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:

Manually

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.

Digitally

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.

Paper

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

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

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

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

jewish cemetery management software | chronicle

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!

Migration to Cemetery Mapping Software – The Yan Yean Cemetery Story

cemetery mapping software | yan yean cemetery | chronicle

Map and records search: Yan Yean Cemetery

  • 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

Migration to Cemetery Mapping Software – the Yan Yean Cemetery Story

Located just outside of Whittlesea, less than an hour’s drive away from the Melbourne city centre, lies the Yan Yean Cemetery in all its idyllic splendour. Tucked among rolling green hills, this serene place of rest spans ten acres and a further 14 acres in development with over 8500 interments on the grounds.

Very much a functioning cemetery and integral part of the community’s legacy, the cemetery’s history began back in 1850: while the Yan Yean Reservoir embankment was being constructed, a labourer employed by contractor Joseph Martindale passed on. His body was laid to rest in the space that was soon to become the cemetery we know today. Officially, however, the first headstone, belonging to William Johnston, was constructed in 1858 and can be found nestled between a two-trunked oak tree in Compartment 2 of the cemetery.

The land that Yan Yean Cemetery sits on today was owned by one Dr. William Ronald who generously donated the ten tranquil acres for its use. Soon afterwards, in 1854, the first Trust Members were appointed – George Sherwin, Dr. William Ronald himself, and David Johnston. Thomas Hughes, John Gibson, and James Ryan were appointed later, in 1865. Five years later, in 1870, an addition was made to the cemetery in the form of a Sexton’s Lodge, following the employment of a Sexton with the purpose of revising the Interment Register – the same Sexton who designed the lodge. Today, the cemetery is growing rather rapidly, catering to the outer suburbs growth corridor of Melbourne.

Completing the Puzzle – The Yan Yean Cemetery Challenge

As a large, established cemetery which has been fairly well-organised from its very inception, Yan Yean Cemetery presented a unique situation for us at Chronicle. While we usually engage in managing a cemetery’s records, this wasn’t the case at Yan Yean Cemetery – they were happily using another software, for their cemetery records platform! At this point, they were looking for a simple cemetery software to integrate with their existing database, instead of replacing it. 

Marisa Ricardi, current administration manager of Yan Yean Cemetery is experienced in dealing with an institution of this magnitude. She previously worked at Box Hill Cemetery, another large cemetery in Melbourne, engaging with some of the foremost talents and software available. When she moved to Yan Yean Cemetery, she and the Trust decided that Chronicle was the best choice for her and the cemetery’s goals.

simple cemetery mapping software | yan yean cemetery | chronicle

Since Yan Yean Cemetery did not require their records to be managed with Chronicle, what services did they require? Yan Yean Cemetery needed a solution that simplifies the visualising and management of their assets (burial plots). They required Chronicle’s services in creating an online cemetery search (burial and plot search). Pre-Chronicle, they only had a PDF version of the cemetery map available on their website. This was far from anything interactive, and made it considerably difficult for people who wanted to visit the cemetery or purchase plots. Pre-Chronicle, the cemetery used an Excel grid for their map – a very challenging medium with which to work. The truth is, Excel grid maps do not represent reality. When compared to the aerial view of the cemetery, the discrepancies are immediately recognised. Even though Yan Yean Cemetery’s grid map was well-maintained, it only really made sense to the staff who worked with it frequently. 

The end goal? Yan Yean Cemetery wanted to drastically improve and streamline the way that they can visualise their assets and carry out burial searches. Marisa sought to have a clear picture of the cemetery’s plots, know at a glance who is buried where, what assets (plots) are available, and where they could inter new burials to come. She also wanted the public to be able to access and conduct deceased searches themselves through an online portal.

Surveying, Realignment, and Leaving Unsuitable Software

The first step in reaching Marisa’s and Yan Yean Cemetery goals was to create a digital interactive map. In doing so, Chronicle would be able to simplify the plot search capability for both the cemetery manager and other users.

digital cemetery mapping software | yan yean cemetery | chronicle

Plot measurements, alignments and mapping accuracy was the primary concern. The Chronicle team’s biggest challenge was relating the Excel plot grid to the aerial imagery and ensuring all plot IDs are consistent with the database.  After drawing 24.000 plots for Yan Yean Cemetery, we built a live integration with the previous software database, allowing the online Chronicle map to instantly reflect any changes to the records made by the admin team. During this process, there were many diagrams that needed to be moved and realigned. We had to do a fair amount of renumbering, too, and an update of the plot IDs so as to ensure they are accurate.

A survey of the cemetery had not been done previously, so mapping Yan Yean Cemetery required careful comparison with the Excel plot map on our side. As would be expected, this necessitated numerous discussions with Marisa to make sure that everything remained accurate.

How Cemetery Mapping Software Helps an Institution to Shine

After engaging with Chronicle to update Yan Yean Cemetery’s mapping software, Marisa is now able to make offline edits to the map and can request updates from the Chronicle team whenever necessary. The ability to constantly improve upon cemetery records and mapping accuracy is a constant, active process – as is the case with any cemetery digitisation project. Chronicle offers these tools to cemetery managers. It’s not always possible to rectify errors right from the start. When compared to Excel, if you’re to rectify an error in one file, this fix doesn’t necessarily carry over to other related files. Great cemetery mapping software alleviates this unnecessary workload and ensures that annotations are uniform – able to be understood intuitively by the next person.

online cemetery mapping software | yan yean cemetery | chronicle

For a professional organisation like Yan Yean Cemetery, their management team deserves the ease-of-use and error-reducing software that Chronicle provides. It’s due to their organised and disciplined ethos that our team was able to help them achieve their goals relatively quickly. The project took approximately 45 days! In comparison, when working with previous clients, we spent two months before being able to confidently get started on drawing their cemetery map.

Our quick work with Yan Yean Cemetery is testament to quick communication between our CEO, Matt Borowski, and the analyst, as well as the team’s speed in creating an accurate plot map platform. Even though Yan Yean Cemetery already had an organised database, it wasn’t visible for visitors or anyone but the cemetery’s management team. The Chronicle team has helped to unveil the many stellar features of the institution through an aesthetically-pleasing, accurate, and intuitive interactive map. We can help you visualise and share your records, no matter the current status. Book a free consultation now to find out how.

Space for Cemetery Software System in Unique Funeral Traditions Around the World

unique funeral traditions | dia de los muertos | cemetery software | chronicle

Death and taxes, they say, are inevitable. But that tells us nothing of the innovative and curious ways in which death is “celebrated” across the world. Yes, death signifies the passing of a human being from this mortal world. Some believe that we just cease to exist as conscious beings, but many, many others around the world – across cultures and traditions – believe otherwise. For many, death is a milestone in our existence, where our souls transition from this world into the next. Those who work in the world of modern death care today would see funerals and interment connected to cemetery software system and management. Death is conceived differently across traditions, cultures, religious communities, and even occupations.

A Glimpse into Lesser-Known Funeral Traditions

For many of us in the West, death is a sombre affair, and the funeral process tends to be a colourless one. Yet, it’s what we consider to be normal. In traditional Christian and Jewish funerals, the bereaved attend the church or synagogue wearing all (or mostly) black. The prayer ritual takes place and eulogies are given. Once at the cemetery or graveyard, flowers – often roses – are gently placed into the casket of the dead before the deceased is lowered into the ground. In a similar vein, wearing all (or mostly) white is customary when one attends a Hindu funeral. For Muslims, a process similar to that of the Jews and Christians takes place – to some degree – and while wearing black is not a custom, it’s customary to wear clothes that don’t attract much attention.

unique funeral traditions | bali hindu | cemetery software | chronicle

What’s common across all these religious and cultural traditions is this: death is a momentous event! It’s for this reason that other traditions from around the world have considered the rituals and rites surrounding death as something not to be seen entirely as a sad, dreary event, but something to be celebrated, where the dead receive a send-off or are interred in curious and fascinating ways. It also opens up various avenues for cemetery software system and digital memorial requirements in the contemporary world. As we cement ourselves further and further into the digital age, we should perhaps take a leaf from their proverbial books and reshape our collective mindsets about how we perceive death and how we remember the dead. This is where cemetery management and digital memorial overlap.

Is death the end? For many, they’re almost certain that it isn’t! How do others send off their lost loved ones today with traditions that may possibly shake up our sensibilities?

Death as the Everyday – The Philippines

In the Philippines, there are a host of contrasting practices revolving around death, interment, and funerals. Taking a look at the Tinguan people, those who passed in their community take their place on a chair, sat upright and dressed in their best clothes. To put the icing on the cake, as it were, a cigarette is placed between their lips, too. A lively death get-up or a severe smoking warning? You decide. 

The Caviteño people, who live near Manila, opt for something a tad more romantic, burying their dead in a hollowed-out tree trunk. Just as some might ensure they’ve got a casket ready before they pass on, the Caviteño select their preferred tree while they’re still alive.

Among the Benguet of northwestern Philippines, the dead are blindfolded and placed next to the house’s main entrance. It’s a stark reminder that death is something we’re all going to taste, as well as a reminder that the bereaved have loved ones waiting for them on the other side. Similarly, the Apayo people of this nation bury their dead under the heart of the home – the kitchen.

unique funeral traditions | caviteno tree burial | cemetery software | chronicle

Play for the Dead, Care for the Dead

Jazz burials in New Orleans and skull burials in the Republic of Kiribati, in the Central Pacific, could not be more different, yet they’re one of the more vivid ways of sending off the dead and – this may sound strange to some – caring for the dead.

In New Orleans, jazz and music is entwined with the city’s culture. It comes as no surprise, then, that jazz accompanies many a funeral procession, with a big horn band at the helm! The music begins with more solemn tunes, gradually transitioning into more lively jazz and blues melodies as onlookers and the bereaved engage in furious dancing.

In Kiribati, the dead are exhumed from their graves. Their skulls are taken to be oiled, polished, and preserved by their families. The skull is then displayed in their homes, with offerings of food and tobacco made to it. To some degree, the funerary tradition of Famadihana in Madagascar sees people dig up their dead every half a decade or so. The dead partake in dances, they’re perfumed and taken care of, and stories are shared about them and with them.

Transforming the deceased body

While lack of burial space in South Korea has led to the phenomenon of burial beads – bodies are cremated and pressed into jewellery-like beads – Australia is working on the idea of the Earth Funerals. It’s a proposal that tackles lack of burial space in urban areas by advocating for natural, environmentally-friendly burials in newly-planted vegetation belts around Australian cities. This builds on ecologically-friendly burial practices – something that most Muslims, many Jews, and others practice today – where plain, cloth shrouds are used instead of caskets or coffins for burials.

unique funeral traditions | burial beads south korea | cemetery software | chronicle

The Dead Tell Tales – Cemetery Software System Allows for Richer Stories

All these practices have one thing in common – there’s a narrative around death. Those who passed live on through memory and through the stories we tell about them, their lives, and the impact they’ve had on us and the world. No matter the culture, funeral rites and cemetery managers serve the community. Throughout time, these rites have evolved and we’ve continuously innovated the way we manage burials and cemeteries. 

While each culture and tradition has (sometimes wildly) different death practices, a cemetery software system can lighten the load and make the management process simpler. This allows cemetery administrators and managers the time and resources to serve their community better and to help tell stories of those in the community who have left, enriching cultures and keeping traditions alive.

Image source:

  • tahoedailytribune.com
  • photographylife.com
  • amusingplanet.com
  • neworleans.com
  • blog.funeralone.com

8 Best Cemetery Management Software Compared 2020

Having the right tools at your disposal to perform your job efficiently is priceless. For cemetery management, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the need to progress from using paper ledgers and Excel spreadsheets to cemetery management software that addresses the specific mapping problems faced in this industry.

What is Cemetery Software?

As a cemetery administrator, you’re all too aware that not many outside of the industry really understands the very specific challenges that you face every day. Forgive the pun, but cemetery management is quite niche!

Good cemetery software digitises your cemetery management processes and record-keeping. Great cemetery software transforms and simplifies the way your cemetery is mapped and how you manage your cemetery’s data, affordably, while contributing positively to the legacy of your community.

 

What Features Should Exist on Cemetery Software?

When looking for the right software to help your cemetery’s management, keep in mind that you’re looking for tools that will provide consistency for your cemetery’s maps, eliminate the need for paper records, and offer instant visualisation of the status of each of your cemetery’s plots. Excel is a thing of the past – you’re looking for software tailored to your needs, not a clumsy, catch-all program.

Don’t forget, the cemetery is at the heart of the community’s history, so software that makes it simple for you and others to share those memories is essential in today’s social world.

Equally as important is the need for cemetery software to be affordable with transparent pricing, depending on what your cemetery can afford – big or small. That being said, let’s compare 8 of the best cemetery software platforms out there today so that you can make an informed choice moving forward.

The Contenders – A Cemetery Mapping Software Comparison

 

CemSites

CemSites has become fairly popular in the US, being implemented in more than 40 states since its establishment in 2012, by Founders Scott McAfee and Sean Johnson. “Cloud Software for Cemeteries”, this cloud-based platform specialises in cemetery record management software (CRM), obituaries and stories, and report management, aimed at saving cemeteries time and money.

simple cemetery software | comparison | cemsites | chronicle
CemSites Example Cemetery Map: Round Hill Cemetery

CemSites is for cemeteries of all sizes. Features like grave mapping are only available as an add-on, not as a standard feature. It doesn’t offer a quick indication of plots that are available or occupied, but CemSites offers substantial information through their burial search, including photographs and obituaries. They also offer a handy flower service at the click of a button.

Pricing works on a module and subscription module, so cemeteries pay for what they need. However, it’s not clear what the price tier is like, as you can only view this after you use CemSites’ demo.

Example cemetery map: Round Hill Cemetery

What we like: CemSites offers various plans, depending on your cemetery. This includes pet cemeteries, Jewish cemeteries, and crematoria, among others.

CIMS

CIMS is focused on its GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and has provided mapping and customised software solutions for 1,000 cemeteries in the US since 1992. CIMS’s expertise lies in plot management, but their desktop and cloud platform offers accounting and document management, grave search, image storage, and lot management. It’s a great tool for large and small cemeteries, yet pricing is currently non-transparent – you’ll have to request a free quote. You have the option of opting for the lite version if your budget doesn’t allow for their pricing – a premium price for their longtime presence in the market.

digital cemetery software | comparison | cims | chronicle
CIMS Example Cemetery Map: Belle Fourche Cemetery

CIMS users tend to learn how to use the platform themselves, making use of their commendable customer service portal. Map plots include detailed burial information but don’t offer quick identification of plot status through colour-coding – being in the market since 1992 seems to have made the platform resistant to change, to some degree.

Example cemetery map: Belle Fourche Cemetery

What we like: CIMS support is quick to answer queries and deal with issues, and their many reviews are a testament to their dedication to clients.

OpusXenta

OpusXenta is a global tech company that offers complete solutions for funeral homes, cemeteries, and crematoria. They’ve been around since 2016, and offer two main products: byondcloud and byondpro. 

It’s important to know how each product can help you differently. byondcloud is a digital presence tool, giving you everything you need to expand your presence online, connect with customers and expand your market. byondcloud, on the other hand, is focussed on managing your cemetery business efficiently to help you generate incremental revenue. For cemetery records management, the latter would be the more suitable choice.

Small and medium cemeteries will benefit most from their service – starting from $20 a month if you’re satisfied after their free 14-day trial. Subscriptions-based pricing is modular, allowing you to purchase more features. For detailed information on pricing, you’ll have to contact them directly.

digital cemetery software | comparison | opusxenta opusxi | chronicle
OpusXenta Example Database Dashboard

OpusXenta doesn’t offer a very interactive mapping system as information doesn’t appear when an individual plot is clicked. Without an API (Application Programming Interface), OpusXenta doesn’t enable two applications to exchange data among each other.

Example cemetery map: Not available.

What we like: Their high-quality GIS images are great to behold, and their focus extends to death care, not just cemeteries themselves.

PlotBox

PlotBox is cemetery management reimagined. Founded in 2011, this platform is a one-stop hub for death care management. PlotBox fully integrates two previously separate functions – cemetery management software and cemetery mapping. It also offers iPad and iPhone support for their wide range of features, including API integration, risk assessment, and verified mapping – ideal for large cemeteries which offer complete death care services.

cemetery management software | comparison | plotbox | chronicle
Plotbox Example Cemetery Map: Rookwood Cemetery

It’s a comprehensive platform but can also be too complex for many, so a step-by-step chat with their experts would be necessary.

Pricing for PlotBox’s main product depends on the number of users and cemeteries. They offer 3 main products, while also providing mapping services if that’s all you need, as well as standalone products like remote booking and contract management, CRM for sales, and work orders.

Example cemetery map: Roockwood Cemetery

What we like: Everything you need in one place, offering integration with your current software.

Central Square (formally Stone Orchard)

Founded in 1995, Central Square (known as Stone Orchard until 2018), still uses many of the same core software components from their early development days. In addition to having your own workstation, this cemetery management platform’s primary management module needs a privately hosted server to function. Both the server and software is set up and maintained by you, the customer, and you’re required to hire your own IT team to do so. Important to note: Central Square’s software does not run natively in the cloud and has very limited mapping functionality. Although Central Square support does their best, their reach is limited due to restrictive company policy.

digital cemetery software | comparison | stoneorchard | chronicle
Central Square Example Database Management

Highly customisable, comprehensive records management software allows for a myriad of possibilities. It’s highly unlikely that customers would be left without options, even if they’re looking to enter more obscure bits of interment data.

This is utilitarian software, best suited to those already running a local private server. No bells and whistles here, but with their 25 years of experience they know how cemeteries work and have adapted their original software into a highly competent records management tool.

Although you can purchase just what your cemetery needs, you’d have to contact them directly for pricing. Their software also has minimum hardware requirements to run, so make sure of that beforehand!

Example cemetery map: Not available

What we like: They also include point of sales functionality, helping to maintain complete sales records.

webCemeteries

Helping to manage your records and improve your process while creating a great customer experience, webCemeteries provides cloud-based software solutions for cemetery management. They also help to digitise your existing paper records with scanning and data entry, offer mapping solutions (although public viewers are not able to view vacant or reserved plots), and even website design to generate sales.

simple cemetery software | comparison | webcemeteries | chronicle
webCemeteries Example Cemetery Map: Hope Cemetery

Whether you’re managing a small or large cemetery, this is a very useful platform, but you’d have to contact them directly for any information regarding pricing.

Example cemetery map: Hope Cemetery

What we like: Their incredibly immersive Cemetery360 ground-level views of over 300 cemeteries across 38 states in the US and Canada, as well as having your own branded cemetery app available on mobile app stores.

Grave Discover Software

For reliable cemetery software, Grave Discover Software focuses on record management and grave search – great for small to medium cemeteries. Their product offers highly-detailed features when it comes to record management with a useful cemetery statistics dashboard, grave search and sorting, grave mapping, and a host of others! All cemetery data is also search engine friendly, allowing your cemetery burial information to show up on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others, but there’s no API available.

simple cemetery software | comparison | grave discover | chronicle
Grave Discover Example Cemetery Map: Rosewood Cemetery

Pricing is fixed and subscription-based – send specific details about your cemetery to Grave Discover to find out what their software will cost you.

Example cemetery map: Rosewood Cemetery

What we like: An interactive cemetery map with an option of various views (satellite, map, detail, and list data) that allows members of the public to search burials and find which plots are for sale.

Chronicle

Innovative, easy-to-use cemetery management software that’s ideal for small and medium cemeteries, Chronicle’s cloud-based platform is working to simplify the way cemeteries are managed since 2016 in Australia and the USA. Its founder, Matthew Borowski, brings his passion and expertise of clever solutions and GIS mapping to the cemetery management industry with a comprehensive, secure platform. Chronicle offers a built-in database with reporting and statistic functionality, although it’s got a closed API.

Chronicle boasts automatic backup, too, so you won’t have to worry about losing your progress. Their fixed, subscription-based pricing system allows you to easily choose a plan for the size of your cemetery. It’s worth noting that they offer a free basic plan for small cemeteries of up to 2,000 plots.

Example cemetery map: Beechworth Cemetery (or browse all the cemetery world map)

What we like: The crisp, clean interface, using high-quality GIS imaging, is really user-friendly and allows for unlimited users.

Our Pick: Chronicle and Their Crisp, User-Friendly Cemetery Management Platform

Simple, comprehensive record management and informative data and geographical mapping make this our top choice for an all-round, affordable, and easy-to-use cemetery mapping software.

Chronicle strives to solve all the major problems with cemetery management today – both those inherited from a pre-digital era and allows for sharing memories instantly in our fast-paced, social world of today. Give it a whirl and manage your cemetery in Chronicle now.

Preserving Maple Hill Cemetery’s Heritage with Simple Cemetery Software

simple cemetery software | maple hill cemetery | chronicle

Scandinavian Haven – Preserving Maple Hill Cemetery’s Heritage with simple cemetery software

Size of Cemetery: Small

Map and records search: Maple Hill Cemetery Online Digital Map

  • 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

Located in Minnesota, USA, about 5 miles away from Grand Marais, one will find the sanctuary that is Maple Hill Cemetery. Closer to the Canadian border than it is to the nearest large American city, Duluth, Maple Hill Cemetery overlooks the spectacular, sparkling next to the cemetery’s picturesque, white church.

The former Lutheran Church, now a historic building is the cemetery’s landmark, and the two were established around the same time as each other near the turn of the twentieth century. 

While it is the largest local cemetery, Maple Hill Cemetery can be categorised as a small cemetery, relatively. Its history is tied to the family of the institution’s current chairman, Howard. 

It was Howard’s grandparents who donated land with the intention of establishing both the cemetery and its spiritual centre, the church. As is fitting, Howard’s late grandparents rest in the founders’ plot of Maple Hill Cemetery. Today, Maple Hill Cemetery is run by volunteers as a non-profit organisation, is open to all denominations, and does both burials and cremations.

As can be seen from the aesthetic of the church, Maple Hill Cemetery exhibits a distinctly Scandinavian heritage. Immigrants from Sweden, in particular, are honoured at Maple Hill Cemetery. On the headstones of those interred on the grounds are names that boast this Swedish heritage – Ericsson, Haglund, Ellquist, Berglund, Bjornlund, and Hedlund are but a few. The region’s Native American history is also revered here, with those from the land’s original inhabitants also interred at Maple Hill cemetery.

As winter gives way to spring, the pinks and violets of phlox petals adorn the cemetery grounds, accenting the green tones of the grass and foliage.

Gaps in Time – Inaccuracies in Maple Hill Cemetery’s Records

The earliest interment record for Maple Hill Cemetery is dated December, 1898, making this cemetery well over a century old. A cemetery that has been around for over 120 years brings with it numerous paper records and ledgers that are ageing and need to be handled with care. Chairman of Maple Hill Cemetery, Howard, confirms that the age of the records are not the only issue that has created problems for the cemetery’s records management. Over the years, negligence has added to the cemetery’s woes in keeping accurate cemetery records.

For Howard, inaccurate cemetery records can be attributed to two contextual causes – concerns regarding funding for upkeep (due to the cemetery being small in both size and number of burials a year) and the cemetery’s operation reliant on volunteers. In terms of volunteer operation, this brings a unique set of issues.

Maintaining records, laying out graves and markers, and general upkeep present challenges. The volunteer demographic is an ageing one – finding new volunteers with the time to help with cemetery’s management work is difficult, and is exacerbated by the fact that it takes time to train new people on how to keep the books and how the layout of burial lots works. This had left Maple Hill Cemetery with numerous mistakes and gaps in their paper records that created further problems when Howard and the other volunteers sought to sell plots to clients with accurate information that he could rely on.

cemetery database software | maple hill cemetery | chronicle

They realised that a solution was required, sooner rather than later! It was imperative that he found simple cemetery software that could assist Maple Hill Cemetery in maintaining accurate records – both to gain new clients and to dutifully honour and preserve the memory of the region’s rich history. While great cemetery database software helps with the day-to-day operations of an institution like Maple Hill Cemetery, it was also a lifeline for the community’s heritage and legacy, saving it from being lost to time and consequence.

Together with the Chronicle team, Howard embarked on a journey of digitising the cemetery’s records – paper, ledgers, and Excel spreadsheets. It was a difficult start for Chronicle, as the years of record keeping that relied on various volunteers resulted in inconsistencies. These inconsistencies included misalignment between the spreadsheet data and the scanned map plans. It proved complex, but we worked with Howard to clarify which individual was interred in a particular plot by separating plot IDs (ID, section, and block) from the personal details of the interred individual so as to rectify these misalignments.

Another challenge that was to be considered was the date system. Australia employs the DD/MM/YYYY date format, while the USA uses the MM/DD/YYYY format. This had to be noted, as it could significantly impact the data in Maple Hill Cemetery’s cemetery database. Fortunately, the software allows for this variance in format and Howard has encountered no format problems when moving his records to Chronicle.

How Did Chronicle Fix Maple Hill Cemetery’s Management and Mapping Problems?

Maple Hill Cemetery’s records management problems were not unique. Many cemeteries around the globe are suffering from inaccuracies between their maps and records, caused in part by negligence over the years and a lack of training or understanding of the operations process by new volunteers. People want to help and do the best that they can, but working with disjointed and non-uniform record-keeping has created confusion and further inaccuracies with time.

Easy-to-understand, simple cemetery software was the solution to these issues. Chronicle delivered, along with an interface that promotes easy record keeping that is aligned with a visual map of the cemetery. The user experience that Maple Hill Cemetery gained from our software offers Howard and his prospective clients a beautiful map of the cemetery with easily-identifiable visuals to indicate plots that are occupied, reserved, or available.

We cleaned up the cemetery’s records, digitised them, and they’re now stored in one place – the cloud. Whether Howard makes changes to records, or volunteers do, all changes are tracked and can be easily reached from any device, whether they’re physically at the cemetery or not.

cemetery records software | maple hill | chronicle

Moving Forward with User-Friendly Cemetery Database Software

It took at least a month and half to digitise Maple Hill Cemetery’s records, working to unify data across Excel spreadsheets, ledgers, and paper documents, making efforts to fill in the gaps and inconsistencies between the scanned maps and records.

When the maps were initially drawn, it turned out that they were somewhat off-scale. It was a hiccup that Chronicle worked through, with advice from Howard and Maple Hill Cemetery, and we endeavoured to improve scaling by making the necessary adjustments.

Since our last conversation with Howard, Maple Hill Cemetery’s management is running smoothly. No major challenges have been reported, and Howard appears to be more than satisfied with the app’s performance and our after-sale assistance. For him and his volunteers, the map feature helps to easily visualise the location of the plots, enhanced by the colour-coded feature to indicate reserved, available, or occupied plots. Making edits and inputting be information is an easy, straightforward process, too. 

Howard sees that the transition to a digital platform of cemetery management is required all across the United States. Taking those first steps in digitising your cemetery records is simple – sign up and try Chronicle’s cemetery management software to see the potential to preserve the heritage of your community.

“I did a lot of research before selection Chronicle. The features, value, and the great personal
attention were what sold me. The software has taken us from poorly maintained paper records to the digital age. The best thing is the visual aspect, being able to see our cemetery, and have all the lots color coded, so that we can see at a glance what is occupied or vacant. The search featureis great, it take you right to the grave!” – Howard, Maple Hill Cemetery
 

Photo source: all credits belong to Ted Tiboni