Janice Tufts said she has always had an interest in genealogy but also has a bad memory. She decided to photograph every headstone in her local cemetery and upload the photos to Facebook.
She started taking pictures in May but only posted the pictures in late June.
“I wanted to do it but I was scared thinking, what are they going to say?”
Her group St. Andrew’s Graveyard met with widespread local interest. She said only one person asked her to remove a photo, and she had stated up front she would do so if requested.
Her photos have prompted other Facebook users to write in their memories of the people who now rest at the cemetery. Others explain how they were related to the names on the stones.
“It’s interesting when people start commenting on how the person was special to them,” said Ms. Tufts.
“Wow. I thought I was older when she passed away,” wrote one user below a photo. “How time flies! I can thank her for teaching me to knit. Many an hour spent by the wood stove on a winter evening.”
In some cases, people went by nicknames their entire lives and the names on the headstone look unfamiliar until a family member explains who they were.
Under one photo a user has written, “You would know her as Maime! Doug’s father’s sister.”
In reply another user wrote, “I was looking at Mary Alice and it wasn’t ringing a bell at all, but Maime sure does.”
Ms. Tufts said she is impressed that about 250 people signed up within a week. The group is having desired results as well. Ms. Tufts is learning about cousins she never knew existed.
She hopes to compile much of the information in a book. Questions still remain about many unmarked graves in the middle of the cemetery. She hopes to research and document these as well.
The project has given her a new respect for a place that was already close to her heart.
“Some of the graves are in really rough shape it would be interesting to see if there is any funding to fix things,” she said.