Map and records search: Murray River Cemetery
Location: New South Wales, Australia
- 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
For the cemeteries managed by Australian Local Government Authorities, the highest standards in accuracy and mapping are necessary in providing a seamless experience for members of the community and for the staff who manage these institutions. Engaging with the community is a priority for cemetery administrators, which is why many are looking to save time on daily tasks like record-keeping, mapping, and overall day-to-day operations.
For the Murray River Council in Australia, digitising their 6 cemeteries smoothly and accurately was completed in just 3 months. Understanding the needs of their community and their own requirements, they collaborated with Chronicle to produce an innovative and creative solution for their needs and standards.
New Possibilities - The Ease of Access
Like other cemeteries managed by the LGAs, the cemeteries under the Murray River Council already had processes in place to maintain their day-to-day operations. However, the Council’s Manager of Business Intelligence, Sandy Paterson, explained that these processes used to be rather manual.
For example, details related to the deceased and funeral directors had to be entered numerous times – mostly in Excel. This included interment and plaque details, as well as letter templates. With multiple entries, the probability of errors in the data greatly increased, especially from incomplete entries. Additionally, Sandy added that using old maps made it difficult to find a plot – both for the council’s staff and for family members who were visiting graves. Without aerial images and mapping, historical books and old maps were referred to in order to get accurate results.
Staff often had to deal with two crucial, lingering problems. First, the process of finding plots was an obstacle, especially since their staff were often required to meet people on-site in order to direct them to family graves or plots that were available for sale. If members of the public were on-site with Sandy or the other staff, going back and forth between the grounds and the office to refer to paper ledgers or old maps used to take quite some time. And since access to the council’s cemeteries is not limited to office hours, those people travelling to them from out of town would – naturally – find the council office closed.
Second, visual information about cemetery plot locations are rather difficult to convey over the phone. And for many, coming all the way to the cemetery to inquire about available plots and have a look at them is simply not practical.
Now, however this has changed: With the ability to visit the Murray River Council cemetery map online, it’s no problem for visitors to find graves themselves by accessing the database, easily, from anywhere and at any time of day. With optimised functionality on mobile, it doesn’t matter whether they’re accessing the Murray River Council digital cemeteries from their laptops, smartphones, or tablets. Where previously, families and other visitors to the council’s cemeteries were not able to see plots they may have been interested in purchasing over a phone call, they’re now able to access a highly accurate map that offers a stunning visual representation of the cemetery’s grounds and details of every plot within.
Exceptional Geographical Mapping Accuracy
Each of the council’s cemeteries also benefits from highly-detailed geographical accuracy for each and every grave or headstone. Opting for Chronicle cemetery software’s headstone and grave coordinate survey service, the Murray River Council can specifically – and confidently – specify exactly which individual is buried where. This high-accuracy GPS positioning of each individual grave offers 2 centimetre positional coordinate accuracy, which Sandy is really pleased about. It eliminates any doubt by properly matching and aligning all plots and headstones to the digital cemetery map.
How did we do this for the Murray River Council Australia Cemeteries mapping and records management? For one, it takes a commitment to accuracy. The Chronicle team sends a surveyor out on-site to take a photograph of every individual headstone and grave, including plaques. Then, these photos are overlaid with aerial images acquired by drone or a graphic map is created. All information is then extracted from each headstone and plots, compared with the information provided by the council. Finally, it’s all lined up to the mapping and data work to create one, complete, accurate dataset.
This creative feature gets the most feedback, both from council staff and from the public. It helps to support advances in the standards of the industry in maintaining highly-accurate records. The accuracy and detail achieved by this process and service allows for details on plaques to be clearly visible. For the staff, it also offers the opportunity to make amendments to existing plaques. For families who are not quite sure about what to put on a plaque for a family member, it allows Sandy to make suggestions. She used to recommend that they (physically) go to a cemetery for inspiration from existing plaques. Now, she simply directs them to the digital Murray River Council cemetery map on Chronicle where they can take inspiration from plaques while they’re on their sofa at home. In Sandy’s words, this is a “game changer”.
How Murray River Council Australia Cemeteries Mapping and Records Management Helps Staff and Engages with the Public
For the Council, the platform helps to serve the community in a myriad of ways. Offering families inspiration is just one of them. Other than the headstone coordinate survey service, the process of creating this digital cemetery was the same process that the Chronicle team does for every cemetery on their platform. First, high quality aerial images are acquired using drones. These images are aligned with the cemetery’s existing map, creating a new digital map representative of real life. Individual plots are drawn and overlaid onto the map before existing data is cleaned up and aligned with their relevant plots.
Depending on the state of an individual cemetery’s existing maps and records, this process can be fairly quick or could take a bit more time. Using old paper ledgers to extract data can be a drawn-out process, especially when layers of hand-written annotations need to be deciphered first. However, one of the reasons that the cemeteries under the Murray River Council were digitised so quickly was due to the fact that they had cleaned up their records before migrating to dedicated cemetery management software. Sandy and her staff used their old maps in conjunction with Excel spreadsheets, resulting in our team receiving good quality data from the council’s cemeteries.
Sandy did explore the possibility of digitising their cemetery mapping in-house before coming to Chronicle. She explained that they were initially advised to use their own ERP (enterprise resource planning) system that’s already been implemented council-wide, while the assets team could undertake the geographical information system (GIS) work. As happens with many councils, Sandy admits that this just never happened and fell down the priority list. In the end, she’s glad that she outsourced the process with Chronicle. From a cost-to-benefit perspective, it was far more worthwhile for Sandy. Initially, she and the council thought the 3-month timeframe for completion would never happen. When it did, without a compromise in quality, she was more than pleased and found the process highly rewarding.
Advantages for Council Cemeteries
In fact, Sandy’s recommendation to other councils and LGAs (local government authority) looking to go digital is to clean up and refine their existing data prior to migrating to a cemetery management platform. The collaboration between Sandy and our team at Chronicle was phenomenal. She pushed us to the highest standards, knowing exactly what she needed from the platform for the Murray River Council cemetery maps and records.
Effectively, this collaboration was enriching for all parties (the Murray River community, included). For the team at Chronicle, we discovered new ways in which to improve on our software and services. The collaboration offered Sandy and the cemeteries under the Murray River Council an innovative and creative solution, with fully-surveyed burial locations, completed in 3 months all for under $50,000 – without any of the headache (according to Sandy). The level of accuracy we achieved with their existing records was impressive, too – no changes or amendments in mapping were requested.
The system allows the staff to digitise existing information, but also to identify any gaps within their data, while giving them the ability to fix any discrepancies quickly and easily – once, and for all.
It also provides the council with a tool that is fully accessible by the public, offering them a walk-to-plot feature for any grave. In addition to each grave being accurately indexed online, each grave can be linked to historic stories for deceased community members, building community confidence in accuracy and stability and access.
Council staff and others on the ground are more than happy with the ease-of-use the platform offers, commenting on how easy it is to navigate and wishing that other cemeteries had the same platform.
If you want to learn more about managing cemeteries with a single management tool that can be accessed easily from a mobile device, click here to discuss the steps tailored to your unique cemetery situations or more case studies with our digital cemetery consultants.