How to Manage Cemetery Plot Template with Digital Platform

cemetery plot template | chronicle

How to Manage Cemetery Plot Template in Digital Platform

Whether you’re new to cemetery management or you’ve been in the game for as long as you can remember, managing your records and maps using a cemetery plot template can be the cause of a headache at times. You’ve reached a point where you know that digitising your cemetery is the best move that your institution can take – for you as an administrator, the cemetery trust, as well as for your community at large.

But before you fully digitise your cemetery, there are a few aspects to consider as you begin to consolidate your cemetery data – including both interment records and maps with plot layouts. Bringing all these together can take some time, so how do you start? Using free cemetery plot layout tools as a preliminary step in digitising your cemetery and its processes is a great way to begin. Let’s take you through the important necessary information that you need to know as you embark on this journey.

Data Management Requirements for Cemeteries in the Public Sector

As a cemetery, your organisation and its trust needs to ensure that you meet the requirements set by your particular municipality, state, or country. For example, cemeteries in the Australian state of Victoria must meet a number of requirements regarding how they handle and manage their records and data. In this case, the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) stipulates some core criteria that public organisations must meet in terms of data protection and protective data security. In short, these requirements are all about data protection and are in the best interests of everyone, including cemetery trusts, the public, and the state government.

OVIC’s requirements are worth noting, since this follows a global trend in data protection for public organisations to follow. Similar requirements likely already exist in your cemetery’s locality or are likely in the process of being passed, so it would be wise to check up on them if you haven’t already. We’ll break down a few of the core requirements below – these are worth considering when looking at which free or paid tools you’d like to use as cemetery management software.  

Cemeteries must ensure that they maintain the following necessary levels of accuracy, availability, security, and safety in accordance with governing bodies like OVIC:

  • Accuracy: For management, it is essential that the interment records accurately reflect their respective cemetery plots, i.e. management must be able to accurately locate a particular physical interment by referring to the interment records.
  • Availability: Management must be able to provide public access to records.
  • Management must securely maintain physical records or digital computer systems that process and store information.
  • The cemetery management must understand the risk and inherent value that comes with the information that they manage on behalf of the community (including consequences of loss of records due to natural disasters, for example).
  • Management must validate who has access to what physical or digital systems and information therein.

These are only some of key requirements to meet according to OVIC’s Protective Data Security Plan (PDSP). With these in mind, let’s take a look at how you can design and manage your cemetery plot layout.

Before Cemetery Management Software – How to Design and Manage Cemetery Plot Template

You already know that designing and managing your cemetery plot layout can be a frustrating task – especially when you don’t know where – or how – to start. This can become even more difficult when you, as a cemetery manager, have inherited old maps and cemetery records (and with them, the inherited cemetery mapping problems) that have already passed through generations of administrators before you. This is particularly relevant if you’re tasked with the management of a fairly old cemetery, a cornerstone of your community.

Broadly speaking, there are two ways in which you can design your cemetery plot template and manage them:


This is the way that cemeteries have been managed for centuries. “Traditional” does not always equate to “worse”. For some, manually designing and managing cemetery plots, reconciling them with the relevant cemetery plot deed template, and being in possession of tangible documents from which to work is what they’re most comfortable with.

At times, it can also work very well. Designing and managing cemetery plots manually may afford a cemetery manager the liberty to draw plots and manage records the way they like. In this sense, manual designs and management may be non-restrictive – all that’s necessary is paper, simple drawing tools and writing implements and you’ve got all you need to design your cemetery. When it comes to historic cemetery plot templates, the manual method means that you’re able to create what you like and amend and annotate on the tangible material in front of you.

historic cemetery plot template | chronicle

However, the manual method is taxing and has shown to result in more than the occasional late night, particularly when preparing your cemetery maps to show a new client or to have readily available according to global and/or local data protection requirements. What happens when your cemetery design changes? Manual methods leave you mostly unable to make changes related to this issue. Another frustration is also that it can waste loads of time! Managing your cemetery requires zero error. Think about it – you’re dealing with (possibly) thousands of sensitive data entries on two fronts. This means that you’d require double the effort since you’re keeping your eye on both your paper ledger and the cemetery map. Inputting, checking, and maintaining accuracy this way has proven to eat away at time for many cemetery managers.

Thinking back to the beginning can be romantic – your cemetery map was likely drawn by a professional draughtsman or surveyor and it looked great! Yet, over the years, they moved from one manager to the next, gathering inconsistent annotations that made no sense to the manager who inherited the maps. Today, you’re left trying to decipher symbols and markings every time you need to refer to your map and records.


Digital management of cemeteries has become increasingly popular – as is expected in the digital world of today. Cemetery managers are moving from manual methods of cemetery management to digital cemetery management software of some kind. Sometimes, digital methods of designing and managing plots are used in conjunction with manual methods. For many, managing cemeteries digitally ideally cuts down on the time spent to complete a task, so it all depends on what is achievable through digital means.

One of the biggest benefits that digital management affords are simpler ways of keeping track of cemetery records and maintaining their accuracy in relation to cemetery plot maps. By using digital tools, you’re able to do this using a cemetery plot template, for example. What this means is that information can also be shared far more easily, without additional steps that may be involved using the manual method. Using templates can drastically reduce organisational time and lead to more consistent record keeping. Ideally (we’re using this word again), digital means of record keeping and plot layout aids in managing a cemetery more comprehensively, without spending too much time trying to decipher handwriting and unfamiliar logic systems.

cemetery plot deed template | chronicle

Digitally designing and managing cemetery plots makes fulfilling the requirements of governing bodies easier to perform. It certainly takes less effort to maintain consistent, accurate records if you record data digitally, instead of manually. Also, records can more quickly be accessed on demand, while digital storage can be more resistant to risks like fires, water damage, and so on. Of course, this is true provided there are off-site backups of the data should a disaster occur.

Security of digital records and plot management are not always guaranteed. In light of the numerous data breaches occurring on databases globally, this becomes a significant concern. If you maintain your cemetery records and plots digitally, then, you’d have to ensure that the programmes and systems that you use, whether cloud-based or not, are sufficiently secure behind digital lock and key.

Most digital applications and programmes, however, are not designed to be used as dedicated cemetery management software. While the use of some programmes are more helpful than others, it’s fairly difficult to get a free cemetery plot template tool that has been developed solely with cemeteries in mind.

Pros and Cons of Different Cemetery Plot Design Tools

Whether you choose to work the traditional way or choose to manage your cemetery digitally, being aware of the various free templates to lay out cemetery plots is necessary. At this point, you’ve probably become acquainted with one or more of the following tools – manual and digital. We’ll break them down a little further to offer a more balanced look at both their benefits and drawbacks.


Easily the most ubiquitous of manual methods, pen(cil) and paper are undoubtedly handy. In terms of designing plots and being free in drawing them exactly how you want your cemetery layout to be represented, this has been the way to go for generations now.

While it may offer you some freedom, using paper leaves you with numerous documents to cross-reference after you retrieve them from their storage space. Through the years, the same paper records have seen scratchings and annotations made on top of each other, leading to maps and records which are difficult to understand. Paper, as we all know, is highly susceptible to being damaged or lost in the event of a natural disaster, resulting in the loss of critical community records if something were to happen.

Paper maps and records are also not easily shareable – a requirement in today’s world both for prospective clients and communities. Holding on to paper records for historical purposes is great, but moving these records and plot layouts over to a digital platform makes today’s requirements simpler to fulfill.


Excel is the first port of call for many who make the move from manual, paper records, to digital. Spreadsheets are superior to handwritten records, that’s for sure, but they’re not the best solution.

Excel was not designed to handle cemetery maps and match records to a cemetery plot layout. Yes, Excel files are shareable and a spreadsheet is highly useful in keeping cemetery records together in a logical manner. One of its major problems for your goals, however, is that it suffers from limited mapping and diagram functionality.

excel cemetery plot template | chronicle

Maintaining clear links between records and physical ground location is problematic, clumsy, and frustrating when using Excel. Let’s look at it from a more practical perspective. Reality and spreadsheet maps rarely correspond! The spreadsheet map is neat, featuring straight lines creating orderly grids, but the actual cemetery that it represents has rows that curve and plots with odd spacings between them. Individual plot widths vary, too. And when a new lot was created in your cemetery to squeeze in an individual next to their spouse? Spreadsheet maps don’t accurately communicate that either – even with those annotations you made.

This means that one of Excel’s major drawbacks is its inability to maintain accurate data. It’s useful in being a halfway house, if you will, between moving from manual records towards a dedicated cemetery software platform. Its functionality is useful in creating an Excel cemetery plot template to consolidate your records before making that move.

Excel can be used as a shareable document, but without cloud-based accessibility, your documents are not easily accessible if you’re away from your workstation. While an Excel cemetery plot template is free to use if you’ve got the software, its lack of security management and poor data quality means that you’d be better off looking at other solutions.


Miro is touted as one of the finest visual collaboration platforms out there to create, collaborate, and centralise your data across your organisation. Its free pricing plan offers only 3 editable boards, which could actually be fine to design and manage cemetery plot layouts. It also allows anonymous board viewers, catering for governing bodies’s requirements about availability of records. This cloud-based platform means that you can access it from anywhere there’s an internet connection, while you’ll also have that peace of mind knowing that they take digital security very seriously.

free template to lay out cemetery plot | miro | chronicle

Still, for cemetery plot layouts and records, we find that it’s better suited to internal processes but not that useful for the “finished product” in cemetery management if you’re looking to show potential clients available plots. Miro also doesn’t have any templates that you can use for cemetery plots – each cemetery is different, in any case. Stay tuned with this blog because we’re going to post a guide on how to create a cemetery plot map in Miro soon!

Google Maps

Cemetery managers are increasingly seeing the potential of Google Maps as a tool for cemetery plot layout, particularly due to the aerial images that are available. The custom map functionality allows you to include your own data as an overlay onto the aerial map on their platform. For this to be helpful, you would likely need a professional to create your digital plot map first so you can upload it. Alternatively, you could manually add a pin for each burial.

While custom Google Maps functionality is free, the man hours involved are incredible and the images available cannot accurately help you with plot layouts. Definitive plot outlines are difficult to make out, even if you zoom all the way in. It’s difficult to pinpoint an individual plot with this tool, and, while you’re able to label markers and make annotations on the map, this can become cluttered quickly.

It’s a secure and future-proof platform, according to Google, but it’s not much more than an interactive satellite photo .


QGIS is a free, open source geographic information system that allows for cross-platform use. Primarily, this program is used to support viewing, editing, and analysis of geospatial data. Essentially, this is the kind of program you’d be looking for if you wanted to accurately map out your cemetery plot layout. While you may have the programme to work with, however, you’ll still need to capture high quality aerial images of your cemetery first.

The platform ticks the box of availability, as versions of your cemetery map can be made accessible to others, but make sure to have appropriate backups as QGIS is a user application. For adequate security, it would require that you encrypt your files – the programme doesn’t secure itself.

QGIS has a simple, user-friendly Graphical User Interface (GUI), but it is not beginner-friendly as you’d need a background in geospatial mapping to begin with. Even with the many online tutorials available, it can be time-consuming to learn.

transfer cemetery plot template | qgis | chronicle

First Steps Towards Consolidating Your Records & Using Excel Cemetery Plot Template Effectively

Having looked at the free tools available for you to use in designing and managing your cemetery plot layout, we find that an Excel spreadsheet is a great way to begin. As we’ve mentioned, none of the above free tools is able to seamlessly manage cemetery processes, but they are helpful. Follow these next steps to begin consolidating your digital records in Excel:

  • For a good set of data, always ensure that one row of data is different to the others: 1 row must contain 1 unique set of data. The same entries might appear in more than one column (property) – the ID column, typically. Check for duplicate data in this ID column, specifically. You can easily do this by following these steps:

    1. Select the column you want to check for duplicates.

    2. Click Home > Conditional Formatting > Highlight Cells Rules > Duplicate Values.

    3. In the box next to values with, pick the formatting you want to apply to the duplicate values, then click OK (this will allow you to highlight duplicate values).

    4. Now, all duplicate data in this column will be quickly apparent.

  • In keeping data rows different to each other, you can sometimes have the same name and section number. The differentiating property? Plot number.
    When working with a team of software experts, they’ll help to create the person ID, combining with it all properties of grave location (section, row, and plot number).

  • You cannot leave 2 types of information blank when consolidating cemetery records and data – grave locations and interment names. If some dates are missing, you can clarify this issue later.

  • Grave location properties consist of section number, rows, grave number, and status (occupied, vacant, or reserved). Usually, every field is not filled out – some of this data could have been lost to age.

  • Properties with interment names should be as follows: first name, middle name, surname.

  • If you notice that you’re missing data regarding date of birth, date of death, and interment date, don’t worry. What’s important is to have names that are in line with grave location, at the very least.

In ensuring that your records are accurate and compliant when tidying up your records on Excel, take note of the following:

  • Look out for different numbering formats in your properties/columns. What does it mean when some numbers have a dash or other random elements included? Is this just a typo or does it hold significance left by previous management? Should you revise the rest of the entries to match this format or should it be left unique?

  • Excel is designed mainly for computations of large numbers, so you’ll find that maintaining data integrity for double plots, skewed plots, etc. to be rather tricky.

  • The goal in using Excel effectively to manage your records is to make this information available for use to anyone authorised in the cemetery management team. Retrieving data quickly is key – but retrieving inaccurate data wastes time and effort for you and the next generation of cemetery managers.

  • When in doubt, ask for help in completing data sets. Never guess, even if it appears simple. Dealing with historical data means that different or incorrect records will translate to misinformation about a deceased person’s life.

 In digitising your records onto an Excel template, you’re bound to identify missing records, duplicates, damaged, and incorrect records. 

Excel Records Are Tidy – What’s Next?

Once your Excel data is consolidated and tidied up, you’ll be able to retrieve written cemetery data far more quickly!

However, Excel is not built to create visual data maps that integrate cemetery records, diagrams, and maps. You’ll find that you’ll save time working with a logically laid out set of data, but it’s still necessary to work with a separate cemetery map when you’re searching for relevant plots.

After consolidating data, you may be wondering about the best way to have your data and cemetery map in one place – easily accessible and intuitive to navigate.

cemetery plot layout | chronicle

Moving Forward with a Digital Template

It may seem like a daunting process at first. The thought of getting stuck into mountains of records full of names, burial plot IDs, cemetery plot deeds, and reconciling them with their correct spots on an already difficult-to-decipher map keeps you up at night. But we assure you, once you undertake the task, you’ll begin to realise that your community and the next generation of cemetery managers deserves to have this legacy organised efficiently and accurately.

With better organised records, you’ll also notice that you’ll be able to serve potential clients more confidently – matching interment records with plot IDs won’t take hours of searching anymore. This is just the first step in moving towards a dedicated platform which guarantees that you’ll meet state standards while also benefiting from a streamlined, stunning visual plot map of your cemetery.

Ready to take the first step? Download our free Excel template to help you consolidate your cemetery plot records here.

A United Legacy – Cemetery Management Software for Virginia’s Jewish Community

Map and records search: Jewish Cemetery of the Virginia Peninsula

  • Digitalised cemetery records
  • Physical survey of the cemetery grounds
  • Interactive online cemetery map
  • 24/7 online access to plot/cemetery information
  • Customised database management solutions delivered at a highly affordable price

Cemetery Management Software for Virginia’s Jewish Community

Established in 1895, the Jewish Cemetery of the Virginia Peninsula has a long and fascinating history in serving its community. Situated on 1817 Kecoughtan Road in Hampton, Virginia, in the United States, the spectacular granite headstones which mark the plots of this cemetery tell the tale of a community’s history bound by faith.

In fact, this is the tale of two cemeteries uniting to become one. The original cemetery from 1895 began as the Hebrew Cemetery of the Virginia Peninsula, serving the Orthodox members of the faith. But in the 1930s, Rosenbaum Memorial Park, a conservative cemetery, was built adjacent to the first. Even though they were no longer separated since 2002, when the wall of shrubbery which separates the two was removed, the two original gates still stand today – the history of the now Jewish Cemetery of the Virginia Peninsula is preserved. 

Today, it offers separate burial sections for all members of the Jewish community – including non-Jewish members of a Jewish family – that are operated in accordance with the governing principles of the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements within the faith.

Having undergone major repairs and renovations over the years, the cemetery now marks a new milestone in its history – Jewish cemetery management software tailored specifically for the use of the cemetery’s administrator, Roy. The digitisation of the cemetery’s map and records is certain to preserve and promote the history of the community, fostering a greater understanding of its intricate legacy.

Deciphering Paper Maps – A Tale as Old as Time

Very much following the traditional form of mapping their cemetery, the Jewish Cemetery had been using an old paper map to visualise plots and burial layouts. For Chronicle, this is not something new – moving away from paper maps and drawings in the process of digitising cemetery management is a large part of what the team does.

While it could be seen as routine in Chronicle’s process, each paper map that we work with comes with its very own set of unique challenges. After all, every cemetery manager works differently, and these differences are compounded over time and as cemeteries grow. These challenges were quickly apparent for the Chronicle team. The team spent a considerable amount of time trying to decipher the map and understand its peculiarities in order to find patterns and meaning in order to move forward.

Three very different design styles were visible on the old map. This led to inconsistencies in both its drawing and design as the map was updated and annotated over the years. To take this old paper map and port it over onto streamlined Jewish management software, making sense of these designs was integral. Yet, it did take some time – what the team quickly noticed was that plot row numbering patterns differed across the old map. It’s this lack of consistency that’s fairly common among cemeteries that still use paper maps. In most cases, the older the cemetery, the more inconsistencies one finds. This often becomes a source of confusion and misunderstanding, especially when management of the cemetery is handed over to a new administrator. Administrators do their best with what they’ve inherited, and make efforts to improve upon old systems of mapping. However, even with good intentions, inconsistent mapping can lead to indecipherable drawings.

“Is this a full row?” the team scratched its collective head, “Perhaps it signifies a full row?”

“But what does this marking mean and how does it relate to the rest of the drawing?”

These questions get asked a lot when deciphering old paper maps, but this was, possibly, the greatest challenge that the team faced when working with the Jewish Cemetery of the Virginia Peninsula. While the cemetery’s babies’ section was not all that well defined on the map, the team did not have much of a hill to climb when dealing with the cemetery’s existing Excel records.

Towards Tailored Maps and Record Keeping

Excel is a common tool for record-keeping, but it is certainly not the best cemetery software for Jewish congregations to use for administration of this nature. While the cemetery’s records were digitised in this format and we were able to make sense of it without much cause for concern, there were a few issues that needed to be ironed out. Since we had to cross-reference these records with the paper map, there were some unnecessary or, perhaps, excessive aspects on the records. Again, with a cemetery that’s 125 years old, this is not out of the ordinary and was dealt with fairly simply by the team.

Gradually, it all began to come together as developed the platform for this Jewish cemetery management software. After understanding the old map and cross-referencing it with the cemetery’s Excel records, Chronicle had an aerial survey of the cemetery performed.

Collaboration and Complexities – Lessons Learned in Jewish Cemetery Management Software

For this step, we worked with Geocgi to perform the aerial mapping. These geographic information system (GIS) experts – or geeks, if you prefer – visited the cemetery site and captured detailed drone images for Chronicle to use on our platform. They lent us their sharp focus and expertise with data and imaging that they’ve honed since 2006 as a geospatial consulting group, providing stunning and seamless, high quality visuals that exceeded our expectations at Chronicle.

Once the aerial survey was complete, the Chronicle team got round to the usual process of placing and labelling plots correctly, ensuring that the new digital map matches the original diagram. Again, however, the nature of this cemetery presented challenges.

The densely-packed cemetery, with its marvellous granite headstones serving as plot markers, offered a somewhat unique and complex digital mapping exercise. For instance, a single, long family headstone may cross two plots on one end of a grave, while single plaques mark the other end. In certain cases, plaques were oddly placed, sometimes sitting unevenly next to each other. 

Quickly learning that the real world sometimes laughs in the face of digital maps, the Chronicle team had to work with care to size up the plots of this intricate, complex layout. Without much leeway in terms of “blank space” between plots, the scrutinous work was eventually complete. As the many visual cues in the form of monuments and other landmarks dot the cemetery, they provide a lot to compare against when drawing digital cemetery plots. While this is helpful, it can also make the smallest mistake appear to be a glaring one.

An Alignment of Stars – The Result 

The result provided Jewish cemetery management software with a visual data map that was worthy of the spectacular, exquisite cemetery itself. Roy, the volunteer in charge of the digitisation process for the local Jewish community, is equally enthusiastic about the outcome. He worked with the Chronicle team from the beginning of the project, investing time and effort into collaborating with the team to help meet his objective of an accurate, aesthetically attractive digital cemetery. His quick feedback and clear communication meant that the Chronicle team had no trouble in aligning his goals with our output.

In fact, Roy has been hands-on throughout, to the point that we shared a version of our QGIS (desktop geographic information system) map with him. He’s been active in making suggestions for various software changes to meet his cemetery’s needs, while also performing his own edits and maneuvering on the map. “And Chronicle has been with us every step of the way, offering suggestions, making tweaks on their end, and promptly responding to our inquiries and requests. I could not be happier.” reports Roy, who describes himself as “a very satisfied and very impressed digital partner” in this endeavor.

A cemetery with the unique character, a long history and its own individual requirements like the Jewish Cemetery of the Virginia Peninsula is not uncommon. Find out how your cemetery’s unique challenges can have a tailored solution with our cemetery software!