Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cemetery Walking

It will be summer again [safe to say from Florida]. Are you planning a trip to a cemetery or two? Are they old cemeteries out in the middle of nowhere? Here are some things you need to consider.

Know how to get there. In some counties you really can pick out a cemetery from several miles away [it is the only spot with trees] but that is not true everywhere. Don't waste your valuable time searching for the cemetery. If possible plot it out on road or plat map before going – and don't forget the map. In some areas the Google Earth maps are useful. Microsoft also has online maps. You can search GNIS, the government's geographic names database at: for location and then plot it on a map with a couple clicks.

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. 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.

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 in summer cemetery treking. 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 and be in the middle of nowhere. [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 wretching 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. 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. Otherwise draw a map of the stone location area so the next person can find the stone.

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