Society's dinner/fundraiser held Oct. 2011 in the Defiore-Jorgensen Funeral Home. This program has also been presented at the Huntley Area Public Library and Del Webb, Huntley.

Union Cemetery

The program is a virtual cemetery walk through the symbolic art displayed on the headstones in Union Cemetery, Crystal Lake, IL. This program was originally created for presentation at the Crystal Lake Historical Society's Annual Meeting held Feb. 2012. The program will also be presented as part of the Crystal Lake Centennial Speaker Series Sept. 2014.

Pushing Up Daisies

Perfect for Garden Clubs. The program reviews the history of the American Rural Cemetery Movement. Special purpose gardens in cemeteries are explored along with container gardening and grave plot plantings. Victorian flower symbolism on headstones will be presented. A short version of this program can be viewed on this You Tube link.

The Celtic Crosses of Chicago

The program tours cemeteries in the Chicago area that contain Celtic Cross headstones. The presentation delves into the history of the High Crosses in Ireland that the Chicago area headstones are modeled after. The meanings of the Celtic Cross sections are explained, and Christian icons as well as Pagan and Irish symbols are decoded.

Cemetery Art Symbolism

The program focuses on the rich symbolism displayed in cemeteries of the Victorian Era. Headstone art during this time period was carefully chosen by family members to properly represent the deceased. Many clues about the lives of the dearly departed can be discovered by learning the language of cemetery art symbolism.  

My newly published book:

History and Stories of the McHenry County Cemeteries

Take a journey through the cemeteries and burial grounds of McHenry County, Illinois. Explore the history of ninety-eight cemeteries located within the county. Discover evidence contained in history books of the Native American burial grounds that once existed. Stories of the early residents published in the local newspapers present spine-tingling tales of accidents, suicide, and murder. The book is an engaging source for anyone visiting the cemeteries or delving into the history of McHenry County. 

Tree-Stump Tombstone Symbolism in the Midwest

The program covers the history of the tree-stump headstones and the wide range of symbolism carved into their trunks and branches. Occupations of the deceased as well membership in fraternal organizations are represented on the tree-stump stones. The history of the Woodsmen organizations who encouraged their members to select these rustic memorials will be discussed. The program was presented at the Association for Gravestone Studies 2014 National Conference.

Headstones and History


The Power Point Programs are approximately 40 minutes in length followed by Q and A. All equipment necessary to present the programs will be provided. Price for the presentation is determined by the amount of miles traveled to the venue.

Contact me: Laurel Mellien headstonesandhistory@gmail.com


Headstone Ceramic Photograph Memorials

The program presents the history of the photographic memorials placed on headstones and the significance of their use by varying religious groups and nationalities. Please enjoy the You Tube video showcasing my collection of these memorials picturing brides dressed in period wedding veils.

Contact me: Laurel Mellien headstonesandhistory@gmail.com