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Cemetery Survey

Completing a survey provides a comprehensive record of a cemetery at a specific time.Start with doing a search for any data about the cemetery that you might find at your local historical society, library, and local government recording office or University archives. After you have completed your surveys, file the collected information with several of these places, it will ensure the long-term preservation of your site and research data.

Keep the information you found in your search organized, it’s going to help you along the way. Do an on-site analysis to create a general survey covering the overall design and composition of the site. Using graph paper, all of these items should be drawn as close to scale as possible, to make a map that provides a view of the dimensional relationships within the cemetery and the outer boundaries of the site. Do not assume that the fence marks the correct boundaries. The map will be one of the most important pieces of documentation created during your survey.

Locate a measuring wheel to use, these instruments can be borrowed from a school that have football fields, real estate offices, police stations, or in the offices of groups that measure land for a living. The measuring wheel has a handle and as you roll the wheel along the boundary line, the counter will calculate the distance traveled. Once you have created an outline for your cemetery’s boundary lines. Begin measuring and sketching the major landmarks such as entrances, exits, roads, walls, trees, pathways, vegetation, fences, gates, gravestones and grave depressions on to your map. Creating an inventory survey.

You want to start an individual marker survey that records detailed descriptions of an individual gravesite features, adding to this as you find gravestones. Each marker should be assigned an individual number that is then placed on the overall map of the site. The number should be placed on the inventory survey and all documentation to help indicate placement on the map.

When the physical work starts you will want to do a condition survey that records the before and after appearance of the cemetery and each headstone found. Note the location of the marker on the map, take a before and after photo.

You are going to have unmarked graves in any cemetery, you will need to make an unmarked burial survey. See our page on finding unmarked graves. You may be able to uncover whole or repairable stones that have fallen and are buried underground.

You may want to do a vegetation survey, plants are an essential part of every old burial ground and deserve the same respect and care as any other historic artifact. Some of these plants may even be rare, like yielded roses and other living antiques once thought lost forever.

Remember after completing your survey file the collected information with several places like your local historical society, library, and local government recording office or University archives, it will ensure the long-term preservation of your site and research data.


Sometimes a google map images is helpfull.


Take photo of each stone.


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