Contact me: Laurel Mellien

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.

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.

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.

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:

NEW!  Cemetery Road Trip

In 2018 I crossed a milestone, I have visited 1,000 located in the Midwest, and this program presents my best finds. I will take the audience to burial sites of U.S. Presidents and Native American chiefs. Special cemeteries are also included in the program for example, Showman's Rest in Forest Park and the National Hobo Cemetery in Iowa. The stained glass windows in Chicago's community mausoleums and the mosaics inside of Bishop's Mausoleum in Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Hillside are breathtaking. I will also entertain the group with an array of the most unique and amusing headstones that I have encountered during my travels.

The Art of Civil War Commemoration

The program discusses the origins and meanings of the symbols found on both monuments commemorating the Civil War as well as headstones of it's soldiers. GAR commemorative stained glass windows found in the Midwest are included. The program also presents the history of the government issued military headstones.

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.  

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


Previous Engagements:


Huntley Area Public Library (three times)

Lake Villa Library (three times)

Harvard-Diggins Library (4 times)

Ela Area Public Library(twice)

Sycamore Public Library (twice)

Geneva Library Foundation (twice)

Fox Lake Library

Fox Valley/Dundee Library

Nippersink Library

McHenry Library (twice)

Algonquin Library

Crete Public Library

Burlington Public Library

Marengo Public Library (twice)

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 (twice)

Palatine Public Library (twice)

Cary Public Library

Skokie Public Library

Vernon Area Public Library

Helen Plum Library

Zion Benton Public Library

Historical Societies:

Arlington Heights Historical Scociety

Crystal Lake Historical Society

Huntley Historical Society

Island Lake Historical Society

Lake Villa Historical Society

Wauconda Township Historical Society

Bloomingdale Historical Society

Association for Gravestone Studies:

2014 National Conference

Illinois Chapter meeting

Indiana Chapter meeting

Del Webb, Sun City, Huntley:

Life Long Learning (4 times)

History Club

Genealogy Club

DAR Chapters:

Kishwaukee Trail Chapter (twice)

Signal Hill Chapter (twice)

Ansel Brainard Cook Chapter

Anan Harmon Chapter

Aurora Chapter

Fort Payne 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

Genealogical Societies

Burlington Genealogical Society

Kenosha County Genealogical Society

McHenry County Illinois Genealogical Society (twice)

Rock Island County Illinois Genealogical Society

Crystal Lake Centennial Speakers Series

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

Daughter's of the Union, John Butler Chapter

Main Street Orion

American Association of University Women, Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake Park District/ Lunch and Learn

The Gathering Lighthouse, Lombard

Crystal Lake Book Club

Fox Point Manor Retirement Home

Red Hatters of Aurora

Boy Scout Troop #15 Grace Lutheran Church, Streamwood

Main Street Orion, Illinois

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.

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. 

Upcoming Engagements:

March 2, 2018    1:00

Glenview Public Library

Glenview, IL

program: The Celtic Crosses of Chicago

March 8, 2018    7:00

McHenry Public Library

McHenry, IL

program:The Celtic Crosses of Chicago

March 15, 2018     1:00

Lake Villa Library

Lake Villa, IL

program: The Celtic Crosses of Chicago

March 19, 2018    10:00

Kishwaukee Trail DAR Chapter

program: Cemetery Art Symbolism

May 23, 2018    7:00

Bensenville Library

Bensenville, IL

program: Cemetery Art Symbolism

June 18, 2018     7:00

LaGrange Public Library

LaGrange, IL

program: Cemetery Road Trip

June 20, 2018

McHenry County Retired Teachers Association

D. Andrea's Conference and  Conference Center

Crystal Lake, IL

program: Tales of the Interred

May 14, 2019    10:00

Ruth Circle

Glenview United Methodist Church

Glenview, IL

program: The Celtic Crosses of Chicago

July 13, 2017     7:00