The spring and early summer are fabulous times of the year for family gatherings and picnics. So why not make the family cemetery one of the destinations?
1) Take along a picnic basket, a blanket, a camera, and a pencil & paper on a clipboard. Don’t forget to invite the elders down to the youngest family members for the day trip. A digital recorder or camcorder may also be brought along to capture the moments.
2) Draw a simple overview map of the cemetery layout. Mark on the map all of the areas where family members are known to be buried. Record the condition of the cemetery. Is it well kept or is it in poor condition? Is it still an active cemetery or no longer used for burials? Is there a caretaker?
3) Walk the cemetery. Allow the elders to walk alongside the youngest members of the family. This may help rekindle stories and allow them to continue to pass down through the family.
4) Consult with the elders on past burials they witnessed. With a bit of reminiscing, the elders may be able to recall the events and customs used when past family members were buried. They may especially point out unmarked graves of loved ones where documents fail to assist or are no longer available. Be sure to add the information to your map.
5) Draw the layout of each family plot. Note the location of the plot. Also note the number of graves & known burials in the each plot. Record each headstone inscription in writing and note the condition of the stone and the plot. Has the stone been damaged or toppled over? Has the grave settled?
6) Photograph the cemetery and each family plot. Don’t be stingy on photographing as a digital camera works well for this project. Photograph an overview of the cemetery then narrow to the location of each family plot. Make sure to note each photographed location that is taken on your map. Take photographs of each family plot, then each individual headstone in the plot, front and rear.
7) After the picnic, scan and input your map details into your family tree software. I am not the best artist and also use drawing software to recreate the map into a shareable and usable format. It is also good to compare your map to historical maps of the cemetery if available.
In former years, cemeteries were a part of the social custom of our culture. Today they seem to be out of sight and out of mind. Sadly that is causing a detachment and an overwhelming disrespect for cemeteries in general. After 10 years of restoring the family cemetery, I hope to never see it disrespected again. And to think something as simple as a picnic visit can help reverse that trend.
Leaf’n a Legacy,