Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Preserving Cemeteries: USGS GNIS

This is the first of a series of blogs about preserving cemeteries in ways you might not think of!

I just can’t take this alphabet soup!

For those that just have to know what each and every letter stands for, it’s the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Geographic Names Information System.

For those that don’t care about the fancy name, it’s a government database that tracks land-related features like rivers, mountains, populated places, churches, hospitals, and cemeteries, by a feature name, like river, mountain, populated place, etc. Check out the GNIS query page at http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic/

What does GNIS have to do with preservation?

Well, they aren’t out at the cemetery pulling weeds up and cleaning stones, that’s for sure! But what they do is preserve the location information – forever. As some of the old cemeteries grow over and disappear, their exact location can be found again, no guess-work needed. And that is a very good way to help preserve the cemetery.

How hard is it to add to the GNIS?

You have to supply a lot of information to the GNIS, and that can be a bit of work. But the good news is, if you include everything, it’s possible to add and update via email without using that nasty form on the website! Here's the grocery list:
  • State and County
  • Feature Name = Cemetery
  • Feature ID (if making a correction)
  • Proper Name (as registered with the County)
  • Latitude / longitude of center of cemetery
  • Principle Meridian, Range, Township, Section, ¼
  • References and documentation

Not as hard as you think

I use a Garmin hand-held GPS and stand in the center of the cemetery to take a reading. That gives me the exact lat/lon in decimal format. One call to the County Clerk or Land and Tax office should get you the proper name, the Range, Twp, Section, and if it's an open cemetery, the name of the Association responsible.

Use the Genweb and Interment.net sites as a reference, along with your county, and any book references or websites and you should be good to go!

Once it’s done, it's it’s there forever! It's a small investment for a lasting benefit.

Happy Geocoding!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My father and I owna tombstone company in Knoxville, TN and we do cemetery restorations and preservations. We are willing to travel and we clean, re-align, re-set, re-seal, level, etc.... If you are interested then give us a call (865)573-7733. Thank You.