Call it a method. Call it a resource. Whatever you call it, I’ve stumbled into something that is providing a wealth of information about non-direct line ancestors. Depending on the amount of information one has in their personal genealogy, I suppose this could shed light on direct line ancestors as well. Either way, I have the names and relationships of hundreds of new people I knew absolutely nothing about just a few weeks ago.
What is this wonderful new source of genealogical data? Essentially, it is cemetery transcriptions. I know this is nothing new. Cemetery transcriptions have been around for a long time and in fact I’ve used them for years. The difference (at least for me) is that I’ve started using them in a new way that I’m calling data mining.
In the past I’ve used transcriptions primarily from USGenWeb county sites. I’ve started using Find A Grave a little more because it seems to have about the same information and I don’t have to jump across multiple sites to search it. However, when I’ve used these sites, it’s primarily been to look for a particular person I’ve been working on.
While I was wrestling with a recent search, I only entered a surname. What came back was a very long list of people, most with given names I didn’t recognize, all buried in the same cemetery. I immediately thought, “these folks have got to all be related”. After all, this was a small Missouri township with a current population of about 150. At first, there were no real surprising revelations. Husband & wife headstones didn’t reveal anything new for me and there were few other relationships that could be deciphered from the headstones alone.
This is when a new idea struck me. I have headstone data that I will assume is mostly accurate. If I enter this data into to an Ancestry.com search, I’m likely to be able to start piecing together the puzzle. Analyzing the data in this way not only helped me to connect every single person with the surname I was originally searching, but a large portion of other surnames in that cemetery I would never have given a second thought. Once a spouse’s maiden name was discovered, most, if not all, of the people with that surname would be connected as well. Out of a total internment of 500, I went from know I was related to less than 10 to over 250.