A Time for Heroes – The Digitising of Battle Creek Memorial Park

Map and records search: Battle Creek Memorial Park

  • 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

The Digitising of Battle Creek Memorial Park, Michigan

In Calhoun County, Michigan, lies Battle Creek Memorial Park. A colossal cemetery in the United States, dotted with monuments, gravestones, this institution is one of great significance, both for its community and for Chronicle. With more than 50,000 plots, this vast cemetery caters to the city of Battle Creek whose history goes back to at least 1774 when the Potawatomi and Ottawa Native American tribes formed a joint village near to where the city would later expand.

Notable burials at Battle Creek Memorial Park include two US Congressmen, Paul Werntz Shafer and Howard Eliot Wolpe III. Among them is also interred Ruth Swanson Venn, entrepreneur. Certainly a beacon of legacy for the city of Battle Creek, the Memorial Park is also a beacon of pride for the Chronice team who worked to digitise their records. From a clumsy, complex, and labyrinthine system of records, the team worked to create spectacular cemetery plot maps for the enormous institution.

Skirmishes – Overcoming Cemetery Plot Maps Challenges

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A mammoth task lay ahead, indeed. When confronted with a project of such epic proportions ahead, what does a team do in order to get ahead, work through, and succeed? Strategy, planning, and an in-depth knowledge combined with expertise is what took the Chronicle team through.

This is not to say that it wasn’t easy or intimidating – because trust us, it certainly was. As only our second customer in the United States, Battle Creek Memorial Park meant more than just a foot in the door in the country. Chronicle signed with the institution in December of 2020 and the project began.

They appeared insurmountable at first, but the challenges and obstacles that lay ahead of the team took a number of forms. For one, it was the sheer mass of records that needed to be sorted, made sense of, and then converted and transferred over onto the Chronicle platform.

 

To provide a better idea of the magnitude of the project at hand, we think it best to offer you a few numbers to better conceptualise it. Comprising three cemeteries, Battle Creek Memorial Park holds ample burial space. In numbers, this translates to 57,648 plots altogether! Of that number, the institution holds 24,545 total interments currently – both entombments and ashes from cremations. These are all spread over 20 sections that can be found in the Park Immense, we know, but the Chronicle team of cemetery mapping experts was more than up to the challenge.

Now, it’s not just the size of the task that posed a challenge. Before moving over to Chronicle for cemetery management, Battle Creek Memorial Park dealt with no practical mapping or location finder for their immense cemetery. Both staff and members of the public were forced to work with paper maps and scanned plans, finding themselves easily lost among the tombstones and walkways of the institution. Finding one’s way is not just essential in a cemetery, when family members are on their way to pay respects to their loved ones, but it’s also a key aspect of any efficient infrastructure – both physical and digital.

Eyes on the Objective – The Road to Spectacular Cemetery Database Software

cemetery plot template | chronicle

Creating an accurate cemetery plot map for Battle Creek was only one piece of the puzzle. The Chronicle team had to deal with the cemetery’s existing records, first. It may sound like an everyday issue for many SaaS platforms taking over from the previous cemetery database software, but this proved to be different.

For many in the cemetery management industry, the name Pontem rings a bell. Pontem is an already pretty well-known data manager for cemeteries, but for some types of cemeteries, the way that data is managed is rather complex. The team discussed essential and non-essential data and record sets with ROI holders at various stages of the data conversion process. 

Why is this necessary to understand? First, let’s take you through the process of how Chronicle digitises a cemetery. If you’re an avid reader of our case studies, you know that it usually goes a little something like this:  We obtain high-quality aerial imagery (often using drones), then we overlay existing cemetery plans and map atop the newly-acquired aerial imagery. The team matches old paper matches with the new, high-resolution images of the cemetery and then moves onto drawing each individual cemetery plot.

Scroll back a bit to the number of plots that we mentioned above. Yes, the Chronicle team did what some may consider too complicated, drawing each and every plot to match the memorial park in real life. This dedication to the cause is one of the reasons that John from Battle Creek committed this gargantuan task to Chronicle. No other cemetery software platform even tries to draw a real cemetery plot map – typical platforms usually opt for single dots or points to represent a plot, instead of using polygons.

Database Conversion – The Pontem Labyrinth

Drawing the plot map wasn’t the final boss, only its minion. Back to Pontem. John and his team are struggling in making sense of the records so that we could bring them over into Chronicle. For those cemeteries who use the software and look to move over to a more intuitive platform, Pontem database conversion is often what keeps them tied down.

The Chronicle team charged ahead nonetheless. They reverse-engineered Pontem’s incredibly complex database made up of hundreds of different tables, massive file sizes, and almost half a million line items. They were in the backrooms of Pontem cemetery software, a land where no integrated mapping obscures mistakes, plot IDs attached to non-real plots, floating names without a plot to attach to… fade to black.

Sheer determination brought the team through as they waded through duplicate information and meaningless entries, while at the same time, deciphering whether that information really was a duplicate or whether the entry was really meaningless.

Triumph Against the Numbers

To put it into a battle perspective, it did almost seem like the team emerged from the smoke, battered and bruised, but triumphant, upon the completion of this project. We earned a hard-won, intuitive platform for John, the staff of Battle Creek Memorial Park, and the public who respect the community’s legacy. They ushered in a new era for those involved at the institution, giving managers and administrators a more accessible, accurate view of the cemetery through a spectacular, integrated map – one interface where records and visuals can be easily navigated on a single platform. The cemetery, with its swathes of records and plots, now only needs one click to enter data if a location is to be found. This makes the lives of visitors considerably easier – no more getting lost.

And for administrators at Battle Creek Memorial Park, they’re saving time for what matters. With fewer procedures to follow in order to enter and edit data, they’re far more confident in confirming the status of a cemetery plot or whether an interred person is related to a correct plot number. All this is achievable without having to go through the back and forth of paperwork and data entry in books and spreadsheets.

Battle Creek Memorial Park and the team have gained much-deserved convenience. A memorial park for the local heroes, a rich source of history, and a mission to conserve this vast number of records as accurately as possible is not uncommon for a cemetery or memorial park this grand in size. If you are looking to digitise your records and maps, or simply move from your current less-satisfying digital platform, find out how your cemetery’s unique challenges can have a tailored solution with Chronicle Cemetery Software!

Within the Green Burial – A Natural Way Back to Earth

Within the Green Burial – A Natural Way Back to Earth

Unless science or some other form of modern-day magic can stop death in its tracks, we’re all going to return to the earth, the spirit world, or the endless void – however you want to look at it. Death’s coming for us all, so how do we put this mortal flesh-and-bone machine of ours to rest?

Admittedly, this started out a little morbidly but hey, you are here to read about burial after all, aren’t you? We’ve ascertained that death is inevitable, but there’s no one way to lay our bodies to rest once we’re gone. If you’re in the West, the traditional idea of a funeral and subsequent burial goes a little something like this: your loved ones and friends gather at the social congregation that is your wake, where your body lies in a casket, dressed in your best with a peaceful countenance made to look like you’re asleep by a skilled mortician who also embalms you so that decomposition is kept at bay. Words are said, tears are shed, and then it all moves to the cemetery where you and your casket are lowered into a 6-foot hole in the ground and then covered up by earth.

On the other hand, you might also opt for a cremation. Here, your mortal body is transformed into ash to be kept by your loved ones or have them scatter those remains or inter them in a meaningful place.

Let’s look at a few key points here. We’ve mentioned a casket, embalming, and ashes. There’s a whole lot that can be unpacked here, so let’s move onto how these play a part (or don’t play a part) in what makes a green burial.

In a Nutshell – What Is a Green Burial?

In many ways, we’ve come full circle as a civilisation. The last few years, in particular, have served to wake us up to how we’re progressively ruining the environment through industry and personal choices. There are many of us out here trying to turn things around and shift perspectives in the hopes of alleviating the stress that humanity has been putting on the environment for a long time.

Natural burials are one way that we’re doing this. As a society, we’ve come to realise that we need to return to the earth, in the most literal way possible, with as little excess as possible. Simplicity and minimalism are the key here, so the green burial movement is a way for us to minimise our carbon footprint – even in death.

Green burials are a way to minimise the resources necessary for both the care of the body after death and in its interment. With natural burial, the aim is to leave the world with as little (or nothing) extraneous done or applied to your body before returning to the earth. This also applies to the vessel you’ll be buried in – a natural burial may use no casket or coffin at all, instead opting to be buried in a simple shroud. Of course, your family will end up saving on funeral costs, too – in most cases.

There and Back Again – Of Coffins, Caskets, and Shrouds

Reading the above, you might be on two sides of a proverbial fence. Either, you’re thinking “but we’re just throwing tradition out of the window” or “none of this is new; we’ve always been doing this in my culture/religion.”

If you’re in the second camp, this is true. Listing all the religious or cultural traditions that have been practicing natural burial all this time would be impractical, but we can tell you that traditional Muslim and Jewish customs have been burying their dead this way all this time. In the traditions of both religions, the body is washed – but not embalmed – after death, before being dressed in a plain burial shroud and then buried in the ground. In some areas, especially in cities, you might find that the enshrouded body is carried in a wooden or metal casket of sorts into and out of a hearse to the graveyard. While this does occur, the deceased is almost always buried simply in a shroud if religious traditions are practiced.

If you’re in the first camp and find that green funerals are just a way to rail against tradition, many might remind you that it’s only really been in the last two centuries or so that this tradition has been practiced. For most of human history, the funeral process has been more closely linked to nature, without the use of chemicals and other environmentally harmful materials seeping into the ground.

It’s just that lately, we’re really beginning to see the issues that “traditional” burial methods have had on our environment. Projects like the Burial Belt by Other Architects and Earth Funerals in Australia are trying to create awareness around the environmental impact, logistics, and experience of the way we bury. Ultimately, there’s an increasing need to respect and restore the environment, coupled with a spiritual desire to reconnect with the earth at the heart of green funerals.

Weighing It Up – Why Go Green?

Those key points we’ve told you to keep in mind earlier on? Those are some of the most significant elements that this type of burial is trying to minimise both in principle and practice.

Let’s take a look at caskets and coffins for a minute. We’ve become accustomed to commercially-produced caskets, but we often don’t realise that they’re treated chemically with paint or veneer and contain metal parts – all of which gets buried into the earth’s precious soil. In the United States, for example, the funeral industry buries about 15 million litres of embalming fluid, 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete, 64,500 tons of steel, and 17,000 tons of copper and bronze into the ground with the deceased – every year. And with every cremation, the energy equivalent of 40 litres of petrol is spent, while also emitting other pollutants like dioxin and mercury into the atmosphere.

The embalming fluid that we’ve mentioned is harmful enough since formaldehyde and other embalming chemicals seep slowly into the earth. Of course, this happens over a really long time, constantly polluting as the fluid drastically delays the time your body takes to decompose. While keeping the environment free of pollutants is a major concern for the natural burial movement, the move to prohibit embalming also served to protect the health of funeral home workers. Those embalming fluids might prolong the decomposition of the dead, but the formaldehyde inside is a proven carcinogen with adverse effects on those who are exposed to them regularly.

Ways to Go – Your Natural Funeral Options

The coffins and caskets that we’ve become used to make up about half the cost of every funeral. You’re not obliged to be buried in these as you do have the option of using coffins made of sustainably-harvested wood or to simply use an organic, biodegradable cotton shroud. Remember, in most places, funeral homes are required to accept what you, the customer, provides. And when it comes to embalming, this is almost always done away with. In the case that you would want to be embalmed, green embalming is an option. Instead of formaldehyde, environmentally-friendly essential oils can be used to preserve the body for a few weeks or so,

while dry ice or a refrigeration unit is suggested while transporting the body. Fundamentally, the point of the movement is for the body to decompose naturally.

An awareness of green practices in the funeral industry in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and other parts of the world is growing. With this, comes numerous green funeral options, including green cemeteries or hybrid cemeteries. Hybrid cemeteries, like Bendoc Cemetery in Victoria, Australia, reserve space for both traditional burials and natural burials as perspectives towards returning to the earth begin to shift.

Where Conservation Burial and the Digital Realm Converge

If you do wish to depart to return to the earth in more than just a shroud, Earth Funerals has moved away from traditional coffins to eco-pods – just 9kgs of handcrafted wicker without the use of any paint, veneer, or lacquer that would usually just harm the soil. Earth Funerals emphasises carbon positive burials by contributing to the restoration of acres of wildlife corridors and funding of native greenery with each funeral. 

You’ll find that conservation burials like this are moving further and further away from large, elaborate headstones, choosing instead to survey the site and use a set of GPS coordinates to mark and locate the grave site. Cemetery mapping faces new possibilities – or challenges, perhaps – with restorative natural burial grounds, but our digital platforms have already taken up the task of online memorialisation in the green funeral space.

As notions of how our mortal vessels are laid to rest are evolving once again, or reverting to the ways of old, digital tech will still play a part in keeping legacies alive. As natural burial grounds become more popular, movements like these are beginning to rely more so on the technology of today to remember those who have passed. It’s all about balance. How do we visit our loved ones without headstones to mark their resting place? How do we connect with their memories? Learn all you need to know about digital mapping for your cemetery with the best of our digital cemetery experts!