Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Tips & Procedures for Cemetery Work - For Our Volunteers
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
 Tips and Procedures for Cemetery Readings
in Tri-Counties
Tri Counties Home Page
Warnings & Disclaimer
Online Research Library
Say Hello to Joyce
2002 Cemetery Plans & Schedule
Below - Phil's Tools - Ready To Go
Above - Phil's Tools for Cemetery Work
1A.. How I Record a Cemetery - Phil Herman
1B. Tools of the Trade - Phil Herman
2. Tips from Pat SMITH Raymond
3A. Preparing the date for Submission to Tri-Counties Site
3B. Additional Tips from Joyce
3C - What We Need
4. Audio Recorders with Mic
5. A Humorous Incident in the Cemetery - Phil Herman
6. Another suggestion from Paula



Introduction by Joyce M. Tice

We have over 700 cemeteries in the three county area represented on this site. We already have many hundreds of cemetery listings online and they are used by researchers all over the country and the world. These listings are made possible by the core of local volunteers who spend their valuable time out in the sun and heat and rain recording the tombstone information. Their work both makes it available to those who need it, and also preserves it from the wear of time and weather and vandalism.

Every spring we meet as a group for an annual planning meeting to let each other know what we intend to work on for the coming summer. Often other people volunteer to chip in but are unable to attend the meeting. For this reason. I am creating this page and the associated Schedule as a means of communication for those who want to help. Every year new volunteers join in and these pages will record the wisdom and experience of those who have already done it, to help those who have not.

I expect that once I post this page, some of our other experienced volunteers will have point to add. I will include them as they come in.

Recording the Cemetery - by Phil Herman

My first step is to use my digital camera and audio recorder to plot the layout of the cemetery and decide how I can break it up into sections for easier reading. I record the dimensions and markers (trees, rows, roads, gates, bushes, etc.) on the tape for each section read.

I record a cemetery using a Digital Audio Cassette recorder, equipped with a microphone that I fasten to my collar. This keeps my hands free for other things such as cleaning or moving stones.

I record all names, dates, inscription (except ones like "Rest in Peace" etc.), flag holders, etc.

Getting info from hard to read stones

The technique that I suggest is using shaving crème. Some use flower or talc.   The main reason that I rinse the stone is for esthetic reasons. People will feel better about it. If you leave the shaving crème, the next rain will wash it off and it will help neutralize the acid rain or soil to a small degree. I use a pump up garden sprayer for rinsing the stones. Subj:  Re: Cemetery Methods Write Up
Date:  4/30/2002 9:19:56 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:  Pat717
To:  JoyceTice

Hi Joyce,
    I would suggest the following supplies--Scotch Brite (Green scrubber) for taking the moss off most stones.  Aerosol shaving cream, Squeegee with foam on one side and scraper on the other.  A garden sprayer, or other spray bottle, for water to wash shaving cream from the stone.
    Method that seems to work best for me is as follows:  If moss makes stone unreadable, use Scotch Brite to remove moss, scrubbing gently.  Sometimes just taking the moss off is enough to let you read the stone.   If stone is old and hard to read, spray with shaving cream (don't overdo it) and use foam side of squeegee to scrape into indentations, then use rubber side to scrape over the writing.  The soap will stay in the letters and most of the time you will be able to read the stone.   Spray the stone with water to wash off the soap.  If you are in a cemetery where there are no straight rows, use a piece of chalk to make a "SMALL" mark on the stone so you will know you read it.
    Ken may have other tips to add.
      Pat Raymond

How to Prepare Your Data for Submission to Tri-Counties - By Joyce M. Tice

1. Cemetery Listings - Whether you record your data using pen and paper, audio recorder or digital camera, or any combination thereof, it needs to be transferred to a spreadsheet format before it can be used on the site. Excel is the preferred software, but Microsoft Works or Quattro Pro are also useable. I can send you a sample template with the columns already laid out as we want them

2. If you mail me the data on paper, it is a huge expense in time for us to have it retyped. I have not yet figured out how to stuff paper into the computer. I need the data in digital format that I do not need to scan and OCR or retype. If you did it on the computer, it is already in digital format and that is what I can use. Send your data either on floppy disk or as an email attachment. No paper please. (If you can't do your own typing, see number 7.)

3. If you do not have access to a spreadsheet software, you can also use Microsoft Word, but you MUST USE TABLES for any information that is in columns. Tabs will collapse when converted to HTML. Do NOT use tabs of any kind.

4. The columnar layout for the spreadsheet is Surname, First and middle name, birth date, death date, other inscription. If any of these items are not included on the stone, leave them blank.  I can email you the Excel template for you to use.Just ask me.

Additionally you must include the date the cemetery was read, the names of the readers, the name(s) of the typist, the physical location of the cemetery with useable directions to get there. Note on condition of cemetery. These items can go at the top of the spreadsheet.

5. Include the entire cemetery on one spreadsheet unless it is very large and broken up into sections.

6. PLEASE do inform me of your intention to read a cemetery. We've had several instances of two people doing the same cemetery. It is better to work together when there is a shared interest. We have so few resources, we do not like to see them wasted.  Also I will post your intention and email address on the Schedule Page, and then anyone who wants to help you, can contact you . Many hands make light work.

7. If you do not have access to a spreadsheet program or if you can not do your own typing for any reason, you can  mail handwritten (clear, I hope) to me and I can get another person to transfer the data to the required format. Just ask me for my mailing address. You can also mail photos or copies for other volunters to type.

8. I do not claim that my format is the best or the only way to do it, but it is consistent and makes it easy for me to convert it quickly and with minimal time expenditure to the site where it can be used. Other formats require a lot of editing on my part and slow me down. Listings prepared in any other way than as described will take longer to get to the site and will not get to the top of the work pile quickly. Like all people, I do the easy stuff first. Materials that come in in a format that is easy to work with for me, get to the site quickly. Those that are not, go lower in the pile until I find time to spend on it.

9. Sometimes people send in PARTIAL listings of just their own family members. This is OK ONLY IF you tell me it is partial. I have had several embarrassing incidents where a listing was submitted without indicating it was partial. Then I get all kinds of mail pointing out what is missing. Tell me first. In general, I do not post partials unless there is just absolutely nothing else available. We are interested in the entire community.

10. PHOTOS - The most common error people make in sending photos is to make them TOO TINY. Photos should be scanned at HIGH resolution and saved as JPG files. I need them sent in much larger format that I will eventually use. I need space to edit and crop and do all kinds of "magic" on them before I publish them. In some cases, people have scanned their photos in high resolution but their email program has reduced them This is what we call arrogant software that assumes we are too stupid to know what we are doing, but the software knows our purpiose better than we. Fight it. Stay in charge and send HIGH resolution photos.

11. Articles, obituaries, etc. should be typed in MS word. I invite you to write articles for the site. Or you may want to send in something someone else wrote. If the latter either get their permission or be sure it is not under copyright.

12. Bible Records shoudl be typed either in Word or Excel. If you use columns in Word they will collapse to the right when I convert them to HTML. Insert tables to avert that.

13. Family Histories are welcome in Word format. I prefer the Register format. If you don't know what that means look it up in any genealogy  how to guide. Photos are a great addition.. Living persons should not be included. Be sure to tell me the townships with which the family was associated. The site is community structured, so that is important information to us. Send photos SEPARATELY and NOT embedded in the document. They should be in HIGH resolution .jpg format.  If you send them embedded in the document, I have to take them out, reduce them to a size acceptable for Internet loading, edit them and put them back in . It causes a huge amount of extra work for me that can be avoided by sending them separately as described.

Additional Tips by Joyce M. Tice

1. One of the methods used by our group is to have one person read a section and then, once it is typed up, have a DIFFERENT person audit it. This checks both the original reading and the typing and increases accuracy.

2. Even big cemeteries are readable, particularly with a group. They can be sectioned off and done as a series of smaller unites. Even Woodlawn can be done - Hint. Hint.

3. You don't have to be local to help. This is a great area for a vacation. Spend some of it helping us. The site is based on cooperation and the belief that those who are willing to use its resources are just as willing to assist in their creation. It is a two way street. Don't be afraid to help, even if just for a day. We hope, as the summer progresses, to have actual dates posted of work on particular cemeteries.

What We Need

Many of the Cemetery listings, partilcuarly those in Tioga County, were done in the 1970s and newer listings are needed. In that case, you might start with the older listing printed out from the site and both audit the listing and redo with the newer burials. This is particularly so no the still active cemeteries. Many of the older cemeteries that were done in the 1970s would no longer be readable today.

 Subj:  Re: Audio Recorders for Cemetery Work
Date:  4/30/2002 4:10:21 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: (Phil Herman)

The one [audio recorder] I like the best is a Sony Walkman  TCS 30d   It can be run at normal or double record time with a control to speed up or slow down the replay. It records in stereo came with a stereo microphone.

The other is and Optimus VOX,  CTR - 106  from Radio Shack has voice activation if you want to use it. I have trouble with the voice activation cutting off some of my words. 

Cemetery Recording Story

It was late one Sunday afternoon in April.  I was reading and recording my first cemetery of the new season.  To leave my hands free, I was using a tape recorder with a microphone fastened to my collar and the player in my sweatshirt front pocket. I had approximately an hour of daylight left, to complete the section that I had marked off.

By the time I got to the last stone in the section, it was dark enough that I could barely make out the names and dates. The stone had been broken off and was sitting in a hole in the ground. I read and recorded the names and dates. Then I noticed another name at ground level and figured there must be more info  below the ground.

Looking  behind me, I noticed an older couple observing the proceedings from the fence about 20 yards away. They didn't speak, just looked concerned, as if they thought I might be doing something I shouldn't be doing.

I pulled the large stone out of the ground and placed it upright against another stone. As I cleaned and prepared to read the stone, a voice spoke to me from the hole in the ground repeating the names and dates from the stone that I had just read. Startled for a few seconds, I then realized that it was my voice coming from the hole. I leaned over the hole and said a few words to my tape recorder that had fallen from my pocket into the hole and and somehow turned itself on.

Then I remembered the people watching from the fence. I turned just in time to see them hurry into the church. I guess they had lost interest in my project, although one did take a last glance at me and shake his head.  I wish I could have seen their faces before they left.

Still a mystery, is how the tape rewound itself far enough to play back the names from that very stone that I had just read.  Maybe I don't want to know.

Phil Herman

Subj:  Hi Joyce
Date:  10/22/2002 6:44:19 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: (Paula Radwanski)

I just visited your cemetery site and saw the photo of all the material you take to the cemetery with you.   Might I make a suggestion?

Ron and I have been photographing all the cemeteries in Wyoming Co. - have about 32 of the oldest ones done so far and taking GPS readings of all of them (the last project is about 98% done of well over 100 cemeteries).  We hope to have a book published with all the finding eventually and use it as a fund raiser for the society.   We copied inscriptions of all the cemeteries between 25-30 years ago but what you can do now with the digital photography, reverse imaging and shaving cream - we are making a lot of corrections to our old lists.

But we picked up a cheap sprayer at Walmart - holds about 2 gallons of water - and this works great to gently spray the stone off.  Before that used a squirt bottle and before long you had really got tired squirting!   But the sprayer is so great because you can spray gently and all the shaving cream comes off so quickly.

We don't have a garbage can to haul the stuff in but a large rectangle plastic crate hooked to a luggage carrier (so same idea)  Sometimes wonder what people think we are up to when they see us in the cemeteries!!

Take care - and really enjoy your site.

Paula Radwanski
Wyoming Co. Historical Society
Tunkhannock, PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 5/02/2002
By Joyce M. Tice
You are the Volunteer or Potential Volunteer to Visit since the counter was installed on 02 MAY 2002 - Page relocated and counter rest 05 DEC 2007