Photographing & Transcribing Cemeteries

for Submitting to

The United States Cemetery Project




Because so many people are unable and can not travel to these cemeteries themselves, lets take the time and the care to photograph these headstones so they look nice and not cut off the photographs or photograph these stones at an angle or upside down or looking backwards at the stone. Treat them as you would if you were photographing your son's/daughter's senior photos!

When going to a cemetery, write down the directions to the cemetery. If there is a physical address and even a phone number of the cemetery or caretaker, send that along to us too. Please be sure to include area code with the phone number! If you know the GPS coordinances send those in as well, especially on the country side cemeteries to be included on the site.

If the cemetery you are photographing is in any way endangered or not taken care of, note that and let me know so that I can include that information on this website. If you and/or you and your friends, family, co-workers, etc. clean up cemetery/cemeteries, let me know everyone who is helping so that I can give them proper credit on the website.

Please set your cameras to where it takes the photos to no less than 1,800 pixels and no larger than 2,500 pixels! The larger these photos are the better and clearer they turn out online!

Take a photo of the cemetery entrance/gate/sign, whatever the case(s) may be.

If there are florals in front of the wording, take photo of the headstone as is, then photograph the wording behind the florals if possible, if not possible then write down everything that is written on the stone that is hidden behind the florals, trees, shrubs, etc. and send that information to me so I can include it on the site. Please try not to remove any floral arrangements, etc. that the loved ones of the deceased person has put there. If you do please make sure that you put it right back the way you found it.

In consideration of others, please write down what row and what section each headstone is located at to submit with the photo(s). Several older cemeteries are very small and are in no particular row, don’'t worry about writing down what row or section those are in and submit that information to us when you submit your photographs and/or transcriptions.

If there are no clearly marked signs of what section is what, make your own up. Start at 1 end of the cemetery and work your way through. Please send in a drawing of the map with marked sections the way you named the sections (see Mackville Cemetery, Piatt County, Illinois for example of homemade map with self named sections)

If you can obtain a map from the cemetery, you can send that to us to put on line as well. If not, maybe you can draw a layout and explain how you numbered it like on this site:

When taking a photo of the headstone, please take the full headstone, not partial or just the transcription part of it. We want the FULL headstone, including the base of the headstone. Best bet is just to stand back a little bit, take the headstone photo and let there be some of the surrounding area in it as well. We’ll take care of the cropping and resizing. You may however take a close up of the writings on the headstone along with a photo of the full headstone! This will help us in double checking with what’s in the transcription. Also, if there is a photograph of the person on the stone, please take a close up of it so we can put that online also. Below are some examples:


Above photo is good, Below photo is not


Some more examples of photographing stones:


Above photo is good, Below photo is not


If there is a photograph and/or a drawing on the headstone of the person, please take a close up of the photograph.

If there is just a surname on the back of the headstone and the surname is already on the front of it, you don’t need to take photo of the back. If the surname is only on the back and not on the front as well, please do take photo of the back. If there are other writings/drawings, etc. on the back of the headstone, please take photo of that as well.

Please photograph the Surname headstone and then all the headstones surrounding this stone, note who goes with this surname/family stone.

Take photos of every side if there’s information on it and let us know what closeups goes with which stone.

Also please take photograph of the funeral markers, field stones, etc., as well as any Father, Mother, Brother, etc. stones and note who these goes with. Even if a stone is sinking into the ground, if the stone is hard to read, is broken, crumbled, stacked, etc. photograph them as well. Some times we get people emailing us who identifies who these stones goes to.

Look around the headstone, many times I’ve come across in my own personal experience an older headstone or marker of some sort that is almost underneath or almost covered by grass and/or dirt. Take photos of everything!

Do not try and lift a headstone, they are very heavy!!! If there is a headstone laying down, just take a photo of the headstones (in all cases) as they are! You can also take a close up photo of what is on the headstone as it lays there.

Take photos even if there’s no headstone but just a base to a headstone…..we want every headstone for the utmost completed cemetery sites! Even if you come across fieldstones, someone is buried there and their family might not have been able to afford a headstone at the time, take photo of it please. We’ll mark those as unknown and someone eventually will come along and identify who’s is who. There’s always someone looking for someone buried in these cemeteries and we don’t want to leave anybody out. And those headstones are someone’s!

We basically want each cemetery with as the saying goes “no stone unturned”! Do not try lifting the headstones but take photos of everything.

If there’s a memorial of any sorts in these cemeteries, take those as well. There are several that has some sort of memorial, and I realize it’d take forever to write down each name that’s on those memorials. So just take a photo of the full memorial and then photograph closeups so that we can transcribe right from the photo.

If you are photographing a full cemetery and someone has submitted a headstone photo for that person, go ahead and take another one. It won’t hurt for there to be 2 of the same headstone photos online taken by 2 different people

OPTIONAL: If you want to rename your photos, which is not required but helpful, please do so with Surname then first names, i.e.:



johnson orlin d nadine m

Another thing that people are doing that are also helpful if you are photographing full cemeteries is putting all photos from 1 section of a cemetery in 1 folder and naming that folder whatever the name of the cemetery is, or adding it in the name of the photo when renaming your photos: i.e.:

johnson orlin nadine SecB R5

Also needing photos of county courthouses (capitols), state capitols and county and state signs, historical signs, etc.

Do NOT resize or crop any of the photos. We will take care of that part of it. The bigger the photo that you have your camera set on the better it is on our part!

If you want to photograph and transcribe a cemetery or cemeteries, please let us know so that we may put it online that it’s a works in progress by you. If someone helps you in your transcribing/photographing a cemetery/cemeteries, please let us know so that we may give him or her credit for helping you as well.

To submit us any Photographs, Obituaries, Photos, Corrections, Additions, etc., please click on the county coordinator's name on the cemetery site this all goes on, or click here for a list of state coordinators with their email address linked to their name.

If you prefer to zip folders and email to us as regular attachments, click here for directions on zipping folders! But the easiest and less time consuming way for our coordinators is for photos to be put on cd's or flashdrives and mailed to us

And please spread the word that volunteer photographers are always needed!

Enjoy photographing and looking forward to hearing from you, working with you and adding your photos to our wonderful website! Remember - Go Camera Happy!!!

United States Cemeteries Project Home Page
This page was updated: Monday, 09-Jun-2014 18:47:11 CDT

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