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Of Grave Concern: Transcription and Preservation of Grave Sites


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Of Grave Concern: Transcription and Preservation of Grave Sites

  1. 1. I am going to discuss with you several points about cemeteries. I will cover:         Basic methods for locating a cemetery Use of online databases to locate a cemetery Use of GPS to locate a cemetery and or a specific grave Do’s and don’ts for reading a weathered grave stone How photo editing software can assist in reading a grave stone How to use online databases for grave information • Searching for a specific person • Adding information to the database How to clean and maintain a grave stone How to repair simple grave stone issues
  2. 2. There are several methods for locating cemeteries, some of which are:  Local maps  Contacting local historical societies or centers  Contacting local funeral homes In places where the cemetery might be on private property or in disuse, one of the best methods for locating them is to talk to the locals. This is where they live and they are wells of information.
  3. 3. The internet is a great source of information in regards to cemeteries. You can search for them in many ways. Some basic ways are:  Google  
  4. 4. You can search for a cemetery just using Google or any other internet search engine. You can search using any number of combinations of criteria but I have found the following the most helpful:  Cemetery name and place (could be town, county, state or even country if you don’t have anything else)  Cemetery name and name of deceased  Name of deceased and any vital information you may have
  5. 5. is an online database for cemeteries, grave marker information and memorials. It was created in 1995 and has thousands of contributors each year adding additional information. It is in no way complete, but it is a good source for locating cemeteries.
  6. 6. While is similar to it is also very different. is a younger company which is trying to build it’s database using technology including GPS encoded images. They do not have as large of a database as but their use of new technology and their methods of data submission, I think, will make them a more useful database in the future.
  7. 7. The use of GPS is becoming more and more the norm when locating cemeteries and graves. If you have the coordinates and a GPS system you can usually find your way there. has the option for people to include the GPS coordinates for a cemetery or grave maker if they have them. In the database, all of the entries have GPS coordinates. also has an app that can be downloaded for free to several different types of phones and tablets so when you are traveling or even walking in the cemetery, you know where you are and where you are trying to get to. GPS tutorial:
  8. 8. Sometimes we come across a grave maker that has been damaged by the environment or by men and it is difficult to read. Over the years there have been many methods used to read these stones. Today, many of the methods we once used are considered hazardous to the grave stone itself.
  9. 9.    Flour: Even if the stone is carefully brushed some traces of flour will still remain on the stone. When that flour comes in contact with water it becomes tacky and traps moisture which can accelerate the deterioration of the stone. Shaving cream: the chemicals and greasy emollients in shaving cream are very difficult to remove from porous gravestones. The cream fills the pores of the stone and cannot all be removed even after vigorous scrubbing and several rinsing. In time this residue may damage or discolor the grave maker. Rubbings: While possibly the least harmful to the stone, rubbings wear down softer stones and can cause damage over time. Fragile stones can be broken or toppled by rubbings. Also sometimes wax is left behind after a rubbing, which is very hard to remove. Some cemeteries even display signs now that read “No Rubbings Allowed”
  10. 10.     Mirror: You can create shadows in the indentations of grave makers making them more readable by using a mirror to direct sunlight diagonally across the stone. Flashlight: In areas without direct sunlight, such as wooded lots, you can use a flashlight instead of a mirror. This will give you similar results. Digital camera: Take a photo, or several, with your digital camera. Using a photo editing software, manipulate the picture until the inscription is readable. Cleaner: Using a grave maker cleaner, such as D/2 Biological Solution, scrub into a lather using a soft bristle brush. Then fill the inscription with the cleaner’s lather to make the letters more readable. Remember to rinse stone completely afterwards.
  11. 11. Today you can take a picture of a grave maker with a digital camera and know right away if it is any good. But what if you take several of them and you still cannot make out the inscription? Photo editing software can help us with this problem. There are several different programs out there and each one has it’s pro’s and con’s. The following is a video put out by FamilyTree Magazine regarding how to use these programs.
  12. 12. Searching online for a specific grave marker is very similar to searching for a cemetery. You can easily uses the same methods. These can be:  or other search engine  
  13. 13. You can search for a grave marker just using Google or any other internet search engine. You can search using any number of combinations of criteria. The following are often successful (with these searches try including the words grave or tombstone along with the other information):  Person’s name and place of death (could be town, county, state or even country if you don’t have anything else)  Cemetery name and name of deceased  Name of deceased and any vital information you may have
  14. 14. Once you have found the grave marker you are looking for and have taken your photos or transcribed the inscription you can share that information with others. The internet is a great tool that allows for information to be shared quickly and over the whole world. The information you have gathered can be added to an online database to be shared with everyone. This can be done by adding your information into databases, such as FamilySearch or Ancestry. Other places to add your information would be the cemetery and grave marker databases.
  15. 15. Aside from gathering information from grave markers, you may also want to help the upkeep on your ancestors resting place. Cleaning a grave marker should not be done frequently since the scrubbing can wear on the stone. But when you do clean it, there are some methods to use. First of all, DON’T use:  Bleach  Acidic Cleaners  Power Washers  Wire Brushes, Metal Instruments, Abrasive Pads These might give you clean and bright looking grave markers today, but they are very harmful for the longterm health of the gravestone.