Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One way to do a Find-A-Grave Cemetery Visit

From time to time, folks who volunteer to take pictures for Find-A-Grave, will receive an email requesting pictures to be taken. I also take pictures for my family research. There have been a number of not so successful visits, so this is the process that was done for today's, successful visit. Thought I would share it, in case others do the same thing. Perhaps sharing what WE do, will help others.

In a previous Blog:

Tombstone Tuesday and Find-A-Grave Follow Up

Information on an EXCEL file that I use for tracking what I have done.

A collection of items to take along was posted here:

Cemetery Visit Planning

So far, so good. What wasn't mentioned before, is that I enter this information into Outlook, as I can sync Outlook to a PDA, if I don't have the computer with me. Information is recorded in Outlook, like Address, Phone Numbers, Information about the Cemetery from Find-A-Grave and any other notes that are found over time. Some cemeteries have name listings on other websites, one even has a plot maps, online. That information is noted in Outlook.

The EXCEL spreadsheet that was talked about earlier is also printed with the Names of the individuals who have already been photographed by Cemetery. An Outlook printout and this EXCEL spreadsheet are put into a Notebook. The notebook is separated by State, as I visit cemeteries in a tri-state area. Within the State, it's sorted by Cemetery Name. This is a summary of the cemeteries that have been visited or I plan to visit. The Date of the Cemetery Visit is also recorded in Outlook.

In preparation for a Cemetery Visit the following have been very helpful for me.

Print of the Find-A-Grave Cemetery Page:

This has some basic information about location, sometimes the street address, less a phone number, but most of the time GPS information. On may pages, there is a picture of the entrance of the cemetery (very helpful for a driver of the car or the navigator)

But, taking that a step further, a Hybrid View of the Map has been helpful for a visual view of the area. For example, from the satellite view, you can actually see the cemetery, you know that you should be able to see it. The hybrid view adds the street names to the satellite view. That is also printed.

One example of this, is that the Find-A-Grave information on the Cemetery was very little and it was about 25 years old. From the Map, there was a long walk that didn't sound too easy from the Find-A-Grave information. However, that satellite view showed that there was a farm across a lake from the description on the website and there was a driveway that was very close to where this family burial ground was located. That extra step was very helpful.

GPS information. Not all GPS units are the same. Mine will not accept GPS coordinates, but it will accept Intersections. That is where the review of the Map comes in very handy, especially when you do not have the exact street address. These intersections are noted in Outlook.

Bottom line here, getting familiar with the area of the cemetery.

If I am working from a Request for a Photo, I look at the Find-A-Grave website to see if there are other Photo Requests. There have been several that were posted prior to my signing up to Find-A-Grave. So, I'll look at all of them.

Printing that page with the information about the request is the next thing to do.

By clicking on the Name of the Individual for the request, there may be other information about that individual that doesn't appear on the request page. Sometimes relationships are posted, Obituaries have been posted there as well. This page is printed.

Taking this a step further a print out of all of the Surname of the individual of the request are there other people with that Surname are in the Cemetery. If a spouse is listed, or a female's birth surname, that page will be printed. Some times, but certainly not all of the time, they might be in the same plot or a near by plot.

On the printout with that surname, there is an ICON if there have been pictures taken for others with that surname. If there are pictures of others with that surname, it is also printed. Several times, it helped identify WHERE in the cemetery that headstone is. Trees, type of headstone, a general view of where that head stone is has made two visits very successful; we knew what we were looking for, at least a place to start.

All of this paper work are put into a Folder with the Cemetery Name, State, County, City are on the tab of the folder. These folders are put into a portable files box, sorted by Cemetery Name.

The location is known, the area around the cemetery, what the entrance looks like (in many cases, but not all), who the individual is, others with like surnames, and with any luck, a potential reference headstone, it's off for a visit.

The first picture to take, is the Entrance. This will help when I get home as to what the cemetery is, especially, like today, where we visited 5 cemeteries. Now the fun begins.

This is not addressing what one might do on the visit, like doing anything to a headstone, cleaning up the area, only the picture taking, preparation, and follow up.

Generally, specific headstone information is taken using the tools each of us has to get the most information out of a headstone. If there are other relatives, or potential relatives within the same plot are nice to take pictures of. The Plot may also be helpful. In larger cemeteries a broader view for reference of the headstone may help.

Notes are recorded on the paperwork that is in the folder. Information like a more specific location for the street address, if it isn't on the Find-A-Grave website. For example: Across the street from ....., so that the next time, that address can be entered into my GPS.

This folder is not returned to the File Box until the information has been updated, the Pictures from the Camera are on the Computer, and the pictures uploaded to Find-A-Grave.

The "plan" was tested today successfully. The plan was go visit a specific cemetery, however, after we left the house and were on the road, we changed our mind as to where we were going. We have several cemetery visit days planned, but my wife had recently found some information that she wanted to check out. Our visit planned for next week was close to our planned visit for today. So, on the road we changed our plan. We had all of the information that we wanted in the Note Book and File Box.

To be honest, we had a good news, bad news visit. One Cemetery with an online Photo Request, we were not able to fullfil, couldn't find the individual and only one of 5 individuals with the Surname. However, there was a number of old headstones in an uncleared area of the cemetery with lots of poison ivy. The good news, is that we found a number of headstones that my wife wanted. We found the first headstone based on a view of one of the headstones already online. We knew what we were looking for.

A second cemetery was a good news, good news visit. Its a large cemetery, we have visited a number of times before, and had 3 requests for pictures. The good news is that the Office was open. We gave Doris the names, she gave us the plot information (8 rows behind this name on a large headstone) and a Cemetery Map. 15 minutes later, the 3 requests were fulfilled.

Bottom line: the plan worked.

I thank Patti for being the co-pilot and proofreader for this adventure.

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