Map and records search: Battle Creek Memorial Park
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- Physical survey of the cemetery grounds
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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
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
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!