How To Get Started

For more hints, "A Cemetery Survey as an Eagle Scout Project" written by Craig Bond.

What To Do Before You Start

Find out who has legal jurisdiciton over the cemetery property and get permission to be on the grounds recording the data.
If the cemetery is abandoned, attempt to find out who owns the land the cemetery is on and obtain permission from the legal owners to be on the property.
The Cemetery Office, Church Office, etc. might have a copy of the plat of the cemetery and copies of internment records.
Check your library for any previous transcription work done on the cemetery. This will come in vary handy if some of the stones are no longer legible.

Assemble Your Supplies

Soft brushes
Scrubber pads (preferably white ones)
Large spray bottle of water
Grass clippers
Plastic pad for kneeling on
Paper and pencils

Recording The Data

If you have a plat of the cemetery, follow that to make sure you don't miss any stones.
Alternately, I find it helpful to plot out the cemetery, roughly, using blocks to represent each grave.
Begin recording the data from the stones, using the blocks drawn on your paper (if you decide to use this suggestion).
Record the information on the tombstone exactly as it appears. Copy it word for word, line for line. Keep the spelling, punctuation, etc., as it appears on the stone. Resist the temptation to make corrections.
Record all information on the stone, including any epitaphs that may be carved there.

A WORD OF WARNING! It is very important to be careful of the old tombstones, particularly when accompanied by children. One transcriber wrote "When I first began my trek of searching cemeteries about five years ago, my then 18 month old son had a headstone fall on his legs. He was bruised but thank goodness his guardian angel was there, it could have been much worse." There are many old "monoliths" in cemeteries and even the smaller headstones can cause severe damage, so please beware when you are searching and recording, especially with the children. These tombstones and monuments are not secure after centuries or decades of weather and human fiddlings.


Mary Smith
June 12, 1832  August 25, 1890
At Rest
Footstone: MS

John Smith
May 18, 1829  April 12, 1864
Gone But Not Forgotten
Footstone: C.S.A.


John James
Born May 18, 1829, Died April 12, 1864
Co F
26 Va Inf

Mary Jones
Wife of John Smith
Daughter of Thomas and Malinda Jones
Born June 12, 1832, Died August 25, 1890

Formatting The Data

Type your data into a word processor, if at all possible.
Begin the file with the cemetery name, town, county and state.
Give directions to the cemetery, using street and road names, route numbers and landmarks, if applicable.
Don't forget to include your name and contact info at the top of the file.
Include any interesting historical data on the cemetery, if known---date established, background info, etc.
Enter the tombstone inscriptions just as you wrote them down.
If you have additional genealogical information for the individuals that might be of interest, include that in a separate comments column.
The USGenWeb Project Archives uses only ASCII Text file format. If possible, please save the files in this format.

Submitting The Files

Visit The Time To Do Page for the guidelines on file submissions for The USGenWeb Project Archives
Submit the data either The Tombstone Project Manager for the appropriate state, (go the the State Projects to see who this is.
You can submit the files via email attachment---the fastest way.
If you would rather mail disks to us, contact either myself, or the Archives Manager of the appropriate state for a mailing address.
If you cannot submit the cemetery data to us in digital format, you can mail a paper copy of the transcription and we will have the data input for you. (This is why we need volunteers to scan and to type).

Make sure you read the FAQ written by Craig Bond on "A Cemetery Survey as an Eagle Scout Project". There are lots of great hints in there on doing this kind of project!

That is all there is to it. If you want to get more involved, and do a really "proper" cemetery survey, visit The Association For Gravestone Studies on this topic. David also has a page of hints he received from people when he asked "How do I read a hard to read tombstone?" There are lots of hints there for you to use.


Let's work together in this endeavor!

This Project is about remembering our dead and preserving our history!!!

If you would like to transcribe data for this Project, or if you already have cemetery surveys and would like to share that work with the world, please let us hear from you. Send a message to the State Tombstone Project Volunteer containing the following information: name of the cemetery, the county and state where the cemetery is located and the names of the people who will be doing the transcribing.

Please use "Cemetery Registration" as the subject line of your message.

If there is no volunteer listed for the State you need to register a cemetery in, you can send the information to:

National Tombstone Project Coordinator
Rebecca Maloney

About This Project

What Can You Do?

How To Join


VA Marker Program

Tombstone Page

Copyright © The USGenWeb Tombstone Transcription Project, 1997-