Preparation for Graveyard Recording.

Recording Check List.

In the preparation of the Graveyard Survey, make sure that some things are completed first by sorting through your check list.

Before any work is done in the preparation of the survey, it is most important that permission is obtained from the vicar to allow us access to the churchyard. If there is any difficulty in obtaining his agreement, please let me know, as we are usually welcomed to do this work. Check at the same time if there is a conservation area and where this lies within the churchyard.

A map [scaled as far as possible] is required to show the position of the church in the churchyard and the position of all tombstones. Most co-ordinators prefer to use OS maps to get the outline shape of the ground, paths in the churchyard, size & shape of the church, noting on the plan large trees or gates as landmarks. Even the  Ordnance Survey Maps 1:25,000 do not show enough detail and so a measured plan will be more accurate. Every stone has to be shown in position and a number allocated to it. 

It is really essential not to make a start until you have a plan of the graveyard, as it is very difficult to transcribe and do the plan afterwards. When the project is completed could you please let your family history society have any photographs [colour or b/white] that you wish to add to the transcription, as these scan into a computer better than photocopies of photographs. The photographs will be returned if you wish to have them for the parish copy.

Enlist a team of volunteers; it is best to let them know dates of your planned visits with plenty of notice. Most volunteers like to meet other members and have a good chat whilst contributing to do the task in hand, so care is needed when pairing them up. It is a good idea to team up a novice helper with someone who has experience.   It may well be to your advantage to encourage more help, to place an advert in your local library and also to ask your Vicar to advertise that this recording work is to be done, and the times of your meetings, in his Parish newsletter. You may get more volunteers from the Parish this way.

Decide on your plan of attack. In the Churchyard, using your plan, decide which section and numbers are to be done first. It is better to do the easiest or youngest graves first. Remember to check churchyard seats and benches and War memorials. Within the Church list the MIs in order of, say, entrance porch, north side of west wall, north wall, chancel, south wall, balance of west wall, war memorial plaques. Include floor memorials if readable, also any 'in memory of' artefact such as a reading table, pulpit, candle stands, Bibles etc. These can be left until a rainy day, but it is important that these are done.

Try to be at the graveyard half an hour before the group arrive. Number the memorials with the corresponding number from the map, with plastic garden labels clearly numbered 1-100, sticking them into the ground in front of memorial. [I keep mine in groups of 10 held by elastic bands and all kept in an old ice-cream container.]

When the grave has been transcribed, the volunteer lies the label face down on the grass, so that the grave inscription is not done twice. At the end of the session don't forget to collect these labels together, as you need to leave the churchyard as you found it and also you will need the labels for another time.

Go well prepared. Preparations prior to the meeting include: Drawing up in a small exercise book, a 'Register' of your volunteers, leaving room for their phone no. or address and assigning each pair of volunteers with a Number, which corresponds with a notebook. This is so that you can check with them later if necessary, and also to let them have their own notebook back at the next meeting. Keep this list of volunteers for inclusion at publication.

A series of Secretary's Shorthand Note pads numbered with large numbers on the front. Grave markers made from 'T' shaped plastic garden labels, with waterproof numbers on. Bristle scrubbing brushes [not wire brushes of course] are invaluable, bucket, water sprays, clean fresh water, [in case the church does not have a supply], clipboards, secateurs, trowel, border spade, something to kneel on, a cardboard tube about 2 feet long, cut at one end at an angle of 300 to look down, a medium sized mirror, pencils [not pens] rubber/eraser, pencil sharpener, some 'wipes' for your hands, coffee, sandwiches and wellies.

Encourage your volunteers to bring some of these above items themselves, or you will spend much time asking for your equipment back at the session end.

It is a good idea to put up a notice at the church boundary, if possible, explaining who you are and what we are doing, this informs local residents who could have valuable information and you may possibly recruit volunteers to help you or even new members for the Society. Application forms to join the Society are available from our Secretary, Mrs Julie Kennedy, 19 Mavor Close, Woodstock, Oxon. OX20 1YL [Tel 01993 812258]