Technology is being used to document history at the Waxahachie City Cemetery.
A mapping project will record biographical information of each person buried as well as the location of each grave. This information will then be put into an interactive map that residents can view through the city’s website.
“People are familiar with websites like Find a Grave and Ancestry where they have genealogy information. Through those sites, you can look at different cemeteries and find your loved ones and get information about those loved ones. However it is not always completely accurate,” Director of Parks and Recreation John Smith said. “We would like complete accurate records for the City of Waxahachie to be used by our citizens. So what we are doing is creating an interactive map of our cemetery through our Geographic Information Systems department in city hall.”
Manjul Shrestha, a GIS technician, stated that the map would have a look similar to a Google map. It will be an aerial view that will show the terrain of the cemetery. The map will show the different sections and allow people to zoom in and out.
When people look at a closer view, they will see pins of different colors. Red pins note spaces that have been purchased or are occupied graves, green pins are for plots currently for sale, and the blue pins are for pending purchases.
“We started this in September when John shared this idea with me. He wants to map out the cemetery. He asked me if we have that capability in our GIS. I told him that we could do this because we have software in-house,” Shrestha explained. “I started from there and looked at the old database. I used that data as a reference. There was a lot of missing information like date of birth or date of death.”
Shrestha explained, to fill in the gaps with the data, an intern, Luke Smolka, was brought on board. Smolka’s job is to go out into the cemetery and record the information directly from the headstone using a tablet computer. He documents the location using a portable GPS unit and takes a photo of the gravestone to be included on the map.
When the interactive map is up and running, people can search by name and date of birth or death.
When the results turn back up, it will feature several information points that will appear as pins on the map. By clicking on one of the pins a box will appear and will list all of the information contained on the headstone. It will include military service if it is listed on the marker and will have a link where people can view a photo of the headstone. The location of the grave will be listed as well.
The project at this time is about 10 percent complete. Additional volunteers will be brought to bring the project to completion. When the map does go online, it will be updated monthly.
Smith said having this map will be a valuable resource for both residents.
“This is just for the benefit of our citizens so they can better search our cemetery. Genealogy is becoming a very popular hobby and a very popular thing for families to do,” Smith explained. “It will help in that hobby and help our citizens better learn our cemetery because our cemetery is large and kind of confusing if you are not familiar with how it is laid out.”