Cemetery visitors, researchers, and record keepers face many challenges when dealing with cemetery headstones and records. Some common stories are heard far too often:
- A researcher knows her ancestor is buried in the cemetery, but the aging hand-written records were destroyed in a cemetery office fire. There are no duplicates.
- Floodwaters tossed headstones all over the cemetery. With no current map, no one knows for sure which headstone belongs to which grave.
- Descendants visit a family cemetery hoping to expand their records of their ancestors. But the headstone inscriptions are completely illegible.
These stories and recent headlines highlight five important reasons for protecting cemetery records.
1. A Changing Landscape. Friends of the Crosby Family Cemetery in Louisiana will tell you that a changing landscape can be disastrous for cemeteries. Creeping coastal erosion is gradually claiming this little cemetery, and as the land sinks, headstones are plunging into the fast approaching Bayou Lafourche. Even the caskets float away. Read more here.
2. Urban Development. In many areas, particularly in the southern US, small family cemeteries once dotted the landscape. With cities now spreading rapidly outward, many of these cemeteries are now in the way of urban development. Sometimes they are discovered mid-construction, leaving landowners to make critical decisions. Some cemeteries end up in the middle of parking lots -- others are bulldozed or paved over. Learn more.
3. Wear and Tear of Time. Although headstones are made to last, most are made of stones that gradually deteriorate with weather and time. Their inscriptions, and the lives of those they represent, become a mystery. One family would like to know if Amos' wife Jane is buried beside him, but they are unable to decipher the illegible inscription. You can read about it here.
4. Vandalism. Recently, nearly 300 headstones in an eastern Ohio cemetery were pushed over or destroyed by vandals. Some of the stones are from the 1800s and are irreplaceable. Read the article here.
5. Natural Disasters. Hurricanes, fires, floods, earthquakes--all can wreak havoc on cemeteries and their irreplaceable records. A dramatic example is this cemetery in Orange, Texas, that was devastated by Hurricane Ike.
What is the solution?
How do we protect the records of cemeteries both large and small?
At Names In Stone, we believe the answer is to digitize cemetery maps and records so they are preserved and protected even though disaster might damage the headstones or paper records. Digitized maps and records are easily backed up and stored off-site for extra protection. And digitized records are also easily shared online to benefit others who may not be able to visit in person.
Are you interested in learning more? Contact a Names In Stone representative to learn how to help cemeteries of all sizes digitally protect their records.