Sunday, February 15, 2009

Planning a Cemetery Trek

Each year about this time we start thinking of those cemeteries we are going to walk or at least visit as soon as the weather allows. Visiting a cemetery in the city is very different than visiting a small rural cemetery in the middle of nowhere. If a rural cemetery is on your list here are some tips for that visit. Much of this has been posted before on one of my other blogs.

Cemeteries can be pretty remote with no one to see or hear you and quite possibly no other visitors for a long time, particularly if the cemetery is inactive.

Know how to get there. In some counties you can pick out a cemetery from several miles away [it is the only spot with trees] but that is not true everywhere. Google and Microsoft have detailed online maps. You can search GNIS, the government's geographic names database at: for location and then plot it on the map of your choice with a couple clicks. Don't forget the map.

If there is a map of the cemetery or an online listing of any sort that gives you clues on how to locate the particular stone print it out and take it along. USGenWeb sites often have cemetery listings, sometimes maps or layouts. Make a note of the people buried around your ancestor so if for some reason their stone is unreadable you'll know you are in the right place and can go from there. Stone lists for Logan County can be found at

Wear a hat and take plenty of water. The only drinking available is highly likely to be what you brought with you. Dehydration is dangerous. Someone suggested if you drink too much water you'll need the facilities and the cemeteries have no facilities. I'll leave it to you to figure out how to deal with that situation in the middle of nowhere. If you plan to be at the cemetery awhile you should take some snacks or even pack a lunch along with the water. In olden days people often picnicked in cemeteries. You can too.

Don't go alone if you can avoid it. Take your cell phone. You could have trouble with your vehicle. [This is the voice of experience long before cell phones. It was a LONG walk.] You could fall and hurt yourself or even break something. The ground will not be smooth and level. Stones have been known to topple. Some places, particularly where cemeteries are not mowed regularly, have critters [they dug those ankle wrenching holes] or stinging bugs. Be safe. Take a friend and a cell phone. I always have a first aid kit in the car.

Take your camera with a large memory card but don't forget pen and paper or a recording device. If you record on tape or digitally be sure to spell everything out even if it is spelled wrong. You might want to have your camera date each photo. If it is small cemetery do yourself and fellow researchers a favor and photograph each stone. You are there. It is an act of genealogical kindness. At a minimum draw a map of the stone location area so the next person can find the stone.

Recently I read an excellent suggestion from Jean Hibben. She takes a picture of the cemetery entrance first and then the stones. That way your pictures are partially organized when you download them.


Diane Wright said...

I love to read plans for cem. visits. We need to hear them over and over because in the excitment of it all we forget the important things. Thanks

JoLyn said...

Thanks for these tips! One thing I do is take graph paper. You can easily draw out the map of the headstones, so you can remember who is buried next to whom - so helpful in establishing relationships. By the way, have you seen the new website, Names in Stone? ( You can take these hand-drawn maps and turn them into online interactive cemetery maps - and make the records searchable on their database. Check it out!