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Digital Cemetery Mapping

Digital Cemetery Mapping provides numerous benefits and advantages. Cemetery managers that provide burial plot maps enable their stakeholders to have access to gravesite locations.  Additionally, an accurate cemetery plot map allows cemetery management to have an understanding of how much space is available for future development.  Over time, however, the traditional paper-based static burial plot maps and cemetery records can become out of date, damaged, lost, or destroyed.

Digital Cemetery Mapping
Digital cemetery mapping improves recordkeeping and streamlines operations

It is of the utmost importance that cemetery managers have an accurate understanding of cemetery data and the exact placement of each grave.  Digital cemetery mapping has evolved over time to replace the unreliable physical records and cemetery plot maps.  As most active cemeteries have a finite area of real estate to work within, it is imperative to have an accurate burial plot map that not only identifies the existing interments in the cemetery but also identifies areas where additional burials may be planned.

There are numerous grave mapping services to choose from, but not all are created equal.  It is important to determine what goals are critical for managing a cemetery, and each cemetery’s goals for cemetery mapping will be different.  For the best return on investment, cemetery managers should consider digital cemetery mapping options which will best position them for future maintenance needs and growth potential.

Cemeteries of all sizes can benefit from digital cemetery mapping.  There are a number of important considerations when evaluating a digital cemetery mapping provider.

  1. Ground Penetrating Radar Surveys:  GPR cemetery mapping is the use of ground-penetrating radar equipment to identify unmarked burials in cemeteries.  This geophysical method is a non-destructive approach using radio signals transmitted into the ground, reflected to a high-tech receiver, and interepreted by a skilled GPR technician to identify underground anomalies.  Any digital cemetery mapping endeavor is incomplete without first using GPR cemetery mapping to identify unexpected and unknown unmarked graves.
  • GPS data collection:  GPS cemetery mapping is the use of GPS collection devices to gather location data (lattitude and longitude) and attribute data of relevant cemetery features.  The accuracy of various GPS collection devices varies dramatically.  Therefore, it’s important to utilize highly-accurate collection devices when conducting GPS cemetery mapping.  As a reference point, GPS-enabled cell phones are typically only accurate to within 16 feet under best-case circumstances which is not a suitable level of accuracy for developing a digital burial plot map.  A suitable digital cemetery mapping services provider should be able to provide accuracy levels of 4” or less and also have a method for maintaining accuracy under adverse circumstances such as under tree cover.
  • Digital cemetery mapping platform:  Ultimately, the data collected from GPR cemetery mapping and GPS cemetery mapping must be assembled into a format able to be used by cemetery management.  The ideal platform for this is a cloud-based geographic information system (GIS) resulting in a GIS cemetery mapping solution that integrates the data into an easily accessible and interactive cemetery map package.  There are many GIS cemetery mapping platforms, and it’s important to ensure the data is readily shareable in a universal format such as Esri ArcGIS.  At a minimum, the attribute data in the interactive cemetery map should include names, year of birth, year of death, and veteran status of those interred along with images of all headstones.
  • Inventory management:  In order to go beyond the functionality of a traditional cemetery plot map that shows current interments, cemetery managers need to manage areas where future graves may be allocated.  A GIS cemetery mapping platform can make it possible to manage the inventory of potential grave plots by showing what plots are available, versus what plots are sold or reserved.
  • Accessibility to the public:  One of the unique strengths of implementing a GIS cemetery mapping solution is the ability to share the cemetery data with the public.  The interactive cemetery map can be enriched with biographic details of the interred, highlight veterans interred in the cemetery, and provide a repository for historical information about the community, the cemetery as a whole, and individuals interred in the cemetery.

The first step to improving and innovating cemetery operations starts with moving from physical paper records and grave mapping methods to a digital cemetery mapping solution.  Adopting a web-accessible GIS cemetery mapping solution creates endless opportunities to improve workflow and operational efficiencies.  From paying respects to compiling genealogical research, digital cemetery mapping provides a user-friendly and easily accessible repository for cemetery data and enables cemetery managers to maintain and preserve their cemetery for future generations.

Check out examples of our digital cemetery mapping HERE.

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