Friday, January 2, 2009

WHY MAP CEMETERIES?

In the 'About This Site' section of Names in Stone, there is a great story about a man and his search for his ancestors - and the role cemeteries can play in that search.

"A dear friend of ours tells the story of how a single visit to a small cemetery led to the discovery of many ancestors he had long been looking for.

"His research took him across the country to rural Alabama. His destination was the Bethel Cemetery located in the northeast corner of Butler County.

"After loading his research materials in the rental car, he began the hour drive from Montgomery to the Bethel Cemetery, wondering if his trip would be successful. Evening was closing in and he hoped that he would be able to locate the cemetery and glean the information needed.

"A few miles before his destination, he noticed the small Sandy Ridge Cemetery off the side of the road. He knew this wasn’t the Bethel Cemetery, but for some reason he felt he needed to pull over and explore.

"Much to his surprise, he found the headstones of a husband and wife whose names he recognized from prior research, but had never known where they were buried. What happened next made the entire trip worth it. There, nestled in the grass next to the couple, was the small headstone of a child—their child, who had died in his infancy. He was elated to find this information on the little boy, and to fill in missing pieces to the family puzzle.

"He continued on to the Bethel Cemetery and there, with the help of local historians, was able to find the headstones of many other family members—answering many more questions."

This is such a great story - it's the kind of experience we all hope for. Unfortunately, we don't get as many opportunities as we'd like to travel around the country - or the world - to visit cemeteries. And if you are like me, it really would be around the world. I would have to travel to cemeteries in Utah, Virginia, Delaware, Vermont, Illinois, Idaho, England, Wales, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and more to trace my roots. I would absolutely love it!

But it's not going to happen anytime soon. And that's where Names in Stone comes in. Although nothing beats a real cemetery visit, Names in Stone gives us the opportunity to virtually visit cemeteries - and it really is almost like being there. That's because it isn't only an alphabetical listing of burials. And it isn't just cemetery maps. It is a growing collection of interactive cemetery maps - which means that the record for every grave is attached right to the map. You can access that record just by clicking on the grave.

How is this like visiting the cemetery? Because now you can virtually walk up and down the rows of a cemetery and actually see who is buried next to whom. Just like the man in the story - if you can see the placement of burials, you can often establish family relationships and solve family mysteries in the process.

The best way to visit Names in Stone is to search for the name of a deceased person. You don't have to wander through the cemetery to find who you're looking for. Just enter the name in the search field. When you find the correct person, click to view the cemetery map. This will take you to that person's record - and to their grave on the map! Next you can click on the grave and find out information about that person - and click on the surrounding graves and learn even more.

There are many great cemetery websites out there, but I think Names in Stone is the next generation of cemetery websites. And it will become a more and more useful research tool as cemeteries are added to the site.

That's where GRAVE MAPPERS comes in. We need your help to populate the Names in Stone database. There are many small family cemeteries, abandoned cemeteries, and cemeteries in obscure places that only a few people remember anymore. If these cemeteries are mapped at Names in Stone, the records are preserved and become available for everyone to research.

Take a look at one of the newest cemeteries available at Names in Stone - Creedmoor Community Cemetery in Texas. Thanks to a Texas Grave Mapper for your hard work!


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