Survey Preparation

Notes on preparation check

In preparing for the transcription survey, we shall need to make sure that we have several details to hand. First of all, please contact Alan Simpson who is the Monumental Inscription Co-ordinator for Oxfordshire FHS.  Alan will be able to tell you if your church or chapel yard has already been transcibed in the past.

Discover who holds the key to the church. If it looks like rain, you could arrange for the church to be open, so that you can go inside and transcribe some of the monuments within the church. Advise the team to bring a snack and drink.

Make sure that you discover where the nearest loos are. Will the local pub oblige, if not ask a Churchwarden/Vicar if they can help with this, as there may well be toilets within the church.

Tell the group where the local pub is; if the weather is cool, it is better to have a snack at the pub, which will make the publican more inclined to allow the use of his toilets, and will not only warm you all up, but make you all feel part of a team and encourage you all to come along the following week.

Please note and explain to your volunteers that lichens growing on the tombstones are a protected species and should not be removed in total. DO not use any chemicals or detergents. Use clean water please and remove only the part where the lettering is inscribed. Please read: The British Lichen Society's website here:  There is a helpful download at the bottom of this page.

As the group arrives, check against your 'Register of Volunteers', and give each pair of volunteers a Secretary's notebook, which facilitates ease of page turning, and, on a windy day, page holding! A clipboard will help too, and is better when placed on the grass, as this doesn't pick up the damp, as the note pad would. A rubber band over the end of the book is also a good idea to hold pages in place.

Now, assign to a team of two, ten graves to do, explaining that each page must be numbered with the corresponding number of the stone they are transcribing, in the top left hand corner, followed by a description of the type of gravestone, if wished. Explain that you need one inscription per page.

When they have finished these 10 send another pair along to check that 10, or arrange another 'checking' session ALL WORK MUST BE CHECKED. Preferably, all work is to be signed by one member of the recording pair and then by one member of the checking pair.

Clear writing is absolutely necessary, all personal names to be in BLOCK LETTERS and all line ending to be clearly marked with an oblique [/]. Any guessing or assumptions are to be put in squared brackets i.e. H- -[r]y or the year, as 18[55]. Sometimes the numbering,  is difficult to read, so put 185[3 or 5]. The figure '4' may 'fade' to resemble a '1' Figure '0' may 'fade' so that only the sides can be seen and so resemble '(' or ')' and thus may look like '9' or '6'. The figures '3' and '5' can be easily confused, but may have different proportions for the lower curve. Be careful also with '8' and '2' Compare with other figures in the same inscription or by the same Mason. Check with the footstone if possible. This can then be compared against the burial register by the co-ordinator who can add below the transcription
[BR says 1853]. Please DO NOT ASSUME anything. i.e. it may be obvious to you what the end of a quotation may be but unless you can read it, please do not write anything down at all except: [.....................]

Don't forget to include footstones, flower vases, masons marks [usually found at the back base of stone] and inscriptions on gates or on lights and seats. Record anything with names on inside the church, rolls of honour, gifts to church; look inside the books and Bibles, tablets on walls, inscriptions on windows, and sills; inside cupboards, the pulpit, behind the organ, inside the vestry, and of course, under the carpets, and on the floor of the porch.

If there is a War Memorial inside the church or nearby, please record this. If possible, photograph the outside of the church, and the interior, along with anything of particular interest, such as the chancel, and the font.

Within the Graveyard, photographs of the war memorial, and any ‘listed’, unusual or elaborate stone are appreciated. A photograph of the oldest stone in the churchyard is also of great interest.

If you wish, please photograph each and every stone within the church and churchyard and offer this to Alan Simpson of the OFHS as your recording and photographs can be made available on CD. Do read Alan's notes prior to doing this at Alan's website shown on the page of Links on this website.

Do leave the churchyard in the same state as when you arrived. Please try to leave the tombstones in a natural state and not with undue light patches where the scrubbing brush and water has been used, a rubbing over the area with grass and soil can help disguise these patches and encourage the re-growth of moss and lichen.

If a funeral should take place while recording is in session, please leave or move to an area where you will be out of sight. Vicars cannot always remember to let you know when a funeral has to take place. Please check with the vicar that he has no weddings on the days that you have planned to transcribe. Check the wedding times with him, and work around this - please do not be there at those specified times, on these days.

Try to find out something about the church and its history for inclusion in the publication. The Victoria County Histories are worth consulting for this information. If the church is redundant, when did this occur; are there any famous people connected with the church? This potted history will appear in your transcription and need only take up between half to a full page and it is intended to give out-of-area members, an idea of the church and its area. If you are able to, check the Burial records* against the tombstones, note any differences but don't decide on one version being right and the other wrong. Both versions are to be included. A note, after the typed inscription can read [BR shows Mary SMITH buried 16 Sep 1847 aged 58 years]. * The transcribed register of Burials should be found in the Central Library or the Oxfordshire History Centre at St Luke's, Cowley.

Once you have finished recording, collate all the information together and if possible type this up. Please note the standard layout instructions on this webpage. When completed please hand this to OFHS so that arrangements are made for the compilation of a CD and distribution in hard copy to the libraries concerned. Perhaps you would be kind enough to give a printout to the incumbent, on behalf of the Society. Again, please let OFHS know whether you do this or not. NB These days, Alan Simpson will send a copy of your recording on an extremely attractive and well laid out CD to the incumbent.

The purpose of recording the stones is the result of a Federation of Family Histories Societies National project to record the information before the stones are lost. This can be through vandalism, selling of churches and chapels into private hands, clearing of the graveyard for maintenance purposes, hurricanes and other effects of weather, including acid rain. The information on the stones is often the confirmation of genealogical data already known or the start of a new line of research in genealogy.

There is a separate National project for War Memorials, and a copy of all the Oxfordshire War Memorials are held by our Society's War Memorials Co-ordinator. Copies of these and those for what was North Berkshire are lodged locally in the Oxfordshire Central Library, Westgate, Oxford or at the Oxfordshire History Centre.  War Memorial information collected by us are sent by the Society to the Co-ordinator of the National Inventory of War Memorials, Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, London.

Please could you type out a separate listing of War memorials and War graves for our project, and  give this to our Society Co-ordinator. The Society also has a project for Strays, and we should be pleased if when completing your typing up, you will print out a page of Strays, i.e. that is anyone buried in the graveyard or church who is not from the parish. Please also give this to OFHS to pass to the Strays Co-ordinator.

When your particular project is completed and published, you will I am sure be pleased to know that your work has become part of all these national projects, and also that we distribute copies to: --

One copy to the Parish, one to the Oxfordshire History Centre [ which includes our Record Office], [if in what was once Berkshire, one to the Berkshire Record Office,] one to the Oxfordshire Central Library, and one to the Society of Genealogists, London. Your work will last for generations to come and be of wonderful assistance to future genealogists and local historians.