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Cemetery Inventory Guidelines

This checklist was provided by the Huron County Chapter, OGS and is used with their permission.

These words of advice may be helpful for groups who wish to construct inventories of their local cemetery gravestones.

  • Capitalize surnames.
  • Copy the stones in order of location.
  • Keep names on the same lot together.
  • Note any military or lodge markers and symbols of any kind on stone and marker.
  • Copy the inscriptions just as given on the stone.
  • Do not abbreviate; the typist will create standards later.
  • Map a plan to copy the cemetery first.
  • Go left to right in each row, front to back by rows; don't reverse directions.
  • Number each marker consecutively in a row.
  • Note special sections for paupers, military, babies, etc.
  • If lot markers are present, note this with the number.
  • Don't leave blanks. Copy the letters you can see.
  • Copy foreign stones as they are; don't guess at the translation.
  • Someone should proof the work in the field.
  • Use a dark pen and print.
  • Note historical evidence of vacated cemeteries in your book (deeds, hearsay, etc.)
  • Check illegible stones when the sunlight is different; splash water on them and flash photograph at an angle; try pointing sunlight at the stone with a mirror.
  • Use chalk, shaving cream, rubbings, and other physical reading techniques only if absolutely necessary, as the chemicals may further damage the stone.
  • Use a metal probe to check on sunken stones; they may be a foot or more down and a shovel will be needed.
  • Put a last name when copying footstones which list just a first name; the typist cannot guess on the position of the stones later.
  • Type inscriptions on a computer, not a typewriter.
  • Use a word processor, not a database; the latter is too restrictive.
  • Map the location of each marker on a grid outline if you really want to spend some time on the project.
  • Carry insect repellent.
  • Use a sturdy, spiral bound notebook; loose pages blow away.
  • List directions to relocate each cemetery; take a GPS reading if you have the equipment.
  • Underline or question mark any difficult letters/numbers that could be something else.
  • Put [sic] copy correct after any strange items found on the stone that are indeed as read.
  • Put items not on the stone in parentheses.
  • Include references for such items that the compiler has added from other sources.
  • Note if the stone is broken.
  • Identify any unusual stone or those that have fantastic carvings or symbolism.
  • Identify the carver and location if named; often a couple inches under the ground surface line.
  • Copy the pile of stones in the back of the cemetery.
  • Copy all footstones and one-name markers.
  • Make a notation if the cemetery is fenced, has stone posts; is it well-cared for?
  • Write the month and year out rather than using shortcuts - is 4-3-86 April 3, 1886 or 4 March 1986?
  • When making interpretations, be aware of other dating systems such as those used by the Quakers.
  • Check all sides of a stone.
  • Note any metal funeral home markers.
  • Copy entire verses if you can read them; a descendant will cherish this.
  • Include an every-name index to your cemetery; this can be in a database or indexing program.
  • Write the cemetery name, the date copied, and the volunteer name in your notebook so that you get credit when the book is completed.
  • Get more than one printing quote, and consider copy centers if a small run.
  • Use Smythe-sewn case binding, acid free paper, if you are going with a hardbound book.
  • Always check with the cemetery caretaker, township clerk, village administrator, or church secretary and archives to see if burial records and lot maps exist. Another one-third will be there without stones.
  • Promote the project before completion to allow the public to respond with stories of relatives buried without stones or with incomplete or inaccurate markers.
  • Delegate the workload or you may not finish the project.