People use their cell phones for all kinds of reasons; for example texting, social networking, photography, work, games, news, and weather — essentially everything, but making a phone call — but what if you also use your cell phone to locate information about an 1832 gravesite?
Imagine, if you could use the technology that allows GPS mapping and tracking,and it would take you directly to the grave and within seconds, you would be able to research the history of the individual at that site.
The technology exists and the Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery Foundation (FOGCF) want to utilize it, to digitize every gravesite presently in the cemetery.
Originally constructed in 1829, Greenlawn Cemetery encompasses approximately 40 acres and has some 80,000 gravesites that would need to be digitized. FOGCF spokesperson Debbie Gambill explained that present burial records are maintained on a system of vintage maps and in a card catalog, as they have been since the cemetery’s inception.
In 1870, a fire permanently destroyed many of the cemetery records.
“The real possibility something tragic such as a fire or even everyday deterioration, could destroy the vital information that is contained on the cards, makes this project very important,” said Gambill.
Once the graves are matched, via GPS mapping, families would have the opportunity to upload personal information and photos/videos, via an open portal. This would provide opportunity for future generations and those family members who do not reside near the cemetery, to always have access to the information. This technology is already being implemented with success at many cemeteries across the nation.
The cost to complete digitizing the nearly 80,000 records here, could exceed $41,000, but with volunteer assistance, the total could be reduced to around $21,000. The time table for completing the task would be 10-12 months from inception. Gambill added, “We have applied for grants and will start accepting donations to bring this to fruition.”
Other aspects of putting the records online, would be the ability to catalog the many trees presently on site at Greenlawn. The cemetery is home to one of the area’s oldest arboretums. The brick and paved walkways throughout the cemetery, provide multiple species of evergreens, flowering trees and shrubs. Having this information online, would provide countless educational opportunities for all students to interact with nature and to understand preservation.
In addition, the web accessible site would provide on site classroom interactive history opportunities ensuring students remember the names: Micklethwaite, Hutchins, Cleveland, Waller, Kinney and many others. They would understand these are not merely street names throughout the City of Portsmouth, but names of fearless men and women who were industrialists, physicians and businessmen all believing Southern Ohio would offer a better way of life for their families. They were the founders of steel mills, shoe factories, retailers and engineers. They were farmers, nurses, doctors and nurses. They were people, all part of the history of Portsmouth.
There just seems to always be mysteries lying within the gates of a cemetery. Greenlawn cemetery in its vast domain, is one of those super mysterious places in our own area. Who knows, someone could have relatives buried in Greenlawn, that are a part of history. Discovering that information could lead people to so many possibilities…that they may never have known.
The Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery Foundation is a 501(c)3 corporation, making any donation tax deductible. Donations can be made at any time to: P.O. Box 333, Portsmouth, Ohio 45662
Reach Kimberly Jenkins 740-353-3101 ext. 1928
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