Some Suggestions on Taking Headstone Photographs – January 7, 2020

If you are going to take headstone photographs, here are some suggestions I recommend. It doesn’t matter if you take them for Find-A-Grave, BillionGraves, or any other graving website that allows photo uploads. First, take a distant shot, preferably close enough you can make out names, dates, and other information. Next, take a close up shot. I am seeing a lot of photos on Find-A-Grave that are only close-up shots that zoom in on the person’s name and maybe the dates. It’s best if a person can see a full shot of the headstone in addition to a close-up shot.

Next, look at the front, back, sides, and base of the headstone to see if there are other names, epitaphs, or items that would be helpful. If it’s an above ground headstone where the base is showing, check around the bottom of the base. That’s not possible if the base is below ground or embedded in concrete. The reason I mention checking all these places is you will often other names, epitaphs, etc. In a couple of cases, I saw headstones on one graving site that only took the front or back of the headstone, but the photographer didn’t bother to check other places. I have found numerous times where I see other things in those places.

When I take photos, I always look in each of these places and make notes if the other places don’t have any information. In a local Wichita cemetery, Jamesburg Cemetery, some people have only looked at one side of a headstone and missed people that were on one or more other sides of the headstone. That’s not an isolated incident. As a local graver compiled a list of who was buried in the cemetery in the early 1990s by looking at each headstone, it’s easy to see where a fair number were missed when people took photos for Find-A-Grave and BillionGraves. The local graver did the same thing for most cemeteries in the county around the same time. He used cemetery records or walked the grounds to create books for most of the cemeteries in the county. They are out of date as this was done in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but they were accurate as possible. Ithe cemetery didn’t have records and a person was buried without a headstone, then he would miss those individuals.Where it becomes an issue is when the surname on the headstone doesn’t match cemetery records.

Likewise, if the cemetery did not keep accurate or readable records, others would get missed. One of the earliest Wichita cemeteries did not keep good records for much of its history. When it went out of business, the city inherited what records the cemetery kept. The city doesn’t allow new burials as there is no way of knowing where people with unmarked graves are buried. It would be great if someone would use Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to map this cemetery as there are an estimated 17,000 people buried in the cemetery. It would let the city know where new burials could be added. I believe it’s only half photographed on Find-A-Grave because so many people are in unmarked graves or the headstones are no longer readable.

If you are taking photos with the sun causing problems, try to take them at a different time of day. Consider using LED lights to highlight headstones as it can make a huge difference in readability. Using a vehicle shade is another option.

About Wichita Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's
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