Cemetery Readings

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This page provides some guidelines for when you're documenting or "reading" a cemetery that you would like to have posted on the WVCPA website.  If you have any questions about the following, or would like more clarification of what we mean here, please contact us at the email or postal address indicated on the "Contact WVCPA" link at the bottom of this page.

So, specifically, as you visit a cemetery (with a digital camera** in hand, we're hoping!), these are the things we look for to later post on the website:

1) Overview shots of the cemetery - where applicable, 'before' and 'after' photos if a clean-up is done to uncover the tombstones from the brambles and trees that may have grown up over the years.  A wonderful example of how this might be done can be seen on the Rockcastle Church Cemetery page.

2) Transcribe as many of the inscriptions on the stones that you can, preferably with ALL text written on the stones, to the degree possible (no guessing allowed!, unless you're 99.9% sure of your guess - but even then, let us know what the guesses are and we'll so note it on the page!). This includes the usual name, birth & death dates, relationships, fraternal organization insignias, and especially the epitaphs.

Often, in cemetery readings the poems or epitaphs written are omitted, and we've found them to be so meaningful and touching when we've taken the time to read them. We figure that if the family of the deceased cared enough to have it carved in stone, it has to be something important they wanted to share with posterity. One thing to note here - our preference is to show the dates, name spellings, etc. as they are on the stone. If there are 'typos' on the part of the monument carver, and accurate and proven dates are known, for example, we'll list the correction in the inscription area for that person's tombstone. You'll note that we generally convert dates to a standard dd/mmmm/yyyy format when we post it on this site, just so there is no confusion or misunderstanding of the dates presented.  Among other things, this also makes it easier for a researcher to print the cemetery reading page and take it along when doing research away from the computer, and be able to quickly work through dates without having to switch back and forth between varying date formats and potentially misread a date.  Where additional information is provided by a reputable source, such as full name of an individual, where the stone may only include initials, that is included on the cemetery web page.

3) Photos of each tombstone, showing the whole stone with some space around it showing grass, trees, nearby headstones, etc. Close-ups may be included as well, particularly where the carving is particularly beautiful or unique, or where the text is very small and difficult to read at the normal 4'-6' distance for the photo. Standard digital camera output of jpeg or tiff format is fine - we'll edit the photos later for size for posting on the internet. We also keep an archive of the original photos taken at the cemeteries, should any researcher want an original print or original level of detail/pixel count of the image in digital format.

4) A sketch, or plot map, of the cemetery showing who is buried next to whom, noting any obvious unmarked graves or ones marked by field stones and their location. Sometimes it's enough information to someone studying the family to identify 'who that unmarked grave is next to Granny So-and-So'. This is a time-consuming part, but means so much to someone who can't be there in person, as you can imagine.  Again, the Rockcastle Church Cemetery page provides a good example of what was created using an Excel spreadsheet and some clip art.

5) Certainly, any comments on accessibility of the cemetery - both from the perspective of whether or not permission is required to cross property to get to it (and who can give such permission), and if an elderly person, or someone with limited mobility were to visit, just how easily they might get to the cemetery to pay their respects.

6) Clear directions on a map of how to get to the cemetery. In many of the county cemetery inscription texts from years past, it is delightful to read about a cemetery being 'located on what is now the Joe Smith farm', but as we've seen, 30 years down the road that isn't necessarily helpful information when you're trying to find it in person! In this modern, satellite mapped age, we're aiming to locate every cemetery we can by GPS coordinates, basically good old fashioned latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates, so that anyone with a good map and compass could locate a cemetery a hundred years from now without any trouble. Even if you don't have the means to tell us these coordinates, if you can point it out on a photocopied portion of a WV map, we can figure out the coordinates.

7) If there is an old 'pioneer' church associated with the cemetery, and if it's still standing, current photos of it are very welcome. If you have any possibility of getting photos from inside the church, even if it's only through a window, that is even better. Historic photos of the church are great too, provided permission is obtained from the original photographer or current owner of the photograph for us to post it on the WVCPA site.

8) And finally, let us know the date - at least the month and year - that you visited the cemetery and did the reading and photography, so we can label the photo with that date, along with your name and copyright.  Do remember to include the name you'd like us to use on your photo credits - the name of the photographer is preferred over the name of an organization for example.  If you have any questions or concerns about this, please contact us and we will work with you on this.

So you know, we make it a solemn practice to give credit to the contributor of photos and/or readings of the cemeteries, and unless specifically requested to do so by the contributor, never give out contact information about that contributor on the website or via email to people who contact us. If, for example, someone wanted to know more about something you contributed to our site and asked for your email address, we would instead forward their request to you for you to respond to as you choose.  

Please keep in mind copyright laws, so if you use transcriptions printed in published works to aid you in your reading, please provide us with full reference information for that published material so we may post it on the page. If you are unsure about this, do check with us and we will help you determine what the copyright limitations are.

**If you don't have a digital camera, that's O.K.  We have the capability of scanning print photos, though the resulting quality is generally not as good.  Also, prints are fine if it's a matter of a dozen or so, but if there are 300 or so photos to be scanned for a cemetery reading, we'd recommend you finding a friend with a digital camera that will loan it to you for the day or, better yet, join you on your cemetery safari!

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 Updated: 07 September 2012