I read this forum all the time, though I rarely contribute, but this seemed like a perfect place to start my questions - The historical knowledge in this forum is usually unbelievable.
My father passed away last week after a 2 year struggle with lung cancer. Months ago, as it became clear that we were nearing the end, my mother asked me about possibly designing a custom headstone for the burial plot. She has always been one for bucking tradition - or at least avoiding the default options that one is presented with - and the idea of designing a grave marker is not only a wonderfully special way to celebrate my father's life (and ultimately my mother's as she will share the same plot) but will be a memorial that my (as of yet unborn :D) children, their children, etc... will be able to view.
I went on a "research" trip to our local cemetery to see the different colors of stone, the design elements that people generally choose and the sort of type commonly used. I found that the vast majority of the recent graves (within the last 50 to 80 years) tend to have very similar serifed type. Going to older sections of the cemetery however I found that blocky sans or slab serifs were much more common. Unfortunately I am down at my parent's house right now and I don't have the photographic samples with me. Regardless, I've always been a fan of gothic lettering (Trade, Gotham, Ziggeurat, etc...) and the idea of doing something that was beautiful and also different from the majority of modern headstones was very appealing.
So my question is, does anyone have any interesting historical tidbits on letterforms that have been traditional used for gravestones? Typefaces based those designs? Suggestions for sans serif type that might be appropriate? My father had an Irish heritage if that throws any other layer of interest in there.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions,