When The Tombstone Transcription Project first started, Mr. Craig Bond contacted me and told me about the cemetery survey that his son, Joshua, did to earn his Eagle Scout certification. This was such a great idea that I wanted to share what Joshua did so that others might be inspired to something similar. Mr. Bond became our "Eagle Project Specialist" and has answered many queries from many states about "How To Do A Cemetery Survey as an Eagle Scout Project". He wrote this FAQ to answer many of the questions that people have asked him about cemetery surveys in general, and Joshua's project, specifically.
If you have more questions after reading this FAQ, feel free to send Mr. Bond an email.
Q: We have a young man who needs an Eagle project pronto.
A: How pronto is pronto? As an Eagle project, I think this is truly
wonderful, but there is a great deal of work to do and if your young
Scout is near his 18th birthday, he may not have time to finish the
project before then. Joshua's data-gathering took place in March; the
data entry and notebook preparation was not completed until 10:00 P.M.,
July 11 (the 12th was his birthday).
I must also insert the other standard disclaimer here. Remember that the idea of an Eagle project is for the youth to demonstrate leadership in all phases. He *doesn't* have to do work (indeed, he *mustn't* do all the work); he **does** have to organize and lead the work and not leave that to parents or other leaders. [There's nothing wrong with accepting advice of course, but it should not be so much as to constitute effective direction.]
Q: It would appear that our first project will be the oldest cemetery in town, a couple acres in size but greatly deteriorated. Would you discourage us from such a beginning?
A: All the more reason to start here before any further deterioration takes place. And if you got discouraged, at least the cemetery in greatest danger would have been completed.
Q: We have two major cemeteries in town. How daunting is this task?
A: Depends on how major is 'major'. The cemetery my son's group did was about six acres, he had 18 kids help him and the information-gathering took one day (about 9am to 3pm). Preparation took a day; data entry by a busy father took a very long time. For preparation, he sectioned off the cemetery into one-acre sections, numbered each site (we painted tongue deppressors Day-Glo orange so they'd stand out, then numbered them), and distributed the sheets with instructions to use one sheet per number (stone). Josh (my son, whose project this was) is a bit of an artist and he did layouts of the sections. These became keys to locations. The information contained on the sheets is described below.
Q: Could you give us any suggestions about dealing with a cemetery whose directionality changes often and whose lines are not always perpendicular and parallel?
A: The first thing Josh did was divide the cemetery into six parts. It was also uneven (I think most are). He used a bright twine, tied to the fence at the front, and walked to the back. Then he divided the two halves in three, again using the twine. The result is roughly equal parts even though they are not exactly symmetrical. He could then draw each section on paper and use it for reference when retrieving the data from the markers. If existing sections already exist, of course, there would be no need for this, but none did in this case.
Q: Where do we get data on burials that may not be evident?
A: Your best bet is the caretaker and any retired caretakers. An oral history, perhaps a walking tour with a portable tape recorder.
Q: What about continuing updates?
A: This is really up to your group, if the cemetery owners don't keep the records (most do, now, since they're selling the plots).
Q: Most important, what is the FINAL appearance of your documentation? Is it a map with numbered plots, with landmarks, with an accompanying index (of sorts)? Is it textual? Have you placed it online? What plans do you have for it?
A: Currently, it is a 3-ring binder notebook of about 300+ two-sided pages, with copies in local libraries, the church that owns the cemetery, and one by my desk. An offer has been made to place it online, but we're pursuing that slowing (as time and money to make another copy allow).
Notebook sections are as follows:
A Brief History of the Cemetery
Index of Veterans
Marker Records (Gravestone Worksheets)
Q: What would you have done differently...or what cautions should we have?
A: Done differently?
Marker: present missing
Marker Type: head foot table tomb other:____________
Marker Faces: N S E W NE NW SE SW
Marker Material: wood stone bronze other:_______________
Marker Condition: sound chipped cracked crumbled eroded broken tilted sunken insert missing panel fallen/broken/missing discolored/stained moss/lichen other:______________
Marker Design: flat/rectangle flat/curved top flat/carved sides or top carved describe):___________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________
Condition of inscription: mint clear but worn mostly decipherable traces illegible or destroyed underground
Inscription (use one line per line on the marker):____________________
________________(we used 10 lines)__________________________________
Additional notes (lines to end of page):______________________________
Q: Pushing beyond my questions, I have some ideas, also. What's typically going to happen with a given cemetery census (and to all of them) is that it will turn into a dry-looking text file and disappear in the cemetery archives of USGENWEB.
A: It certainly can be that (where it will be extremely useful, remember, for those who cannot visit the cemetery), but can also be a living document in hardcopy in local and regional libraires. All the good things about computers notwithstanding, there is still much to be said about books. And a dry-looking text file is going to look pretty darn nice to me if it contains that long-lost link I've been looking for.
Q: I believe the Project should be enhanced with the same concept found at www.city.net/ with graphical levels of USAS, State, County, City, Cemetery, Plot. Each Cemetery could conceivably have the same kind of map, perhaps the same that you son created. Perhaps something different. It's up to the submitter.
A: That's a neat idea. Who has access to that kind of technology?
Q: Such a searchable graphical display provides the user the advantage of knowing where in the cemetery the site is found, in the event they wish to VERIFY the data. From an aesthetic point of view, users will choose the adventure of this service as opposed to the searching of a textual database.
A: Well, if it's true adventure they,re after, what's wrong with going to Longmont? Or, in my case, through the back hills of Vermont and Upstate New York? Now, there's true adventure!
Q: Dismissing the complexities of getting it done...what do you think?
A: Dismissing the complexities of getting it done, I'll win both the Texas Lottery and the Powerball this weekend! :^)) It think it is a wonderful idea and if you are able to get it done, I will happily stand in the very long line of family researchers who will form to shake you hand!
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