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.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Where Did I Put That? - Getting Organized

Going Digital 5

Just because the paper is now digital does not mean you don't need a system of organization that you can use to file and retrieve the documents. For most this is the hard part. Fortunately it is easier to search and move digital files than boxes or shelves of books, magazines, saved articles, etc.

Remember the lady with the file cabinets? That's a pretty common method for filing. Each file cabinet becomes a folder. But, with digital documents, you can easily have a subfolder for each and every surname in that line. You can file great aunt Milly under her maiden name, as you should, and slip a copy under her third husband's name if you know that's where you'll look for it because you cannot recall her maiden name. You can file a copy of Joe and Mary's marriage certificate under Joe's surname and another under Mary's maiden name if that will help you locate it later. You can have many copies of the same file without worrying about taking up space.

I have a folder for forms, another for those digital books, one for each course I have taken, another for articles to read. A copy of the article may be wherever it seemed appropriate too -- research in Greene County, Ohio, is probably also filed under a couple surnames and, maybe, in a Greene County folder too. You can get as complex as you want, folders with subfolders in subfolders, or keep it simple. You can have the surname folder, then a subfolder for pictures, one for census, one for vital records, etc. You can just put all the files in the surname folder. You can do some variation. Digital makes it easy. And if you start simple and later decide to go complex it is easy to just move the files to new folders.

I do not mean to suggest I am totally bookless or paperless. I recently had new carpet installed and, weed and scan as I might, I still have a whole bookcase for genealogy. But it is only 100" of books, a significant reduction. And I am down from eight file drawers to less than three.