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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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!

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.

dorchestergraves@gmail.com

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone is enjoying the lovely fall season.  It has been beautiful driving around the county doing field work this past month.  I found myself wanting to take more pictures of the landscape than of the graves sites I was looking for. Since my search has been going so well and I have had so many volunteers taking me around the county, there isn’t really much to report by way of challenges or discoveries this week.

Here is a collection of spooky shots taken from around Dorchester County.

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Some vultures surveying the area…

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A Haunted house if ever I saw one…

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A black cat crossed our path…

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A strange floating orb… sunshine… or spirit?

I would like to thank everyone who has been following our blog. Hope you are enjoying reading it as much as we enjoy writing it and here’s hoping you have a safe and fun Halloween!

Friends…. And Family

The past two weeks collections have gone beautifully! The weather has been perfect, the tides haven’t been too high, and everyone I’ve met around the county has been so very helpful. And as serendipity would have it, a couple of the doors I knocked on turned out to be family!

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When out looking for these grave sites, as I’ve mentioned before, I always like to get the owner’s permission before heading out across their property. As a result, I’ve knocked on a lot of doors and talked to many, many people.  Sometimes those doors bring unexpected treats! This past week I got to meet my mother’s cousin, and then my grandmother’s cousin; both on the same day but on opposite sides of the county. Dorchester may be one of the largest counties in the state but it’s a small world when it comes to relatives.

Speaking of family, I have finally made it to the southern portion of the county. I’ve been able to visit my Great-Aunt’s and Uncle’s graves and been to the final resting place of my Great-Grandparents. I vaguely remember being there as a child and I was pleasantly surprised that the location looked just the same now as I remembered it.  I look forward to the drive further south and perhaps finding some more branches of the family tree. I know it may sound odd but there is a profound feeling of belonging. To know that these are my people, this is their place, and this is where I come from.

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Additionally I would like to thank my guides for the past two weeks. We have covered a lot of ground in  very little time and it’s all thanks to volunteers. They know exactly where we are going and exactly who to go to for permission. I would like to thank these people for taking time out of their day to help me with this project.  Hopefully we can keep up the momentum with collection this week.

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Make sure you subscribe to our blog to keep up with all of our new finds and pictures.

As always,  if you know where there are gravesites in the county please email us at dorchestergraves@gmail.com

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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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

Back in Action…

Well it has been a couple weeks since our last post. Apologies, I was on vacation last week so I did not get a chance to post the pictures from the previous weeks collection. Now I am two weeks behind. Sigh….  However I am very excited about the sites located during the last outing!

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Also, I would like to take this opportunity to thank some of the locals in the area who have taken time out of their afternoons to be our field guides on this project. Most of the sites located were on private properties or farmland and we would never have been able to get out to the sites without the permission from the owners, and our field guides knew exactly who to call to get these clearances. So I would like to thank them for their time and efforts in assisting with this project.

Additionally this adventure has been humbling as I have realized that even though I was raised in one of the most rural counties in the state, I am not the well rounded country girl I once believed I was.  As we were trekking through various corn and soybean fields it suddenly occurred to me the very real possibility of running into slugs, spiders, snakes or any other brand of creepy crawly. Just about the time I gave myself a pep talk and was enjoying my new found courage, my field guide pointed out the holes and burrows surrounding the grave sites and told me the groundhogs or foxes would not be too pleased if we stepped on them… Oh, and they bite. So much for courage…

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Exhibit A:  It’s like Whack-a-Mole, if the moles were vicious, man eating, carnivores.