Cemetery Records

Date Published: 
September, 1905
Original Author: 
E.G. Carter
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 19th Annual Convention

A short time ago Brother Painter informed me that I would be expected to say something in this convention on the subject of cemetery records, because of a similar performance indulged in at the recent Illinois State meeting.

On that occasion my information was exhausted and in order to avoid a mere repetition, which you would quickly discover and possibly resent, it will be the purpose here to present, in a measure, the results of the discussion that followed, rather than endeavor to approach the subject in an academic manner.

Considered in its public relation, it is the purpose of the cemetery to maintain a record of its lot owners with their holdings; to readily locate each interment in its grounds; and to furnish a positive identification and concise history of the disposition of each body taken into its charge.

The following set of books is intended to fulfill the requirements set forth:

First: The register of deeds, certificates or sales, the original book of entry, furnishing the evidence of ownership in the lots and containing the name of purchaser, with the address (the latter is given rather as a means of identification than as a permanent record) together with a full description of the lot transferred and memorandum of any limitations or conditions of sale. In other words, a copy of the deed; the entries being numbered consecutively for convenience and made according to date of sale.

In this connection, many of our cemeteries now receive in trust the title to lots, for the purpose of securing to the beneficial owner, or as he is termed in law, the cestui que trust, such uses as might be disturbed by remote claimants coming into possession of the lot by the operation of the usual laws governing the descent of property. Where this excellent custom prevails it is recommended that an independent register of trust deeds be kept, with proper cross entries from the original deed register and containing the limitations of trust as intended by the grantor.

Second: The index to lot owners, in reality an index to the deed register.

Third: The register of interments, with an index to same, or, as it may be termed, the general receiving register.

Fourth: The lot diagram book.

In the larger cemeteries, I would add to the above the vault register, the name of which indicates its use.

The book of single grave locations, wherein is listed in regular order a description of each single grave with the addition of the name and interment number of the occupant, as the grave is filled.

The removal book, for the purpose of keeping account of remains transferred from one place to another or removed from the cemetery.

Without following any particular order of discussion, I want to say a word first for the lot diagram book. This comprehends any system of plaiting separately each of the lots and locating therein the graves and other contents, bound volumes not always being used for the purpose. The admirable system, of records offered by Mr. Haight has many advantages and none more to be appreciated than his adaptation of the lot diagrams, placing as it does within easy reach of any cemetery an effective method of platting each of its private lots and all that they contain. It seems needless to usurp the time of this body to describe in detail a system of platting with which most of us are familiar and may become acquainted in a few moments, but my purpose is to emphasize the advantages to be derived from having a plat of each lot in the cemetery, showing the position of each item of its contents, as against any system that merely, describes locations. Advantages of the system that at once suggest themselves are: Assurance and satisfaction to the lot owner, brevity, exactness, thoroughness and permanence and economy of time, both immediate and ultimate. To any who have not used the method, this single advice is given. "Try it."

Perhaps no part of the record system receives so frequent consultation as the register of interments and efforts have been made in different directions to simplify and facilitate the method of referring to the numerous names, ever increasing, inscribed by time on the interment roll. At our own cemetery, we keep a register of fifty lines to the page, wherein is entered in chronological order the name of each deceased person received at the grounds and opposite the name a consecutive number for convenience of identification and reference, also the usual items furnished by the regulation board of health statistics and a memorandum of disposition, directing the attention to the vault, to the private lots, to the single graves, or to the re-delivery of the remains when shipped away, and thereafter each of the books already listed receives its entry according as disc position is made of the body. Each of these registers is accompanied by an index of one hundred names to the page, on the order of the well known Graves Index, so that the eye has before it a long list of names, alphabetically arranged, to be taken in at a glance, while the register itself furnishes the list according to date, should it become necessary or convenient to locate an entry by this means. And here we have a permanent record, substantially bound, without danger of misplacement or the liability to error that arises where periodical re-copying is required. It looks good to me. But it seems from the discussion ensuing at our State meeting that this method is not satisfactory to some of our brethren, who advise the use of a system of separate cards for each entry. No doubt this card system has some merit, judging from the enthusiasm manifested by its advocates.

The present subject of records has been considered apart from that of cemetery accounting, but a feature relating to both may, with profit, be touched on briefly, as of particular interest to the superintendent. It has been suggested that in the computation of values for perpetual care contracts, nothing more definite can be found than the actual experience in the particular cemetery entering into the care agreement. For many other reasons, also, it will be found of value to adopt some comprehensive method of distributing the amount expended for labor, under the various heads of the cemetery work. No particular method is here offered for the purpose, as that is to be determined by the extent of detail employed in the various places, but the information should be scheduled in some convenient form so as to be readily available as a guide to future operations.

And, finally a plea made for accuracy, thoroughness and care throughout all the cemetery records, that the interests of the cemetery and the lot owners may alike be protected.
From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 19th Annual Convention
Held at Washington, DC
September 19, 20, 21 and 22, 1905