TIPS FOR TRANSCRIBING CEMETERIES
By Barbara Koska Timm


During warm weather, start early in the day.
  • For transcriptions you will need a Pen, a Legal Pad and a Clipboard (for a hard surface).
  • To clean or clear inscriptions you will need a Soft Brush.
  • For tracings you will need Carbon Paper and a Tennis Ball. You can also use baby powder sprinked on dark stones to outline the writing.
To do tracings, place a blank piece of paper on the section of the stone that you wish to trace. Over that, place a piece of carbon paper, carbon against the paper. Rub over the inscription with the tennis ball until you get a readable negative.

Visually plan out how you will go about transcribing the cemetery, whether it be by sections, columns or rows. Keep track of where you leave off by describing the location of the last stone transcribed, the description of the last stone transcribed or the landscaping near the last stone.

Make use of a consistent plan in the names and dates you transcribe, such as:

DOE, John Q., 3/01/1897 - 3/30/1947, Military info if any plus any other pertinent info, verse or eulogy, if desired.

DOE, John Z., birth date - death date & Mary P., birth date - death date, marriage date if given, "parents of" if given.

Alway include military information and any fraternal symbols, if present.

Just use your imagination to prepare a concise list that is easily understandable. It's miserable to get home and find you missed a date or didn't take a note that there was a missing date.

You will also need a comfortable pair of shoes, a billed or brimmed hat, sunscreen, and plenty of drinking water. A carpenter's apron is nice for carrying things. You won't need a cd player because the birds sing beautifully. If you're in for the long haul, some snacks or a lunch are good. It's also nice to have a camera so you can record the entrance to the cemetery and any notable stones. If you're really worried about creepy-crawlies, a garden rake doubling as a walking stick or a pistol with snake shot might be advisable, however I haven't found any snakes yet.

If two of you go together, it seems to go faster if one reads off the information and the other writes it down.

Transcribing cemeteries is a very pleasant experience, what with the bird songs, the sunshine, the soft wind blowing, and absolutely no one to bother you!


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