Saturday, July 31, 2010

Want To Go Cemetery Hopping?

Have you ever tried to find an ancestor's information online from a headstone in another state, only to find that the cemetery has not been transcribed?  Most of the cemeteries in this country have actually not been transcribed.  Some of them have partial information and very few are completely recorded.  When you are searching and you find an ancestor buried in a fully-transcribed cemetery, it's like Christmas.  Sometimes you can even find someone at the county historical society or on one of the ancestry sites that will take a digital picture of the stone and e-mail it to you for free.  That's really hitting the jackpot.

I am registered as a volunteer to take pictures at three cemeteries in Coal County, Oklahoma, where I still visit every other week.  I have done this for three people in other states, and it's really rewarding.  Wish I could find someone in Honey Grove, Texas who could do the same for me!

To know that you have an ancestor in a particular cemetery, though, usually the person researching their family history needs to see an alphabetical listing online of the people in that cemetery.  And this is why cemetery transcription is so important.  Transcribing involves recording the name and all information and posting it on a website usually related to the county's historical society.  I volunteered to do this for one small cemetery, and it's a lot more work that you would think.  It took me a full summer, every other Saturday, about 2 hours per Saturday, and this was using a digital camera.  I simply took a picture of every stone, then recorded the information later when I pulled up the pictures on the computer.  Then I e-mailed the list to the Coal County genealogical website operator and I was done with it. 

Now we have the Cemetery Hop, which would be a lot more fun and faster, because it involves more people.  A group of interested local family history enthusiasts meet at a certain time on a Saturday morning at an agreed-to cemetery, and spread out to record their area.  Once done, the genealogy or historical society website posts the list and people all over the world can search to see if their ancestor is buried there.

In Oklahoma County the goal is to have all cemeteries transcribed.  All 4,500 of them!  Your county may be smaller and less daunting.  If genealogy is your interest, please do your fellow researchers a favor and help out as much as possible in your home county.  Check your county historical society to see what is being done toward cemetery transcribing, and how you can assist.

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