Graves of 19,000 English cemeteries to be mapped online | Anglicanism


The graves of 19,000 cemeteries in England are to be digitally mapped as part of a seven-year project that will be a boon to those researching family history.

The Church of England will launch a free website next year that will eventually list every funeral memorial in every cemetery across the country.

The ancient Church of St Bega on the shores of Lake Bassenthwaite in Cumbria is the first cemetery to be scanned by surveyors using sophisticated laser equipment.

“This impressive national project will make a huge difference to those researching family history while easing the administrative burden on parishes,” said Andrew Rumsey, C of E Senior Bishop for Church Buildings.

“This will improve the management of cemeteries and make information more accessible than ever.

“Soon it will be possible to visit almost all the Anglican cemeteries in the country and see the location of the graves in real time. For those carrying out research remotely in the UK or abroad, digital recordings will put detailed information about cemeteries at their fingertips.

The new free online registration system is expected to launch next spring, with the option to subscribe to additional services.

Funding for the program comes from Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Caring for God’s Acre, a charity that helps take care of cemeteries and genealogical research websites.

Tim Viney with his surveying equipment. Photograph: Diocese of Carlisle

Atlantic Geomatics performs the survey using custom software. Up to 10 sites per day will be surveyed using backpack mounted laser scanning equipment, GPS and cameras. Taking tens of thousands of measurements every second, surveyors will then process the data to create accurate maps of each cemetery.

In addition to capturing the details of the burials, the interactive online map will detail the biodiversity in the cemeteries, including ancient trees and flora, and green technologies such as solar panels.

TV shows such as Who Do You Think You Are? and genealogy websites have fueled interest in family history. The Society of Genealogists has 11,000 members and there are family history groups and clubs in most towns in the UK.

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