Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is changing the way in which cemeteries are documented today. While recording longitude and latitude on platforms such as Find A Grave is valuable, the ability to generate a geospatial or visual map of the entire cemetery is what GPS mapping software can do.
GPS, combined with mapping software, digital photography, ground-penetrating radar technology, and then meticulous recordkeeping allows researches to create a web-accessible map database showing the precise locations of all grave sites in a cemetery.
Now, you don’t need to wander throughout a cemetery with your eyes peeled looking for a familiar family name; instead, you can scan the entire cemetery and search it by name without leaving the comfort of your home. Then, when you are ready to make a visit, you will know precisely where to find the burial location.
One of the latest cemetery mapping projects is taking place in central Aroostook County in Maine lead by University of Maine at Presque Isle History Professor Kimberly Sebold.
Through her project, History in Stones: Mapping Cemeteries to Teach the History of Central Aroostook County, eighth grade students will eventually learn their local history through interactive maps.
Last year, Sebold and researchers gathered information from about 25 cemeteries and she has plans to tackle larger cemeteries like Parish of the Precious Blood and St. Mary’s in Caribou this summer.
Projects like this one are happening throughout the country, including local cemeteries near me in Iowa. Check with your local historical society for availability of grant funding and consider volunteering to be a part of one of these exciting projects.