As promised, the database is now live, and searchable. You can check it out for yourself at Search Colorado Cemeteries. Currently, it's a surname only search, meaning, you enter a surname, and your results will show all the occurrences of that name across all the cemeteries. When you click on the person's name you'll get a full record and a picture. There is only a limited amount of data in the system right now, as getting the system to work took me longer than expected. If there are no matches for the name in the database, an empty table will be returned. The search button is part of the navbar, so, you can click that link anytime you think about another bit of research to do.
Just because the database is up and running, the enhancements won't stop there. Look for more data, improved record pages, and possibly a search just for photos!
Over the next month, look for more data to be available in the system, as well as some improved content, new articles, and more photos.
The Ongoing Challenges
of a Comprehensive Cemetery Site
When I began this project a year ago, I'd really only imagined making maps of cemeteries that didn't have maps, and providing details about cemeteries I knew well, but couldn't find much in the way of online information. As I started working, the magnitude of the task kept growing, as I realized both the fundamental need for better information and broadened the scope to be comprehensive.
Naturally, sometime during the year, I also had the realization that the task grew more difficult everyday, as cemeteries continued to increase in "residents." Certainly, this is less of an issue for inactive cemeteries. Once a survey is completed, it stays completed. While inactive cemeteries face changing conditions due to the passage of time, exposure to the elements, and issues of plant and animal life in rural cemeteries, these challenges are slower and more manageable. With almost 400 active cemeteries in the state, how to manage this?
Other thoughts have raised equally thorny issues. Some cemeteries no longer have an owner actively managing the grounds, even if they are still used for burials. Who is responsible for these burial places? Who owns the land? While cemetery monuments are still technically the responsibility of the family that erected them, what about cemeteries of ghost towns, or pioneers who left no family or whose family has long since left the state?
If that wasn't enough, added to this cauldron of bubbling thoughts was the notion that few burials are market with monuments, meaning that burial records are sometimes the only way of knowing how many people are interred in a burial ground. This is complicated by the fact that many cemeteries no longer have records for the land, or that burial records are maintained by individual funeral homes, and not centralized.
These are not challenges that can be solved over night. The current database at Colorado Cemeteries will allow me to store the records of unmarked burials in the same place as records of markers, should I ever run out of things to do.
Cemetery of the Month
I took some of my favorite cemetery photos of this year-long adventure as a summer storm rolled over the peaks and into Gregory Gulch while I was working in the cemetery. This was the Rocky Mountain Independent Order of Oddfellows #2 Cemetery in Gilpin County. You can see this picture at the top of the page. Instead of furiously trying to complete a few more rows of stones, I just watched the weather roll in, and was grateful for the millionth time, that I live in Colorado. Even better, here I was, standing among the pioneers that worked in this tiny mining area, which is, for all intents and purposes, the cradle of our state.
Around the Web
One of the stated goals of the Obama Administration is a call to encourage people to become more involved in there communities. One writer in New York thinks that maintaining cemeteries is a civic duty.
Ching Ming, the annual Chinese festival honoring the dead, has raised some concerns with residents living near a cemetery. If you'd like to read more about this festival, here's the Grave News issue that discussed this tradition. Corruption in China has led to huge funeral costs in China. Also from China, a researcher tries to find lost Jewish headstones from Shanghai's Jewish cemeteries.
The National Cemetery Association has started assessing a list of monuments in need of preservation.
We all know that out history is preserved in cemeteries. Here's lovely virtual visit through Oak Grove Cemetery in Massachusetts.
In Colorado cemetery news, a headstone that had been stolen from the Arvada Cemetery has been located. A replanting project has begun at Historic Riverside Cemetery, thanks to donations of time and seeds from community members. Speaking of Riverside, if you are in the Denver area, and would like to know more about the projects going on at Riverside, plan to attend the annual Board Meeting of the Friends of Historic Riverside Cemetery. The
meeting will be on May 16, 2009 from 10 am-noon, at the Holy Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral, Community Hall (349 E 47th Ave, Denver, 80216). I'll even be there, presenting about the new documentation/assessment plan. A brown bag reception, with sweets and lemonade will follow the meeting across the street at Argo park, and a free walking tour of the cemetery will follow the reception, lead by Cliff Dougal (former caretaker of Riverside for 19 years) and Garry O’hara. A fundraiser will be held, which is a Prize Drawing for a Diamond Ring ($5.00 tickets, ring appraised at $1,000). Make sure you stop and say howdy, I'd love to meet you.
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Missed an Issue?
Don't fret! All the issues of Grave News can be found online at: http://www.colorado-cemeteries.com/Grave_News-backissues.html