Author Topic: Questions about how UK cemeteries work.  (Read 315 times)

Offline julie7239

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Questions about how UK cemeteries work.
« on: Friday 12 May 17 12:13 BST (UK) »
I am curious generally about how UK graveyards work.  Do they always have paperwork showing who is buried in them and exactly where, and if so where do you find this?  I am also curious who pays for the maintenance of old gravestones?  Presumably in private cemeteries it is the new burials who pay for the maintenance of the old stones?  And a lot of old graveyards are beautiful places that councils maintain because they are of historic importance?  I wonder how threatened the old gravestones are that have no living family to care about them, are they ever just taken down and new burials put in their places, due to the need for space?

I wonder what the logistics are of an old gravestone, of somebody who died between say 1850 and 1920, meaning anything to anybody, such that if you photograph them and put them on the Find a Grave website anybody would find that useful?  How many hits do Find a Grave memorials tend to get anyway?  Who are these likely to be useful to?  People researching their family history mostly I suppose, but also historians in general?

Some of these old gravestones have so much genealogical detail on them, as well as being beautiful, that I wonder what happens to them.  I am curious about those people who lived in these places long ago.  Most of these people left little trace, they were not famous.  In one cemetery I read on some nuns' epitaph a request to pray for the dead; I am not especially religious, but find it deeply important to remember these people who lived and died and seem forgotten, and various different religions seem to have similar attitudes.

Also, I would be grateful for any tips on how best to photograph gravestones.  It can be a question of do you just get a close up of the information so it can be read, or do you try to get background into the photograph?  I think the most beautiful gravestone I photographed was maybe because it had a stone angel with a background of a bit of blue and white sky, other shapes of headstones, trees and flowers, and you could also read the inscriptions.  If I was wanting a photograph for my family tree, that is what I would want.

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Offline Marmalady

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Re: Questions about how UK cemeteries work.
« Reply #1 on: Friday 12 May 17 13:08 BST (UK) »
I am Graveyard Steward for our local Methodist Church so can answer some of your questions

1 Yes, there *should* always be paperwork to show who was buried, when & where -- but like everything else these records are only as good as the person keeping them.
2 Where the records are will depend greatly on how long ago the events took place and how quickly the record books get filled up. Church records will probably be deposited at the local Record Office at some time  --but we are still using the same Burial Book that was started back when the church was built in the 1870's -- so any queries about burials have to come via the church to me. Other busier churches may well fill their burial books quicker.
3 Maintenance of Graveyards is sadly a great expense for the churches concerned -- most can afford to do little more than keep the grass strimmed to a reasonable level. Care of the actual grave / headstone is for the family to deal with. We do periodic checks on the upright stones and any that are loose will be laid flat for safety reasons. If the family want them re-erected, it will be at their expense --but as most of the dangerous ones are from older graves there is not usually any family left to care.
4 Graves are not re-used -- I *think* it is currently against the law in most of the UK

Photographing graves -- for the grave photo to be usefull for family historians, you certainly need as clear a picture of the inscription as possible --but pictures showing the grave in full in its wider setting are also nice momentoes

I have found pictures of some of my ancestors / connections on Find-a-Grave, so uploading photos to the site is definitely usefull!
Wainwright - Yorkshire
Whitney - Herefordshire
Watson -  Northamptonshire
Trant - Yorkshire
Helps - all
Needham - Derbyshire
Waterhouse - Derbyshire
Northing - all

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Offline arthurk

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Re: Questions about how UK cemeteries work.
« Reply #2 on: Friday 12 May 17 13:41 BST (UK) »
Just to add a little to Marmalady's helpful comments:

In my experience with churchyards (mostly Church of England) it's unusual to find any contemporary reference to a plot or specific location in a church burial register. However, sometimes family or local history societies (and occasionally churches themselves) have surveyed churchyards so as to produce a reference plan that can be compared with historic registers. And sometimes when memorial inscriptions are recorded, there may be some kind of plan attached. Otherwise, since new graves were usually dug one after another in rows across a churchyard, the usual thing when looking for an ancestor's grave is to try to find a group of memorials of roughly the right age, and check around them one by one in the hope of spotting the right one.

In larger towns and cities many churchyards had no room for burials from around the middle of the 19th century, and some newer churches built around then didn't have room for a churchyard anyway. This led to the establishment of cemeteries by private companies and local councils. On the whole, I've found that their records give much more information about the exact location of burials.

Over time, more churchyards are filling up, and they can then be "closed" to new burials. (Existing graves can still be used, if there is room in them.) In this case the duty to maintain the churchyard can be passed to the local council, but this only applies to keeping it safe and tidy, and has nothing to do with record-keeping.
Researching among others:
Bartle, Bilton, Campbell, Craven, Emmott, Harcourt, Hirst, Kellet(t), Kennedy,
Meaburn, Mennile/Meynell, Metcalf(e), Palliser, Robinson, Rutter, Shipley, Stow, Wilkinson

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Offline familydar

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Re: Questions about how UK cemeteries work.
« Reply #3 on: Friday 12 May 17 14:36 BST (UK) »
Otherwise, since new graves were usually dug one after another in rows across a churchyard, the usual thing when looking for an ancestor's grave is to try to find a group of memorials of roughly the right age, and check around them one by one in the hope of spotting the right one.

That only works if the churchyard isn't too "busy".  If lots of burials in quick succession, perhaps several per week or (for municipal cemeteries) per day, the ground would start to collapse if this happened, so the burials could be anywhere, although I'm sure they probably follow some sort of pattern.

Jane :-)

ALLEN
BARR, BARRATT, BERRY, BRADLEY,BRAMLEY,BRISTOW,BROWN,BUGBIRD,BUTLER
CAIN,CARR,CHAPMAN,CHARLES,CHELTON/CHILTON,CHESTER,COCKETT
COLLASON,COLLYER,CORKERY
DARLING, DENYER,DICKERSON,DOLLING,DURBAN
FARMER,FURNELL
GIBSON,GILES,GROOMBRIDGE
HALL,HAMBIDGE,HARMES,HART,HICKS,HILL,HOLLOWAY
JACKSON
KATES,KEATS
LANCASTER,LINTON
MCDONALD,MCFADEN,MEARS,MILLARD
NICOLAS,NOAK,NORTH
PARFIT,PORTER
RIPPINGALE,ROBINS
SEARLE,SPENCER,STEDHAM
TYLER,TILLY,TUCKWELL
WADE,WAGER,WALKER,WATSON,WEBB,WITHRINGTON,WOOD

Offline dawnsh

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Re: Questions about how UK cemeteries work.
« Reply #4 on: Friday 12 May 17 15:31 BST (UK) »
in your topic title you mention cemeteries rather than churchyards.

If you have a particular one in mind, find our who it belongs to.

There are municipal cemeteries which are maintained by local authorities, you can generally find them by going to the lcaol authority webiste and look in their a-z index for cemeteries and crematoria or burials or bereavement services.

There are also many that are still privately owned. In London for example you have Kensal Green, and in Surrey Brookwood.

You need to ask them all what their policy is regarding cleaning ths tones so you can take photos. In a lot, this is not encouraged as lots of wildlife and plants now make their homes there.

As to maintenance, it's down the the cemetery owner. So in some really old cemeteries, they are heavily overgrown as manitenance has not taken place.

In some, the lawns are routinely mown. It really depends.

Putting photos on findagrave is useful but you want to make sure you are not duplicating what is already there.

There are also other projects and some local history groups that do this

http://www.gravestonephotos.com/public/country.php?country=En

But also check beforehand that you can take photos, some cemeteries do not allow you to take photos if the headstone is not for your own family research.

As to actually taking photos, I used an interent search engine and looked for "take photos headstones tips" and got loads of results.
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Sherry-Paddington & Marylebone,
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Offline julie7239

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Re: Questions about how UK cemeteries work.
« Reply #5 on: Sunday 14 May 17 11:29 BST (UK) »
Thanks for your helpful replies. 

Offline Tonykelly

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Re: Questions about how UK cemeteries work.
« Reply #6 on: Tuesday 16 May 17 18:36 BST (UK) »
Just to add a little to what others have said.  Many family history societies have surveyed graveyards and churchyards, in Surrey for example volunteers from the  West Surrey society has been recording graveyards and churchyards for over 40 years, our latest survey was donated last year and is for a parish council maintained cemetery (ie not a church graveyard).   Our sister society - East Surrey- has also done much for its part of the county.

Our "Monumental Inscriptions" index is online in the members are of our website and has around 110,781 entries and growing,  a CD was published a year or two back which is available from our bookshop.  Other FH Societies offer much the same service.

So far we have records from around 280 graveyards and cemeteries We are also trying to identify all churches and cemeteries in the County since 1688,  to date we have identified 1047.


If you have a specific county or cemetery/churchyard in mind I would contact the local family history society and see what help they can give to you.   Just be sure to give as much information as you can.  When I get  queries from non members I often have to ask for more infromation before I can even begin to see what we have.


Good luck

-- 
Tony Kelly, 
Monumental Inscriptions
West Surrey Family History Society
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http://www.wsfhs.org
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