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Grubbs Cemetery and Why It’s Taken Five Years

We originally visited Grubbs Cemetery in December 2017 as part of a project to document all of the cemeteries in Scioto County, Ohio, with the Google Streetview program. Since that time we’ve expanded our reach, created this website, and introduced new technologies to better tell the story of Scioto County’s rural cemeteries.

As part of the on-going project to catalog cemeteries in Appalachia the Grubbs Cemetery, also known as Bonser Cemetery, has been added to our catalog. It can be found by clicking here.

Why did it take five years to include this cemetery you might ask? Well, at times the work can be overwhelming. Many cemeteries visited are on private property or terrain that is at times inaccessible. Many of our cemetery visits take place in late-Fall through mid-Spring. This window helps reduce our encounters with snakes, ticks, and thorn thickets that often conceal these nearly forgotten burials grounds. On a typical day we will visit 3-4 cemeteries, and while this sounds as though it would speed up the progress of this project it often leads to a backlog of after-work, but is necessary in order to accomplish as many visits as we can during the season. During the Summer months we visit more active and accessible cemeteries, as well as work with various agencies and organizations to both collect and share information relevant to our endeavors. This is also our peak window of opportunity for headstone restoration.

Each cemetery we visit is unique and we make every effort to learning as much as we can about it during the small amount of time we are there. As part of our process we photograph every visible marker often taking multiple photos to provide context as to the cemetery’s arraignment. We also capture 360 degrees images to document the cemetery overall, and from several vantage points. After imaging all visible markers and gaining insight into how the cemetery is organized we will begin to look for fallen markers. In every cemetery we have visited we have located downed and broken markers beneath a thin layer of leaves or moss, many of those have not been previously documented and hence not seen for decades. Fewer things bring us as much joy as reading a name that has not been seen in years and knowing that it may help locate someone’s ancestor.

There are a myriad of other tasks that take place while working in the field, but they pale in comparison to the work that is required when we return.

After cleaning our gear and checking for ticks we begin our after-work. The after-work is what makes this website possible.

First, the content of all memory cards brought over to a computer. From here the computer organizes the photographs and videos by date and additional data such as the cemetery name, state, county, and state is applied to each file. Also images that contain unique features such as epitaphs, stone carver marks, or headstone styling are also noted. All of this information in embedded into each image or video so that each image has the following information embedded: state, county, city, cemetery name, other cemetery names, time, GPS location including azimuth, altitude, camera and lens model, all exposure information, keywords, and copyright information.

From there each image is reviewed to make sure that it is contributing to the story. Typically at each cemetery we visit over 150 images are collected and on average about 75 of those photos will be used via various outlets. Once we’ve selected the best photos we begin the editing process. Editing is done via Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop; we aren’t editing to change history, just to make it legible. Often photos are taken in the shorter days of winter where light is scarce or in the fall and spring when leaves reduce the available light impacting the ability to use traditional lighting effects such as mirror angling. This lack of lighting is compensated for via the editing process. Other parts of the process also include color correction or toning to make an irregular surface more legible and to create an overall theme for a series of photographs.

A new introduction to our process involves video, and while the editing process is similar to photo editing it is more involved and includes working with much larger files and editing not only the video to be pleasing to the eye and educational, but also editing the accompanying audio. Previously, we had documented cemeteries visited with our mobile phones, but as the technology has become more affordable, we are beginning to document in 4K 60 FPS with stabilizing gimbals, as well as 360 degree video, and including Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS) also known as drones and editing in Adobe Premiere. We’ve come a long way, but we’re still learning, and hoping that in the end effort yields positive results.

Once we have our images and videos we start sharing them out. Headstone photographs are shared to FindAGrave and various Facebook genealogical and historical groups that have an interest in the imaged cemetery. Images also make their way to Google Maps. Overtime cemeteries are lost and often previous documentation is sparse, incorrect, or dated. Updating Google Maps to include 360 degree images and precise GPS information helps future researchers. An album is also created to help populate this website page for the cemetery. Videos are uploaded to YouTube both to help host the large files and also make the information available to a larger audience. These videos range from virtual cemetery tours, to headstone readings, to headstone restoration efforts. We try to keep in mind that not everyone can visit their ancestors in a cemetery so we try in some small way to make it accessible to them.

Once we’ve shared the information to streams such as FindAGrave, Facebook, Google Maps, and other parties, we begin populating this site’s page dedicated to each cemetery. Each page includes the cemetery’s name, aliases, location description, GPS location, Google map, a 360 degree image, an album of photos from each visit, field notes, and more. There is even a section that is constantly updated as stories are discovered about the cemetery and those therein.

On average it takes about 2 days to collect information in the field, 3 days to process it, and a day to post. Under ideal circumstances.

That all being said, this is a volunteer effort done with no funding from grants, backers, or sponsors; just a strong desire to understand the history that surrounds us and remembering those who brought us to where we are today.

Sorry that this has taken five years, but we are moving forward.

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