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Exercising for Geneaology

Cemeteries hold vast amounts of undocumented geneaological data. Large stones, imprinted with large letters and made to stand the tests of time, sit quietly and anonymously. This is despite the fact that they practically scream their "secrets" to an oblivious world. Not only do these memorials contain the basic facts, primarily name and dates of birth and death, but they often contain hints of what these people were like. Some stones contain devoutly religious inscriptions. Some have symbols of organizational affiliations, or military service. Dates of marriage, sweet personal sentiments, funny quips, nicknames, and other text let us see inside the lives of these people, when a dry census form or ship's manifest doesn't give us a clue. Other not-so-obvious information is the quality of the memorial, the quality of the cemetery, the location of the cemetery, and if the person even has a tombstone at all (instead of a basic marker) give us more clues about the lives of these departed.

This is where the photograver comes in. A graver frequents cemeteries, but a photograver makes permanent visual recordings of the memorials. While the locations of graves should be a matter of public record, private cemeteries often guard this data, only willing to release a trickle at a time, very likely with some perverse profit motive in mind. And public cemetery records are held by the government, which has a reputation for inefficiency, and often even stonewalling. Both of these impedements make it necessary for the public to gather the information itself, and photographs are the ideal format. They show the basic information, as well as the additional visual information. And recording the general location of the stone is a must. Some cemeteries contain tens of thousands of graves, and locating a specific grave without help is like finding a needle in a haystack. Large cemeteries usually have markers indicating different sections.

PhotoGraver.com accommodates this need. They allow users to upload hundreds of photos PER DAY, and the process is streamlined to allow a users to select an entire folder of images in just a few seconds. Images are then transcribed by the public at large. This relieves the photographer of the burdensome task of transcribing. Photographers can focus on taking the photos. The division of labor makes this process much more appealing, since some may only want to get out and enjoy the sunshine, while snapping photos. And others may be much more interested in examining the photos and transcribing the data. No account is required to transcribe, with the intent being to encourage the random passerby to contribute a few moments of their time to transcribe one or two memorials. Searches and accounts are always free, with no catches. Accounts don't ask for any personal information other than your zip code, and this is simply necessary so that others can contact you or coordinate with you based on your geographic location.

Photograving is a nice way to get exercise. You get outside, and you slowly move about the cemetery, which is great low-intensity exercise to benefit your cardiovascular health. Cemeteries are often beautiful, and almost always tranquil. The vast numbers of graves give you a virtually endless supply of reasons to go back. And with the invention of digital cameras, there is virtually no expense, other than the cost of the camera and memory (which can be $100 or less). Well, of course there is also the gasoline that gets you there, but this is just like going to the gym or to the park.

Just a hint about the quality of the photos. Your camera will probably have different "resolution" settings. The ideal resolution will be about 640 by 480 pixels (a pixel is dot in the image. So, this image would be 640 dots wide, and 480 dots high. That's a LOT of dots!) This provides a decent amount of detail, and keeps the size of the file relatively small. PhotoGraver.com limits image sizes to 250KB or less. If this is all foreign to you, don't worry. It's easy.

And technique is important. The sun can reflect off of the shiny surface of memorials, and this can ruin the photo. Memorials are often obscured by grass of leaves, so this must be removed. Mementos left by loved ones may obscure tombstone information, so we must respectfully move and replace these. Tombstones may be dusty, or heavily worn, so a paint brush (for dust) and a spray bottle (for dirt, or to enhance contrast) can come in handy.

Also, photograving is a great way to meet people. Some of these cemeteries are just too big for one person, and there's no point in duplicating others work (or having others duplicate yours) so PhotoGraver.com has a section that allows you to seek others help on a project, or just to inform others that certain areas have been completed.

And safety is always important. If you are elderly, be sure that others know where you've gone, just in case your have an accident. Bringing a cell phone is always a good idea. And if you don't think the cemetery is safe from bad elements, then DON'T GO THERE. I'm sure the genealogical community is much more interested in your safety than in tidbits of knowledge.

Try out photograving. It's like modern day tombstone rubbing.




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