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Indexing tips

Many grave monuments are hard to read - here are a few tips for indexing them. If you have a different tip, please let us know.


  1. Look at adjacent monuments: Often, particularly in churchyards, graves are in family groups. Therefore, if you cannot initially read a monument, you may find that once you see a name on an adjacent one the name stands out on all of them.

  2. Crossword approach: If you can only read parts of words then write them down and then see if you can work out the name.

  3. Negative and grey scale technique: If you have photo editing software that has a negative or grey scale option then use this and with luck the text will be clearer to read.

  4. Make use of a published Monumental Inscriptions List: These are now available from most Local History and Family History Associations, and if not published on CDs the bound and typescript copies are to be found in Reference Libraries. While full of mistakes and omissions, they have the advantage that many were compiled years ago when the monuments were more legible. For a headstone which is only partly decipherable use a MI List for the bits you cannot quite make out. But keep an eye open for howlers, like repeatedly using "Mary" for "Margaret" because the compiler probably used the abbreviation "Marg" and in scribble it might have looked like "Mary" to the typist who transcribed it.

  5. If it is a church burial ground, confirm names and dates with the parish register. Most parish registers are now lodged with the local library or archive. Often the actual registers are not available for viewing, instead fiche copies can be used.

  6. If it is a municipal cemetery, confirm names and dates with their records. Many municipalities now publish there cemetery records on their website. To find their web address use either Google or the Oultwood local government web index. The Oultwood index can be useful if you are not sure which local authority covers a particular cemetery.

  7. Confirm names and dates using Free BMD: Confirm names and dates using Free BMD if the year is from 1837 onwards. It can be really useful when not quite sure of a name or date - see:

  8. Check which relationship codes are available An extensive list of relationship codes is available on the website. Be aware that the relationship listed on the grave monument often does not refer to the person mentioned first on the monument.

  9. Check for a "hidden" maiden name If a man's daughter or sister is listed with a different surname then this most likely means that the woman is married and can be given the man's surname as her maiden name.

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