It isn’t unheard of for genealogists to go and visit cemeteries at any time of the year, not just when it is close to Halloween. Here are a few tips to follow that will make your visit to the graveyard result in good genealogy research, and keep you safe, at the same time.
Before you visit the cemetery, you should take the time to gather up some very useful items. Bring your smartphone. Use it to call for help if you fall and get injured or become lost. Use it to take a photo of the graves of your ancestors, so you can transcribe it after you return home. Use it as a flashlight if you stayed too long and the sun started going down.
Bring a friend with you. It is always fun to share your adventures in genealogy with a like-minded friend or relative. They don’t have to be a genealogist to accompany you. Plenty of people like to visit graveyards, especially if it is a really old one, just to look at the elaborately carved stones. Another good reason to bring a friend with you is for safety.
Download the app from Billion Graves.com. This is possible for both iPhone and Android users. Take photos of the gravestones you came to see, and of others that caught your attention along the way. Upload the photos to the Billion Graves website. This can help other genealogists with their research.
Dress for the weather. You are going to be outside for several hours. It is a good idea to wear shoes that you can easily walk or hike in. Avoid high heels that will sink into grass. Wear layers of clothing in case the weather changes while you are out. Bring rain gear or an umbrella, in case of rain.
Don’t clean the gravestones. Many people have the mistaken impression that a huge, solid, stone, won’t be damaged by a little cleaning. Keep in mind that older gravestones have experienced weather damage, and may have parts that are flaking off of them. Avoid the temptation to use bleach or other caustic substances on a tombstone because you think you can get a better photo of it that way. You could end up erasing all of the details that were once carved on it!
Learn the rules. Take the time to discover if the cemetery is a privately owned one or if it is open to the public. What hours are you allowed to visit? Where should you park your car? What time do the gates close? If it is a newer cemetery, ask if there is a day when no burials are scheduled so you don’t interfere with a private moment shared by a grieving family.
Image by Don LaVange on Flickr