Sunday, September 4, 2011

So you want to visit a cemetery: A guide for genealogists

First post-vacation blog entry! woo hoo! Well not exactly post... Using airport wifi and only have less than an hour to type this. so. here we go.

As you may or may not know I've been on an epic genealogical... thing. And I've discovered some things I'd like to share with anyone out there that would like to do the cemetery thing as well.

I had a list of cemeteries I wanted to visit to take pictures of my long gone relatives. I had ideas of where said cemeteries were located. For one person I even had a block number and location of the grave. I made some mistakes but hey, thats why I'm telling you.  That way you can avoid them.

Before you visit:
-Make a list of the people and cemeteries. Find a Grave is brilliant for this.
-Know where the cemeteries are located. Entrances, parking etc.
-Know the general size of the cemetery. The one I went to... phew. I knew it was big
-Dress appropriately- flip flops don't work out the best. even in summer. Bug spray isn't a bad idea either.
-Check the weather... (duh)
-I suggest a brand spanking new memory card. Separates from any other photos. Also, you most likely won't run out of room. (I had an 8 gig and it holds over 2000 pictures)
-If possible, find out as much as possible about the cemetery. Who takes care of it, if there are records etc.

While you're there:
-Take lots of pictures. But not just of the headstones. In an earlier post I mentioned using the crime scene photo technique. That is to take overall shots, and shots as you gradually approach the headstone. That way if you want to go back, you know where the hell you are. If visiting a lot of cemeteries in one vacation/ day/ short period of time, I advise you to take a photo of a sign and or church first, then take the headstone shots. that way you won't get confused trying to figure out which picture goes to what cemetery.
-Don't be afraid to take too many pictures. You have the new memory card. fill er up.
-Take multiple pictures of the same thing. One might be blurry and you may not realize it until you get home. The horror!
-If you see a familiar surname, but do not recognize the first name, take a photo anyway. It might work out that you are related to them too. Better to get them all at once than have to go back. Also, if they're not related you can just delete the pictures. No harm done.
-Be prepared! Don't be surprised to see a cemetery that is not taken care of. Look out for snakes, fallen headstones. etc.
-Be careful. Fallen headstones. Also some cemeteries may have headstones in the woods. Watch out for tree roots, rocks, etc.

-Check your photos.
-Take notes (also do that during, but that may be tricky juggling a camera, notebook and pen.) If you forget to write something down there's a good chance you won't remember it later.
-Don't be disappointed if you don't find something. You can go back again, or ask someone. Refer to the records the before section.

That's all the advice I can think of for now. My battery is getting on the low side and I'm not exactly sitting near an outlet to charge. If you can think of anything to add please comment!

This week:
Hopefully I'll be able to post about the cemetery visits this week. Chronological order of course. Next week will probably be old photos and stuff that I found. And a long long way down the road I'll add stuff to find a grave. Stay tuned!

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