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.
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.
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 personalattention 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