Most cemetery managers have begun to realise that going digital is a necessity. The reasons for doing so may vary depending on the individual – or the team – but digital tools and platforms are becoming the norm to some degree. By this, we do recognise that many cemeteries still manually keep and update their records on paper while also maintaining a matching digital spreadsheet. Naturally, one is quickly able to spot that work has to be done twice in this case, but it may appear to be the most efficient practice for some managers. But how can you digitise your institution and its cemetery record search in order to have an online presence? With an online presence, is it possible to sell burial plots online? It’s an exciting thought, so let’s look further into how you can achieve this.
Methods in Management
When working with a cemetery to digitise their records and bring their cemetery online, our team at Chronicle have noticed a few norms in terms of digital and hybrid management practices. We’ve mentioned one of those hybrid management practices above – the use of paper and Excel spreadsheet cemetery record keeping. In this instance, it’s common for paper ledgers to be phased out; the records have been moved onto an Excel spreadsheet. Still, paper maps are simultaneously used and have to be matched with their digital Excel counterpart.
Another norm in cemetery record keeping is when a cemetery has gone entirely digital. By this, we don’t necessarily mean that the management team uses dedicated cemetery mapping software. In fact, cemetery record keeping and cemetery mapping are done digitally by using Excel spreadsheets and digital plot maps.
Finally, we find that there are cemeteries, often smaller ones without sufficient funding, which still manage records and maps manually, just using paper. Now, both the first and third form of record keeping come at the risk of many errors which can be a nightmare for cemetery managers and the bereaved alike.
When Inaccurate Cemetery Record Search Goes Awry
One recent example is that of the Sedrak family of Victoria, Australia, who dealt with administrative horrors at a time when grieving was necessary – after the funeral of their patriarch, first generation Australian Bakhit Sedrak. While the family did not notice it at the time, Sedrak was buried in the incorrect plot, two spaces down from the plot that Sedrak’s son had purchased. To make matters worse, Sedrak’s son had bought six burial plots for the family, but one of those six had been sold for a second time and had another individual interred just six days prior to Sedrak’s burial. This mistake resulted in two exhumations and a great deal of emotional (and spiritual) trauma for both families.
In the same year, 2019, a cemetery in Indiana, USA, had to rectify the error of burying a husband and wife in the wrong graves with a misplaced headstone. Yet these are not the only issues that crop up due to unreliable cemetery record keeping and mapping. Individuals with unwanted or inherited burial plots who wish to relocate their final resting place have found that reselling these plots come with a considerable amount of red tape.
Prioritising the Journey Reaches the Gold Standard
This is where accurate record keeping and mapping is vital. While going digital is important, creating an online presence for your cemetery is becoming increasingly relevant for a number of reasons. Having a digital cemetery records search and having your cemetery online are not the same. Being online allows members of the public to find your cemetery and burial plots, with the added benefit of being able to share burial plot information with others. An online cemetery can also mean being able to sell plots online. If you, as a cemetery manager, are ready to do this and bring your cemetery online, you’ll find that your institution will already be far ahead of the pack. This applies to non-profits, too. After all, even non-profit organisations need to make sales in order to maintain their existing space.
For every generation, buying anything online today is a norm. This means that the ability to offer an accurate cemetery record search to match the physical plots in a cemetery is crucial in order to offer a plot that’s easy to find and to avoid some of the most harrowing mistakes for bereaved families. For those who wish to buy burial plots online, they need to know what they’re getting and where it’s located – without the possibility of a traumatising mix-up when it matters most.
Most cemeteries today, however, are not able to sell plots online. Currently, it’s difficult to find out if a plot is available without making phone calls or going back and forth in an e-mail thread. Even though cemeteries are represented online, potential buyers find it overly complex to find relevant information easily. Even for cemetery managers and trusts, finding your target market and having your target market find you is essential.
To reach the gold standard of managed records – being able to sell your plots online – your cemetery should have all its records accurate and accessible to the public. Additionally, the public should be able to quickly recognise which plots are vacant, which are for sale, and which are occupied.
Plots, Places, & Plaques - The Digital/Physical Ecosystem
If this is, indeed, the gold standard, then why aren’t others already doing it? It all comes down to the confidence of being able to present accurate cemetery record search and corresponding, reliable maps to the public. Most cemeteries don’t have the confidence to know what they have for sale and where people are buried.
At Chronicle, our goal is to create an ecosystem focussed around physical cemetery space, digitally. This is an ecosystem where people can buy plots, funeral services, and plaques in one place, in addition to being able to add an obituary – an online space to create a complete memorial to the deceased.
To reach this stage, the Chronicle team focuses on the journey. To bring your cemetery online, we solve the mysteries of your records and the compounded inaccuracies that may have occurred throughout the lifetime of the cemetery in order to create accurate maps. Simultaneously, we perform a survey of the physical cemetery using high-resolution aerial drone imagery to create stunning maps. Combining the map with your records, not forgetting important physical locations, monuments, and intricacies, our team manages to perfectly line up all three of these layers – records, plot maps and diagrams, and the physical world – for accurate records.
The journey to having an online presence is as important as the final goal – selling burial plots online and creating digital memorials for the deceased. Learn all you need to know about digital mapping for your cemetery with the best from our digital cemetery experts!