Program Summary from Our Recent May 11, 2010 Genealogy Program

Hi Everyone!

As you may be aware, our original program scheduled for May 11, 2010 was to be a topic on “20th Century Military Records” to have been presented by Marian Schuetz.  Due to a personal emergency, Marian was unable to present the program.  I apologize for this unanticipated change.  I will see what scheduling I can do in the future to have a program on military records.

This blog served a great purpose in allowing me to get the changed program information out to all of you.  Many of those who came to the program knew that the original program had been changed and were therefore not surprised.  For some, it was still a surprise!  But hopefully, a pleasant surprise with a different topic.

Knowing that Marian would not be able to present her program, I quickly nominated myself to present a substitute program.  Because of the season we are entering and because I have just done some of this research in the Fall of 2009, I chose to present a somewhat “ad lib” dual program on “Tools to Take for Cemetery Research” and “Contributing Cemetery Information to the FindAGrave Website”.

We had 55 people in attendance for this quickly put together substitute set of topics.  In part one of the presentation I shared with the those in attendance the “things” they should consider bringing with them when embarking on doing on-site cemetery research.  This is my “personal” list.  Each of us may ultimately create our own “list” of items to bring with but I wanted to share what things I not only brought the last time but what additional items I may bring the next time I do on-site cemetery research.  Take it from me, there is no worse feeling than to be in a cemetery doing research only to discover that you never thought of bringing “this” or “that” when you were on-site.  In an urban cemetery setting or one close to home, this may not be such a problem.  But if you are in a truly “rural” cemetery setting, in which you may be a long way from any convenience items, then pre-planning in advance on what you will bring with is even more important.

I would encourage those that read this blog to leave any comments on items they may bring to do cemetery research that may not be on my own list.

Here is my list of  “must have”  items to have at the cemetery:


  •  Hat (Baseball or Wide-Brimmed)
  • Comfortable Walking Shoes
  • Waterproof Boots (especially if you are going early in the morning)
  • Long Sleeved Light Shirt (sun protection)
  • Long Pants (sun protection and working on the ground)
  • Rain Poncho or Waterproof Jacket with Hood


  •  Sunglasses
  • Camera/Video Camera
  • Fresh Batteries for cameras
  • Instruction books for cameras
  • Walkie-Talkies (if two of you are going, or even more)
  • Instruction books for walkie-talkies, especially if you may want to change channels.


  •  Medications (personal)
  • Small First Aid Kit (Blisters, Cuts, Abrasions, Pain Relief)
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect Repellant


  •  Drinking Water (plenty, with ice)
  • Energy bars
  • Sandwich
  • Cooler with ice


  •  Maps provided by cemetery office with graves marked
  • Large orange safety cone for marking the grave when found so you see it easily when returning back from the car.
  • Tall orange flagged ground stakes, also for marking graves so you see them easier when you return from the car.
  • GPS if you may already have GPS coordinates for gravesite.
  • Cemetery workers – they know their way around.  Don’t be afraid to ask them!
  • Use cemetery provided section marker guides to help you know you are in the right area of a section.  Expect that these will not be readily seen and may be below ground.


  •  Waterproof tarp (8 feet by 8 feet) to spread out or fold up and kneel on.
  • Knee Pads
  • Pressurized 2 gallon water container with spraying wand (like you use for pesticides)
  • Long handled floor cleaner with sponge mop head for wiping the headstone after spraying it.  The long handle eliminates your bending down plus gives you scrubbing leverage.
  • Sharpened wooden sticks to use as tools to remove dirt embedded in chiseled letters on headstone.
  • Mirror to reflect off of worn chiseled in headstone inscriptions thus giving you a better chance to determine what is actually inscribed.
  • Sod cutter
  • Hand grass shears
  • Whisk broom

Remember, the above items ar those that I have brought to the cemetery.  It is good to have them in your car, but you may find you will not necessarily bring them all with you to the actual discovered gravesite.

I also use a “laundry cart” that I purchased from Target for about $30 to put any of the above materials into that I will pull behind me to bring to the gravesite.  This is a fairly large, steel wire basket fold-up cart that has 2 large rear wheels and 2 smaller front wheels.  You will need to put some kind of cardboard on the bottom so that long-handled thin items such as a sod cutter will stand up in the cart without falling through the large wire openings of the basket design.

I definitely encourage anyone to leave comments on this posting on things they bring to the cemetery for their own research that may not be on my own list.  I am always open myself for anything new to bring with to make your research experience more pleasant, enjoyable, safe and productive!!

My own experience also taught me to consider the following actions when you are going to the cemetery:

  • On a good day with a lot of luck, give yourself at least 20 to 30 minutes per grave site you want to find, clean up and photograph.
  • Ask at the office before you go out looking for a site whether they have records of a headstone being placed.  They may tell you the site you seek is contained within another family site.  You may still see no identification of the gravesite if the person’s name was not chiseled into any existing monument.  They are there but they are not identified!!
  • Think about going twice if the weather will be extremely hot or will be dangerously unstable with storms!
  • Mid-October and later may not be good because of leaves.  Trust me, there are a lot of leaves on the ground at this time in many cemeteries with mature trees!!
  • Consider uploading your findings and any pictures you have taken to FindAGrave!  They seem to be a great organization.  Many researchers visit this site often looking for names.

For the second part of my presentation I showed those in attendance all that is FindAGrave.  It is a wonderful site that you can visit and join yourself at

I want to refer all of you to the posting I did on this blog on March 27, 2010 regarding FindAGrave and my choice to actually become a contributing member of the site.  This posting will provide you with what I presented at our program.

I chose to participate in order to upload photos of the headstones or monuments of my ancestors.  But understand, if you know the cemetery location of a deceased ancestor, you too can choose to participate with this site and upload your birth, death information for your deceased ancestors without uploading any pictures.  Your research would then be out there to possibly receive contact information from other researchers making a connection to a mutually shared ancestor.  YOU DO NOT HAVE TO UPLOAD PICTURES!

So for those of us that have a great amount of lineage data in our lineage based programs, you can upload that material to this site.  To make your participation more productive, you should only consider uploading material for which you know of the cemetery burial location.  Just having birth and death date information without knowing the cemetery location of the deceased is somewhat counterintuitive to upload to “FindAGrave”! 

We ended our program by 9:30 PM.  I guess I must have done OK in presenting this material because I am still alive and writing this summary for all of you to enjoy!!

I thank all of you who told me that I had done a good job, maybe good enough to consider that I present more programs in the future!  I do have some ideas in mind for more things I would like to personally share.  So keep looking at our future schedule of programs to see if my name makes it to the list.

It appears all 55 participants had a good time and it sounds like all of you walked away with a little more information as well as maybe being inspired to visit the cemeteries of your ancestors and pay them homage.  There is a touching moment you will experience when you stand above a gravesite that until then was just an entry in a lineage data base.  You may be the first visitor in a hundred years!  It is true that you may say a few words to this ancestor that is below your feet that may have been there for hundreds of years.  If it is a direct ancestor connection, then you can thank them for your being on planet earth!

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

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