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!

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.

dorchestergraves@gmail.com

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.

Remember to subscribe below to get an email every time a new blog is posted.

Time and Tide…

I know I use this phrase often, but it truly is the best summary for not only the challenges posed to the integrity of the grave sites, but the challenges we’ve faced on this project as well.

You would think being almost completely surrounded by water I would have paid much more attention to the tides. But it wasn’t something I had considered until last Friday when we went to scout locations for Saturdays field collection trip. Water was completely across the roadway in many parts of the lower county making many of the sites inaccessible.  We haven’t been able to go out collecting for the past two weekends now, last week due to the super moon tides and this week due to Hurricane Joaquin.

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Time is against us as well, in that this is our last semester at Salisbury University and many of the resources we have currently had access to, including the GPS device and the various computer mapping programs, will be gone after graduation in December. With all of the tips coming in on grave locations I hope to cover more ground in less time, so we are remaining positive in this regard.

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Since there won’t be a field collection update for this week or last week, I’ve decided to answer some of the most popular questions received from visitors to the website. If this goes well and I keep getting great feedback from visitors I’ll try and do this every couple weeks.

“Are you interested in any sites in southern Caroline County, since depending on the census year, it was sometimes in Dorchester County?”

Not at this time, but it is something we will consider as a supplement in the future. Due to the time constraints listed above I am sticking to Dorchester County as the boundaries currently sit. But for any researchers having trouble locating sites, remember that Caroline County was created out of parts of Dorchester and Queen Anne’s counties.

“Are you attempting to photograph every headstone to allow researchers to look/search for their ancestors, or just to document the existence of these cemeteries?”

Again, due to time limits we are not able to photograph every stone at every site. Being a geography major, the main purpose of this project is to locate where these sites are, and to create a map of their locations for future researchers. That being said, there are other resources to help genealogists and enthusiasts who may be looking for a particular family member or gravestone. I don’t want to duplicate any efforts since there are so many volunteers out there who are photographing stones and researching family connections already.  I will create a resources page and list as many links as I can think of to help those researchers find the help or information they need.

“Do you already have this one?”

Please don’t hesitate to send us any tips you may have for the locations of graves! Even if you think it’s a simple one or something someone else may have already pointed out. I would rather receive 10 tips for the same location than miss a hidden or remote grave because someone figured their tip had already been submitted. Just this weekend I received 2 great new locations from followers (Thanks Kari and Jacob!). Keep the tips coming! The more we receive the more complete the final map will be!

“How do I subscribe?”

Anyone who wishes to follow the website and be alerted when a new blog post is published can have the article sent straight to their email inbox. All you have to do is click the plus sign icon (+) at the bottom of the screen and enter your email address into the box. Poof, that’s it. Now you’ll be notified when new information is posted.

Thank you everyone for your support! And check back next week when hopefully I will have some new pictures and stories posted!

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Where to start…?

Our last blog post tackled the big question of why we are working on this mapping project. The next most common question is “where do you even start?” Getting started is actually very easy. Living in the county for 30 years has given me enough of a head start to know where to find the large cemeteries and the church yards. Once these larger properties are marked however, is when things get tricky. After that it’s all family plots, and these can be anything from dozens of graves to one single tombstone all by itself.

How do you know where to look for these you ask? Well I started with the locals. They are the experts on the area after all. The same families have been living and working here for hundreds of years. This is evident when you read the last names on the tombstones. You instantly recognize the surnames of friends, classmates, coworkers, etc.

So after asking around and talking to quite a few people I marked a paper map with all of the locations where people told me I could find graves.  This was especially helpful in the southern part of the county where practically everyone has a family plot either in their own yard, or knows of someone who has one near them. Also some of the larger burial grounds, church or public, were already marked on the paper map.

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After local “questioning” my next step was interviewing some of the older folks in the community. A friend’s grandfather is very interested in genealogy and his family tree, so he invited me to come spend an afternoon with him and he showed me the locations on my map of even more grave sites, and directed me towards the owners or caretakers of the properties so I could gain access to those sites.

After people, one of the best resources I have for locating as many sites as possible is Google Earth. I use it to try and verify the tips received from people around the county. The biggest trouble I have run into is that some are so grown over you can’t really tell that they are even there without actually going to the site!

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There really are graves there! I promise!

Another method we’ve used is simply driving down the back country roads, places off the beaten track, and just looking around. Mostly it’s just enjoying the beautiful scenery, but sometimes we get lucky and find a great location. Additionally I would like to thank the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office for keeping mental notes and telling me of the all the places they’ve spotted grave sites while out on their patrols.

Google Earth can also be used to try and find plots that no one has pointed out to us yet. This is the most time consuming part. Zooming in to a part of the county and then panning around, looking for something, anything that might mean grave sites.  Sometimes we are fortunate and can actually see the rows of stones on a property.

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Sometimes however we are simply panning around, looking for changes in agricultural patterns and then questioning the farmers on whether this is just an irrigation stop or perhaps something that warrants more investigation.

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As it happens, there actually were graves in the field shown above. That small circle in the middle of a soy bean field is someone’s final resting place.

As always, check back for more updates, but for now I’ll leave you with an interesting fact:

We have located 90 burial sites already, and haven’t even been south of
Church Creek yet!

Why are we here…?

The question I get from people most often when talking about this project is “Why?”. Apparently graveyards are not something people think about often. We go to a funeral, bury a loved one, and then move on with our lives, rarely thinking about that small stone in the ground. If you are lucky this cycle doesn’t happen often, If you are like me, it happens far more frequently than you would wish.

The answer is simple. Because. Because we are losing these sites to time and tide. Because some have no one to take care of them, because some are already past all hope of help. Because this is our heritage, our history.  Because there are so many stories out there to be told. Because these sites, no matter how small, or how old deserve the same respect and dignity of any of the large, for profit, cemeteries. Because I don’t believe anyone even knows where they are all anymore. And finally, Because if we don’t do it, who will?

Some are easy to find. They can be right in someones front yard.

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Some take more time and effort to find and then get to…

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When strangers happen upon us at a burial site we get some of the strangest looks; surprise, disgust, suspicion… Cars slow down and creep by, I guess wondering why there are a handful of people in the cemetery taking pictures and holding strange electronics. After all nothing says mischief like a pair of rainbow polka dot rain boots…

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However we have been fortunate in our travels that there are many more people fascinated by what we are doing than repulsed by it. I was able to speak with a man who was volunteering his time to help rebuild one of the more historic churches in the county down on Taylor’s Island. In addition to a quick history of that church, he was also able to guide me to another grave site nearby and gave me a brief history of that one as well.

Sometimes curious neighbors come out and speak to me absolutely thrilled that their site will be featured in the project. I had a lovely conversation with a church elder who gave me a brief history of the church, some great facts about the neighboring historical buildings, and discussed with me the sad situation that since the church has recently been renamed, the church elders feel they have lost some of their identity. I wish I had the capability to record some of these conversations, or at least had an anthropologist on my team to know what to do with such cultural knowledge.

Always looking for volunteers.   Email us at dorchestergraves@gmail.com