Many counties in western states have not had a cemetery book produced. You can be of great help by taking on the chore of compiling a cemetery book. All you need is some free time, and gas money. Instructions on how to produce such county cemetery books are difficult to find. The following set of instructions is offered as a "how to do it" guide. You may disagree with some of the methods, but they have been generated in the process of compiling cemetery books for some ten counties in North Dakota. Feel free to copy this guide and improve it to your satisfaction.
A photocopy of a recent county atlas on which to mark and write Then "pink" in all the cemetery symbols marked on the atlas An early atlas, like a microfilmed 1909 atlas of the county. Go through section by section verifying early cemeteries and early churches with present cemetery locations, marking your atlas copy with possible "forgotten cemeteries". Read all of the old county history books, especially the section on churches, and township histories. Old cemeteries and single burials frequently are given including locations on numbered sections. A list of names and cemetery locations from the State Health Department A similar list from the county Register of Deeds, if one is available A list of cemetery names and GPS coordinates from the Geological Survey page on the internet A similar list of church names and GPS coordinates from the Geological Survey page. Often the church is gone but a cemetery still exists. An organized plan of how the cemetery book will be arranged. (For example we number all of the cemeteries to be put in the book in order of increasing Township and Range numbers. So if there are three cemeteries in the far southeast township in the county, these would become numbers 1,2,3 to be shown later on diagramatic county map included in the cemetery book. They would then appear in the book and table of contents in that order) A county highway map with places to visit pinked in. (can be ordered from the State Highway Map Sales Office) Lists from area funeral directors of current cemetery sextons TOOLS TO TAKE WITH car compass Cardboard box of all your maps, atlases and paperwork to be checked Insect repellent extra pens red and black Long handled garden shovel, to excavate stones buried in abandoned cemeteries and removing sod from overgrown flat stones pitchfork, to locate stones overgrown with turf crowbar for turning over fallen stones in abandoned cemeteries pruning shears to cut lilacs away from the stone face in abandoned cemeteries Large mirror clipboards equipped with elastic bands to resist wind whisk broom small mason's steel trowel some blue carpenter's line chalk spray bottle of water (NOTE--no shaving cream, please!) stick of comfortable height, topped by a 9"x12" board for portable podium (some wild color like orange, can be left on ground to find your place again) magnesium lawn chair for sitting portable GPS receiver if you plan on giving GPS coordinates rubber boots, long sleeved shirts and trousers, straw hat Your lunch, coffee, water, first aid, and some plan for emergency peeing pooper scooper if dog goes along READING DIFFICULT STONES Grey stones in the shade can be read at another time of day. A mirror can be used to reflect sunlight at a shallow angle in order to read the lettering. Stones having massive lichens covering the lettering can be read by scraping off the lichens with the steel trowel, if it is a stone that would not be scarred by using a trowel. For soft stones, lichens can sometimes be partially removed with the whisk broom. If enough lichens can be removed such that the lettering still contains lichens, often the lettering can be read as lichens of a contrasting color. Concrete stones in which the shallow German script has eroded can often be read by chalking the lettering area, sweeping the blue chalk into the lettering. One person can read the lettering while the second bathes the lettering with bright mirrored sunlight from a shallow angle. Since chalk is a powdered form of calcium carbonate, the same composition of marble, and limestone markers, it should not cause any kind of chemical reaction. The blue chalk can be removed with a spray of water, or left for the next rain. (We feel that someone else might wander along and appreciate being able to read the stone for a week or so until the blue color is gone.) A spray of water into the lettered area can sometimes be used as a reading aid in similar fashion to the blue chalk method just described. It should be noted that the use of shaving cream and a squeegee is a no no and even the suggestion will cause hemorrhaging from the Association for Gravestone Studies experts. (They seem to think the fatty acids in the cream will cause chemical harm to the stone) You are to put nothing on a stone beyond water and perhaps an approved "neutral" liquid soap. Steel tools are not to be used, although brushes of natural bristles are suggested. Recall that the owner of the stone would take a dim view of any action you have taken that would deface the stone. THINGS TO DO WHEN REACHING CEMETERY BEFORE STARTING TO READ Describe the cemetery in notes. Is if fenced? Does it have a sign? Copy the sign message. Is the cemetery well maintained with grass trimmed etc, or only mowed occasionally? Is it an abandoned cemetery grown up to weeds and brush? Almost every cemetery has several names. It is well to show these name variations. Show the name, address, telephone number of the current sexton. Who hold the records? What is nature of the records? Is there an interment book which started with the cemetery, or did the book start in 1939 with the first 50 year's records tossed? What is the legal description of the cemetery to the nearest 40 acres, giving fractional part of the section, township and range numbers. Take or determine the GPS coordinates. Give the directions for finding the cemetery from some well known map location such a village, or an intersection of highways etc. Tell how many miles south along what 911 street or avenue, then how many miles west along the named streets and avenues, then which side of the road, such as east of the road and how far from the road, such as over the hill about a half mile west of the road. Where are you going to start? Ideally you would have a map of the cemetery and you would proceed to read the markers such as in section A, block #101, grave numbers 1-12 etc. This is nearly always unlikely. Many cemeteries don't even have the lots numbered, and describe where the grave is by saying it is north of Minnie but south of Harold etc. etc. Tell what fraction of the cemetery you are starting in and from which side, and which direction you are going. (Such as the NW 1/4 of the cemetery north of the center drive, starting form the north side, reading to the east by first reading north to the north end then reading south on the east side of the lots etc. etc.. That way a person can tell from the book who are the victim's neighbors, who are often relatives even though they have a different surname. A cemetery book purchaser should be able to follow your tracks in reading the cemetery by following the order of names in the book. In that way he will have little trouble finding uncle Max's grave even though this is his first visit to the cemetery. If there is no logical order of reading the cemetery, people trying to find a grave with the help of the cemetery book are completely frustrated. DATA FIELDS IN THE COMPUTER PROGRAM ( We are using Q&A) 1. Computer data entry number--to cause the printout to be in the order of reading. Used in re-checking cemeteries, but does not appear in the book--6 characters 2. Surname-- 18 characters 3. Stone column --2 characters ns= no stone or marker ss= this person is on the same stone as the previous person A= surname was not on the stone and was assumed from the family stone also use an asterisk * following the surname so that appears in the index. This tells the reader that we are not too certain that this guys name is Adams! 4. Given name--15 characters 5. Data column --up to three horizontal lines of 40 characters each (not possible with most non Q&A programs) In the data column we record all that is genealogically significant. We show the dates as Mar 3, 1988, or 13 Mar 1988 even though the unabbreviated date is shown on the stone. We record such things as mother, father, sister, funeral home names on any temporary marker, the complete data on military stones, with some things abbreviated such as WW2 for World War Two etc. We do not record poetry or expressions of grief or loving adjectives, and if the grave has several stones our data reflects a combination of data from all of them. If a long poem in German does indicate that this mother had seven children, we record the seven children. We record occupations if shown, titles such as state senator and the years, and things generally of interest to someone searching for ancestral information. 6. page number--put in after the pages are printed in order to build the index but not used in the body of the book. (If minimum data is recorded on the stone, all of the data read prints in one horizontal line. If entries in the data column exceed the 40 characters, then succeeding lines are printed in that column as the printer advances. Make sure each person has a surname shown. Do not show the surname on the family stone in caps and then all of the given names only. If you think they are all Peterson and there are five of them there ought to be five lines each starting with a Peterson! In printing we use 12 cpi for a page width of 102 characters. This allows on the order of a 3/4 inch border on each side for binding. We print the index in two column format with a similar set of borders. DATA ENTRY INTO THE COMPUTER The raw data should be entered into the computer as soon as possible after reading the cemetery, even if the cemetery readings are not completed for that particular cemetery. Recall of unreadable hand writing does not occur beyond a day or two. A sample print out of the data is then run including the computer entry numbers but not the page numbers, and printed in such a way that individual reader's work output can be isolated. On a return to that cemetery, printout sheets can be given to someone who has not read those particular stones and corrections made on the sample sheets in red markings. (It is at this point that errors can be fixed if you don't try to re- check too fast. It is very easy to confirm that what the stone sez and what the sheet sez are the same when they are not the same at all, and need spelling or date corrections etc. Even with this step in the process, many errors still persist!) We use spiral notebooks ruled with vertical columns to match those described above. That way the readings stay in the order of reading forever, unless a page is torn from the book. The spiral side of the book resists blowing in the wind, and pages can be turned and elastic bands reset by shielding the clipboard from the wind with your body. We use strips of sewing elastic perhaps 1/2 inch wide which far out performs rubber bands. We use a plastic mirrored surface affixed to the reverse side of the clip board as a handy mirror. (available from surplus as an insulation device) STONES MISSED ON FIRST READ BUT FOUND ON RE-CHECK Stones missed at first then found when re-checking can be added on this sample page in red print, assigning new numbers such as 435.1, 435.2 etc. so when the book is printed, the stones will be in proper reading order. MULTIPLE NAMES ON STONES Multiple names on stones are read from left to right, or top to bottom or around all four sides of a vertical oblisk. Check the back of stones for more inscriptions. The back or base often contains the children's names. TRY TO GET PHOTOCOPIES OF THE INTERMENT BOOK RECORDS Try to get actual photocopies of interment books or what cemetery records do exist. We have found most sextons are agreeable if the photocopies are made nearby. Some have even allowed the books to be taken overnight for copying. In the summer of 1999 we carried along a fairly large photocopier that handled letter and legal size, with reducing and enlarging functions. This allowed copied of quite large books. When a sexton was told that we had a copier in the car, the response was usually, "Bring it in!" Once your computer data entry for that particular cemetery is complete, an alphabetical list can be run of those markers you recorded. If it is a large cemetery, you may have to install edge tabs and put the whole thing in a temporary three ring binder. Then you can check the cemetery records with your records by following name by name through the cemetery records. When you find one you don't have, record the name and data. These are usually "no stoners" which you want to list in the book anyway. Sometimes they are just buried under a different name than shown on the stone. Then you will be able to generate three lists that might be of interest to the sexton. 1. A list of "no stoners", 2. A list of stones you found but are not shown in the cemetery records, and 3. An alphabetical list of all those you found and didn't find. We use soft covers of card stock, printed by the local printer. We have included photos on the cover but that adds to the cost for screening photos. We bind our books with plastic combs. It may not be as permanent as stapling, but it has some advantages. We get many requests for copies of specific pages. The plastic combs allow you to photocopy all of the printed part of the page. We attempt to add corrections and missed cemeteries in the back of the book. Those books still in stock can be unbound, the old page tossed and new pages added, then the comb closed. For books we donate to the local library or to the State Historical Society, we laminate the covers before punching for combs. It makes the book a little more permanent where it gets much use. We have had trouble with the laminant not punching well and fouling the punch. We recently found that if the laminated cover is placed in the freezer for a hour or so, the punching is much easier. We have, for the last year or so, made library copies of our covers by sticking the card stock cover onto an 8.5 x 11 piece of picture framing matte board with four short pieces of doublestick tape before laminating. For the back cover we use just the matte board without laminate. This makes a fairly stiff cover that is useful for heavy book traffic. We have found that irregular matte board (called fault board) is availble for about $2.50 a 30 or 32 by 40 piece, instead of the $7-$10 for the first class mattte board. We cut our own from the large board using a box cutter. Rottsa Ruck!