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California Genealogy and History Archives

Cemetery Transcription Instructions

Submitting your transcriptions should be done by attaching your transcription 
(MS Word, MS Excel, MS Works, Text File, 
to an e-mail, and send it to

I'm interested so what do I do now? 

Are you interested in registering for:

  • a cemetery transcription?
  • lookups?
  • taking photos? (see the photo instruction page)
  • all or some of these?

Send me an email with your name, name of Cemetery, Town and the County the cemetery is in. I will put your name and email address on the County web page you specified as having adopted that cemetery. We don't want two of you transcribing the same cemetery!

Please remember to specify
Cemetery name and County name
in the subject line of all correspondence.

How do I go about transcribing a cemetery?

The original idea behind the Tombstone Transcription Project was to record and put online all available records for all cemeteries. We have different situations on our California site (as do others I'm sure) depending on the person.

People do different things depending on their available time, how involved they want to be and just what is important to them. It also depends on the size of the cemetery. Some cemeteries are so large there just is no way to transcribe the data so maybe you can do lookups and or take photos. Very close to me is the world’s largest in use cemetery with about 1,400 acres and almost 500,000 burials.

Some people are not able to walk the cemeteries to do transcriptions but are able to do individual look-ups. Some people walk the cemetery and transcribe everything on the tombstone; others just record names and dates. Sometimes we get lucky and a local genealogical society may have a transcription and will give permission to put that info on the web. I have been lucky with three local cemeteries that gave me their databases to put online. Right now I am scanning printouts from a cemetery in the Fresno County that were provided by the caretaker of that cemetery. You just need to check out the situation.

So after all the blah, blah,'s still up to you and your personal preference and how much time you want to devote. I have one lady who has about 12 cemeteries she is transcribing. She sends me updates on one or two cemeteries about every 5 or 6 days and each update may have 25 to 300 names. I update the files as she sends them to me. Bit by bit the cemeteries will be recorded.


Please take care not to infringe on someone else's copyright. If you have copied information from a book, magazine, or web page you must have their permission.

In most cases, burial records are factual information and NOT protected under copyright. 

Required Information

  • The name of the cemetery
  • The location of the Cemetery (town, county)
  • The date the transcription was compiled.
  • If the file is complete or partial
  • The names of the people who compiled the transcription

Additional Information if you have it

  • Street address of the cemetery
  • Driving directions to the cemetery (from a well known starting point)
  • History of the cemetery

Notes section:

Enter the epitaph or other useful information that is actually inscribed or written on the grave marker. On veterans stones, enter the military info here. Epitaphs that have no genealogical value ("Rest in Peace", "Asleep in Jesus") are not necessary, although this is up to you. If the symbol of a fraternal organization (Masons, Lyons, WOW, etc.) is present, it is appropriate to enter "Masons symbol", or "Eastern Star symbol". If a tombstone is shared with another person enter as s/w John Smith.

Please do not get carried away with the Notes. Stating that the father carved his son's wooden marker, or John Smith is the son of William, or born in Norway, these are all great Notes but "Suffer little children to, Come unto me and forbid, Them not for of such is the kingdom of Heaven" goes beyond what is needed. 

Important things to remember:

  • Enter each record on one continuous line. If the line gets very long, DO NOT break the line by pressing the <ENTER> key. Just let the line wrap automatically.
  • Do not double space the lines. That is, do not enter a blank line between lines. Enter one line after the other, as the example below shows.
  • Please, DO NOT USE TABS to separate the data, use commas.
  • If the given name is not provided, please enter a second comma. (see Barnes below)
  • If the surname is not given enter a ? for that space (see Pearl Smith below)

What format do I use? Excel is the4 preferred format.

Sample of Excel spreadsheet:

Last First Birth Death Notes


Charles Jefferson

12 18 1907

11 16 1957

All your notes would go in this column. Everything on one line. Do not format the information to fit. Do not make carriage returns (using the enter key is a carriage return and starts a new line). If you stretch this column out you will see it is all one line.


Chester Lee

03 13 1906

11 02 1976



Clarence H.

10 26 1903

04 26 1988



Edith G. (Offen)

08 07 1907

05 30 1964



George Franklin "Frank"

11 21 1881

07 19 1960

Baker John 1854 1910

You can also use these date formats:

Dec 18 1907
Mar 13 1906
Aug 7 1907


Sample for a Word processor file:

Alameda,Elaine Anderson,04/03/1912,01/12/1962
Anderson,Christian,10/26/1832,01/29/1899,Age 66y 5m 8d Native of Sweden
Barnes,,1854,1908,Wife of James Barnes
?, Pearl Smith,08/09/1895,12/28/1900,Age 4m 19d Dau of O.O. & M.E. Boggs
Bromley,Dennis,1820,12/27/1895,Age 75yrs Native of N.Y.

Each comma (,) will create a column when I convert it to Excel so be very careful.

If you have plot information, just add another column.

Send registration and transcriptions to 

More questions? Just give me a holler!