Digitizing the past

Brodie Thomas
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A Codory Valley woman is using Facebook to document all the graves in St. Andrew’s Cemetery and hopefully preserve a bit of history in the process.

Janice Tufts stands by her grandmother’s grave in the St. Andrews Cemetery. She recently photographed every headstone in the cemetery and posted the pictures to Facebook.

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.

Geographic location: Mary Alice

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  • Robert Stewart
    July 18, 2012 - 08:26

    BillionGraves.com has a free app that works with IPhones, IPads, Android Phones and Tablets that have GPS and a camera. You take the photos, then upload them to BillionGraves. The photos have to be transcribed, but you can transcribe them yourself or others will do it. The plus is the graves are searchable on the BillionGraves.com and the GPS information should get you pretty close to the actual grave. Another option is FindaGrave. You don't need GPS device to add photos there, but you do have to transcribe the information unless someone has already added the individual to FindaGrave. There are two FindaGrave Facebook groups: a general FindaGrave one and a FindaGrave/Mississippi group. Anyone can start a FindaGrave or BillionGraves group and she could even do it that only covered the cemetery. I only mention BillionGraves and FindaGrave as these are two of the most popular grave recording sites out there. I don't know if Canada has one, but the USGenweb Tombstone project, divided into states and counties/parishes within the state, is another thing to consider if it's an option. I started taking pictures and transcribing for BillionGraves and FindaGrave this month. It's a labor intensive process, but I'm helping preserve the information for future generations. Both websites have non-US cemeteries.