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A project that has been termed “Google maps for graves” intends to map and photograph the Church of England’s 19,000 church graveyards, with the aim of recording every grave, headstone and memorial.
Surveyors with sophisticated backpack scanners are currently engaged in taking measurements, with the initial scanning due to be finished by spring 2022.
Speaking to the i newspaper, surveyor Aaron Lawson explained the process: “This backpack has two layers of scanners, five cameras and a GPS antenna. So as I am walking among the gravestones, it is capturing the details of every one, including any legible inscriptions. This equipment allows us to survey a site quickly and efficiently so we can use the data to create an accurate map. We can then add photos and burial records.”
The project, partly funded by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will create a searchable online database that should prove invaluable to anyone looking for an ancestor’s final resting place. It will also provide each church with the same standardised electronic records of their graves as well as a lasting record of gravestone inscriptions.
The ultimate goal is for the system also to include marriage and baptism records, so it is possible to search for where an individual was baptised, married and buried.
While it won’t be possible to map a grave that is not marked by a headstone, it could still be recorded on the system based on a church’s own burial records.
Once finished, the “Google maps for graves” project will provide free access to basic information although full details and images will be behind a paywall.
Venerable Richard Pratt, Archdeacon of West Cumberland, told the i: “Most churchyards do have plans, but they tend to be handwritten on bits of paper and are often big so difficult to copy. This project will give really good online access to records and much more accurate and up-to-date information and help vicars organise their churches.”