They haven’t been forgotten.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already. About this time last summer I was on a boat heading out to Holland Island. I had a team with me who was ready to brave the hazards we would encounter. However we were cut short by nesting pelicans, rain forest dense over growth, and a cloud of mosquitos and biting flies. Needless to say we never made it to the center of the island. I didn’t realize then that that would be the last day of grave hunting for me for quite a while.

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School was coming back into session and all of the equipment I had borrowed from the University had to be returned, I began a new career, and had to relocate further away from my family, my county, and my beloved project. Had I known that was to be the last day for awhile, I may have fought harder to get to the site.

But looking back, I am now renewed with an increased fervor, that this will not be how the story ends, that there is so much more to come. I have been asked to help coordinate volunteer clean-up crews, I still answer all of my emails; and I am here to help anyone looking for family gravesites. I directed a man to his family burial grounds and even gave him the contact information for a guide who would  take him to the site. Hopefully he is  just the first of many who can be helped by this project.

My next step, hopefully, is to write a grant to be able to purchase a mapping grade GPS device to continue my search. Many people have asked me “Why don’t you just use the GPS in your cell phone?” Two reasons; One, as anyone who lives in the southern part of the county can attest, cellular signal is splotchy at best, and non-existent at  worst. Second, and most importantly, the GPS device I was using from the school was professional grade, highly accurate, and compatible with the mapping software I am using. Something that would take six steps on my phone is all done at once on the professional device. So I would rather conduct my fieldwork  accurately the first time, or not at all.

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I have still been collecting tips on locations and I must say, I am still shocked and humbled by the amount of sites that are still coming in. I knew I was nowhere near the actual total, but I didn’t think there would still be so many sites remaining. I have received reports on over 30 sites   that I had never even heard of before. For anyone keeping track, I have been to 221 burial sites in the County. It would easily be closer to 250 if I had my own equipment to work with. My goal is to document at least 300. So please, if you know of any others, let me know.

For that purpose, I am going to create a fillable form to include on the website. It would include  basic information such as your name and contact info, the location of the site, the name of the property owner or contact person for me to request permission from to go out to the site. This way,  when I get my hands on a professional GPS device again, I will have a long list of properties to visit, and the permissions and guides will already be set up.

As always, I thank the readers, contributors, volunteers, and anyone else who has supported me throughout this endeavor. This break has been  just one small speed bump along a long road to preservation, but with a little time and a little patience, I hope to be able to pick back up with the project and run with it. Until then, my heartfelt thanks, appreciation, and love for your continuing interest and support.

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Well this is it!!!

Here it is. The big day. The chance to present my project in front of my friends, family, and community members. I’m very excited about this and I hope you all are too.

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Please join us on Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 at 12:00pm. The presentation will be held at the Dorchester County Historical Society at 1003 Greenway Drive, in Cambridge, Maryland, 21613.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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A Public Presentation…

Well it is that time of year. It is almost time to start collecting new sites and I look forward to new and interesting locations and photos to be able to share with you. The most exciting thing I have to share right now is that we have been invited to speak at the Dorchester County Historical Society and I finally have a date for that to share with you.

The presentation will be held on June 15th, 2016 at 12:00pm (bring your lunch!). It will be held at the Dorchester Historical Society Building at 1003 Greenway Drive, Cambridge, Maryland, 21613.

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I would like to extend an invitation to everyone who has been reading along and sending in locations, and supporting us throughout this project. I couldn’t have done this without all of the help from tips coming in through email and spotters keeping lists of sites they see while driving, and the guides for taking me to some of the more remote parts of the county. I would love to see you all there and be able to thank you in person.

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Remember to keep those tips coming in! There are just some graves that we could never find without your help!

Anyone going out now working on their own research remember, Spring has Sprung. Make sure you use bug repellent, I’ve already heard reports of ticks, chiggers, and mosquitoes. I have also seen some snakes while I was out, so be safe and make sure you keep an eye on your surroundings.

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Spring is in the Air…

And Happy Easter Weekend to everyone. I just wanted to bring everyone up to date on what’s going on! We had a fantastic time at the TUgis Conference. The presentation went beautifully and was very well received. There was a lively Q&A and discussion afterwards and many agencies, organizations, and individuals were interested in helping out or volunteering in some way. I hope to be able to reach out to people soon with some volunteering ideas. Also the Dorchester Graves Webmap won the award for Best Student WebApp, so that is very exciting (thank you everyone who voted for us!).

I’d like to thank everyone who came to the TUgis presentation or stopped by the WebApp Hall to visit and talk. It was exciting to get to meet some of the blog readers and followers in person. Thank you all for the kind words and support!

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Also we have been invited to speak at the Dorchester County Historical Society and give a presentation on our project and its findings. It will be mostly geared towards individuals who are doing historical or genealogical research with a little section regarding the science and technology of data collection, but anyone interested in the project is more than welcome to attend. There will be more information to follow on that once we have the details nailed down.

The Salisbury University Geography Department has been kind enough to let me use the GPS device this spring even though I am no longer a student, so I hope to start collecting points again next month. If you know of a gravesite that is not currently represented on the map (click here to go to map) please email us so we can put your site on the list of places to visit.

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Additionally I have been adding the rest of the photo’s to the website. The link for every sites name, alphabetically up to letter “H”, should be in good working order. If you find a link between A-H that is broken, or just leads back to the map instead of to the correct photo page, please email me and let me know so I can fix it. I am slowly but surely plugging away at this so thank you for your patience.

I believe that is all the news I have for now. I know I haven’t been posting as frequently as usual but until collection resumes there just isn’t as much excitement to talk about. I promise once I start fieldwork again there will be more photos and more to read about. But until then please enjoy this photo of the full moon from Wednesday night that I took through my telescope!

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TUgis Here We Come!

I am thrilled to announce that the Dorchester Graves Project was selected to be presented at the TUgis Conference in March. TUgis is Maryland’s Geospatial Conference and is held annually at Towson University. Those who aren’t familiar can learn more here. The conference highlights GIS Projects and Initiatives from around the State and it is a great honor to be selected to present.

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Also I would like to let everyone know that I have been picking away at posting photos, and all pages, alphabetically, up to the letter “G” are up to date. I am still looking for new sites to map when we start collecting again at the end of March so keep the tips coming.

A Huge Thank You to everyone who has helped out so far!!! Your support has taken us from the fields and marshes of Dorchester County, to the classrooms of Salisbury University, to the event halls of a major state Conference! And none of it would have been possible without you!

Happy 2016!!!

Well after a lovely long break off to rest and recoup from my final semester I’m getting back into the swing of things.

In case anyone wanted to know, we did get an A on the mapping project from Salisbury University. I would like to thank everyone for all their help and support throughout this whole undertaking. I truly could not have gotten as far as I did without help from you and the community at large.

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Our next steps are getting the last of the photo pages posted to the website and then linking them to the corresponding points on the map. This is a time consuming process so it will take a few weeks to get them all done. I appreciate everyone’s patience.

Field collection will hopefully pick back up in the beginning of March. By then hunting season should have wrapped up and the worst of the winter weather will be behind us… hopefully.

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I have been putting together the list of all the sites people had told me about but I never had a chance to go to. Right now this comes to about 25 locations. If you don’t see your site on the map, please email us so we can be sure to get to it when we start collecting again.

Thanks again for your interest in this project; I look forward to achieving much more and to the additional discoveries to come in 2016!

College Countdown

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but my professors at college are so excited about this project that they’ve allowed me to use what I’ve collected so far as the capstone project for my geography degree.  Between the scope of what I’m trying to accomplish and the sheer number of hours I’ve spent researching, interviewing, and collecting they decided it was well worth the 3 credits necessary to count this as an independent study project.

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As a thought provoking addition to the map of gravesite locations I will also be laying my collected GPS points over a map of the 100 year flood model for the county. This will be both informative and at the same time, sad to see.  In addition to the graves currently at risk, we will be able to see which sites are going to be in jeopardy in the foreseeable future.  Sadly, from what I’ve seen, we will be losing a great many of some of the oldest gravesites in the county.

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For the next several weeks we will be taking a break from field collection. This comes at a great time since hunting season just opened and it’s bad time to be wandering around in the woods. Also with the holidays here it’s just easier to put things on hold so no one is stressed and everyone gets to enjoy the holiday season.

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For the next three weeks I will be creating the map based on the GPS points I have collected so far. I’m not sure exactly how many I have right now, but I do know it is over two hundred. Not a bad start and certainly enough to build a very detailed map to put on the website for now.

I know I’m behind on uploading the pictures taken at each site; I have over a hundred sites that still need to be posted to the website. Hopefully once the semester is over I will have the time necessary to get them up there, so I thank you for your patience.

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I’d also like to thank everyone who has been helping me along on this journey, and I can’t wait till we get to pick it up again after the New Year. Until then, I hope you enjoy the Holiday Season with your families and loved ones.

By the Book

The question that has been popping up the most here recently is “How did you know they were here?” I’ve mentioned before that I use various methods including interviews with locals, old maps, and Google Earth. One resource I left out, because I wanted to be able to dedicate an entire blog post to it, is the Dorchester County Tombstones book.

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The book, compiled by Nellie Marshall and published back in 1965, was the work of countless volunteers and hundreds of hours of work, and is considered the largest compendium of tombstone records for the county. Tombstone Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, 1678-1964 is the book I have been referring to occasionally to make sure I am on the right track.

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The only downside to the book, and one of the motivators for this project, is that the locations given in the book are very, very vague. Descriptions such as the “Frank Hayward Farm” or “small burial plot on east side of county road” are no help when the team is out in the field. These locations, although probably useful back in the 50’s and 60’s, are just not very helpful now. The properties listed have been sold multiple times, subdivided, or have been overcome by the rising water table and are now lost to the bay or river. The descriptions are no longer very precise, and as a geographer with OCD it is imperative that I have the most precise locations possible, hence the GPS. No matter what happens to the land in the future, the coordinates captured by GPS will not change.

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The book contains hundreds of locations and I am thankful that I have located over two-thirds of these sites. Especially considering there is now an additional fifty years of growth covering many of them.

One other item of note, after speaking with the historical society, I was informed that the Marshall book does not include a number of historically black cemeteries. They are being included in this mapping project. Tragically this means that there are so many more cemeteries out there that we may never find.

The goal is still to record as many as we possibly can; so keep the tips coming.

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Happy Hunting.

Well… November is definitely not going to go as smoothly as September and October did.  We now have two new challenges to consider on our field collection days – Daylight Savings Time and Hunting Season.

When the clocks rolled back they severely cut into the daylight hours we have for good visibility and decent photos.  The days from here on out are only going to get shorter and shorter; not much I can do about that except go out more often, just in shorter bursts.

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Hunting Season is making things tricky. I have already completed all of the easy to reach cemeteries and graveyards so the only ones left are the more remote and hard to reach sites. Therein lies the problem. I’m not the only one mucking through the woods and marsh anymore, and I sure don’t want to become an accidental target. So I went out and bought a lovely Day-Glo orange hunting vest. I think it really brings out my eyes. We definitely stand out now…

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Better safe than sorry…

But on the plus side there are no more ticks, chiggers, or mosquitoes lurking about. Or at least I haven’t seen any. Blast. I’ve probably jinxed us now. Never mind.

I know I am SO far behind on posting new gravesite photos, I have tons downloaded from my camera, and I just haven’t had a chance to go through and sort and resize them yet. I promise to get some new ones up soon. But for now here’s where we stand.

Count as of November 1st – 175 Gravesites located in Dorchester County.

 

Thanks to everyone for following along on this adventure.

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