Chronicle

Map and records search: Riverview 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

Map and records search: Valleyview 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

It has taken a global pandemic for governments to realise just how much cemetery records and maps can be digitised and simplified using appropriate platforms. However, some sectors tend to lag behind in the wake of progress – municipal cemeteries. 

For members of local municipalities interested in digitising cemetery operations – particularly in creating an improved, smoother experience for community members regarding cemeteries and their legacies – Chronicle was featured at a recent Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) event to explain the process. Our Founder, Matthew Borowski, and two esteemed guests from Riverview Cemetery and Valley Cemetery in the United States outlined the process.

From Clarkdale, Arizona, Virginia Smith shares the digitisation story of Valley View Cemetery, while Angela Belus discusses the steps that she has taken with Chronicle to digitise Riverview Cemetery in Montana. 

Proof by Practice - Riverview Cemetery

Riverview cemetery, MT

Angela, from Riverview Cemetery in Circle, Montana, co-purchased an independent insurance and real estate agency in the town back in 2012. The agency had already been providing a voluntary service of selling the plots for the cemetery before Angela came along. Gradually, she became further involved with the cemetery processes, to the point that it’s become one of the more interesting aspects of her day – it gives her further historical insight into the county while also offering her the opportunity to help out bereaved members of the community, even if it’s with the tiniest bit of assistance helps them through their process. As of today, the cemetery comprises 3844 plots, 1470 interments, and 759 reservations.

When Angela began her work as Record Keeper at Riverview Cemetery, she inherited a cemetery map drawn as a table in Microsoft Word – certainly out of the ordinary for the team, since most other cemeteries use Excel plot maps. We’ve grown to understand that cemetery plot maps using Microsoft Word are idealised views of what a cemetery should look like, as opposed to being a true representation of the physical cemetery.

For Angela, it was difficult to keep track of sold and occupied cemetery plots, especially since cemetery management work is voluntary, in this case. She tried to fit the work in around the rest of her day’s activities, but it quickly became apparent that it was necessary to be able to update the cemetery map and records as quickly as possible.

I was looking for a cemetery software platform that could update an online cemetery records and map immediately and accurately. If any plots were sold or any errors were noticed, the records should reflect the updates and corrections before piling up for months. Also an easy-to-use cemetery software that didn’t require a “3-month learning curve” to get the hang of. From what I saw, Chronicle solved those issues. I was more than happy with the way the Chronicle platform maintains accurate records, even with more complex situations.
Angela
Angela - Riverview Cemetery

Priority: Timeous Accuracy

What led Angela to Chronicle? For her work at Riverview Cemetery, she was looking for a solution that could address the needs of her specific context – a cemetery software platform that could update an online cemetery records and map immediately and accurately. She wanted to be able to do this timeously, meaning that if any plots were sold or any errors were noticed, the records should reflect the updates and corrections before piling up for months. Being able to carry them out in a timely manner also meant that Angela was looking for simplicity in a platform, an easy-to-use cemetery software that didn’t require a “3-month learning curve” to get the hang of. From what she saw, Chronicle solved those issues.

When it came to common problems that cemeteries faced, Angela also needed to know how using Chronicle allowed her to solve them. For example, she described a common problem that many cemeteries suffer from – multiple burials in a single plot. Although the cemetery doesn’t allow this any longer, maintaining accuracy in these cases was a nightmare. Angela was more than happy with the way the Chronicle platform maintains accurate records, even with more complex situations.

She was further impressed with the Chronicle team’s capability to easily adapt to change during the digitisation process. Early in the process, Riverview Cemetery had a new burial while the drone pilot was on site and the team proved to Angela that edits could be done without hassle. Chronicle’s commitment to accuracy, combined with simplicity, sealed the deal for Angela.

Other than the aerial survey for the cemetery carried out by the drone pilot, migrating records onto our platform and aligning them with the cemetery’s new digital map went smoothly. Riverview Cemetery is relatively remote, but once the survey was done, it was smooth sailing for the team.

In Angela’s experience, the team’s ability to make fixes and work with change is valuable. In her time in cemetery management, she’s now able to see that being able to edit and have the support of the Chronicle team to help rectify changes will be an ongoing process. Chronicle’s founder and CEO, Matt, emphasises that maintaining accuracy in cemetery management is an iterative process, and understands the need to update or redraw maps every few years as change inevitably occurs.

Engaging Community and Results

After realising the power and simplicity of the Chronicle platform, Angela explained that it wasn’t difficult to get the county and commissioners on board to digitise their cemetery with Chronicle. However, as with any small town, there aren’t always a lot of funds. It didn’t take too much for them to agree that being able to preserve records that everyone could view in real time was valuable for the community. Angela’s agency donated the funds for the initial setup cost, while the county was satisfied with paying the monthly fee.

If the results of Riverview Cemetery’s digitisation could be summed up, the reaction of the commissioners pretty much reflects that. Angela explained how her cemetery’s digitisation  sparked excitement among the commissioners – to the point that they’re now looking to get other municipal cemeteries in their county to get digitised on Chronicle platform, too.

Riverview cemetery in Chronicle (map.chronicle.rip/riverview_cemetery)

One issue remained for Angela: data safety. what happens to their database if unwanted things happen, such as the end of a partnership? Matt and the team assured her that she has full control to download all data at any time. That includes the list of all interments and rights of interments. Since everything that Chronicle does is in an open file format, it can be shared easily.

Valley View Cemetery - A Familiar Case in Municipal Cemeteries

Valley View Cemetery, Clarkdale, AZ

Similarly, Virginia from Valley View Cemetery explained that she happened upon cemetery management. After 20 years in the US Navy, she retired in 2012 and moved to Clarkdale. When a family tragedy coincided with the beginning of her job as an Administrative Supervisor at the local government level, she found that engaging with cemetery management work brought her healing on some level.

Established in the early 1900s, Valley View Cemetery was initially part of the mining community and owned by its company. The cemetery’s first burial was of Cornelius G. Shea, a native of Ireland, in 1913. Once the mine shut down, the cemetery transitioned into municipal town ownership in 1959.

When Virginia began work in cemetery management, she inherited what she describes as “an absolute nightmare” – paper copies of records accumulated over the years, stored in 14 different filing cabinets and organised in varying sorting systems made it difficult to make sense of what was going on.

Virginia began looking for software on which she could organise and keep all that data in  one place instead of having to sort through handwritten scribbles, coloured markings, cross outs, and coffee stains in order to have any surety in the information she had at hand. She had already gained the help of a volunteer who photographed every single document linked to the cemetery, as well as every single headstone. This essentially helped the team in recreating this cemetery’s records from scratch.

Involved in the administration of 5 or 6 different municipal areas, Virginia explains that she realised the need to ensure that updates in cemetery records had to be carried out at once, otherwise important information gets lost along the journey. She voiced a common issue faced by many municipal cemeteries – there’s rarely a dedicated role within local government for this sector. Community cemeteries are often lower on the list of priorities, as much as it’s important that their cemetery plot maps and records are accurate and digitised. Virginia sought a professional cemetery mapping software. She needed the confidence to know – with accuracy – which plot was occupied, reserved, or available. For the Chronicle team, the hand-drawn map supplied by Virginia represented the physical cemetery fairly well, but it was – admittedly – a little more difficult to work with when compared to that of Riverview.

I used to spend hours taking a query from a member of the community and wade through a mountain of paper files, I’m now able to provide answers from the Chronicle platform while on a call, instantly. From a financial standpoint, knowing exactly the status of the cemetery plots helps in continuing the cemetery’s lifespan for much longer. Chronicle’s setup cost was the perfect fit, too
Virginia
Virginia - Valley View Cemetery

Finding Funding, Saving Time, and Increasing Lifespan

Valley view cemetery in Chronicle (map.chronicle.rip/Valley_View_Cemetery)

Her biggest obstacle to overcome was from the governmental level. This is another common problem since those in other roles – both related to the cemetery and local government – don’t see the real state of the process before digitisation. It isn’t easy to describe how difficult the situation is, but Virginia managed to explain how much time is used to help someone find their family at a cemetery.

Once the Chronicle team helped her to organise and digitise all burial records, with an easy-to-use, integrated cemetery map on the platform, everyone else soon realised the advantage it offered, particularly from a customer service perspective. Chronicle minimises an hour’s worth of research: where Virginia used to take a query from a member of the community and wade through a mountain of paper files, she is now able to provide answers while on a call, instantly.

Since Valley View is planning to replan their plots, with approximately 1000 plots available for sale, it’s now far easier for Virginia to decide where new plots can fit in, for example. From a financial standpoint, this helps Virginia in continuing the cemetery’s lifespan for much longer. Naturally, the council was supportive since perpetual care was far easier to plan for. Chronicle’s setup cost was the perfect fit, too, since it was within the council’s budget.

For both Riverview Cemetery and Valley View Cemetery, we aided in overcoming their challenges before engaging in our usual process of acquiring high quality aerial images of the land, followed by mapping and populating their databases (referencing their existing records and maps), and finally creating a GIS (geographic information system) relationship in each new digital cemetery.

While they understand that managing a cemetery is an iterative process, both Angela and Virginia are pleased that they’ve got their time back. It has already made maintaining their cemeteries easier while giving them the confidence to serve their customers and communities more confidently.

If you want to know more about managing municipal cemetery records digitally or to take the first step into digitising your cemetery, we encourage you to schedule a free consultation with our digital cemetery consultants.