Finding a Needle in the Haystack

Is a Cemetery Really a Big Haystack?

The following definition of finding a needle in a haystack summarizes my recent trip to a cemetery.   

 “If trying to find something is like looking for a needle in a haystack, it means that it is very difficult, if not impossible to find among everything around it.” from UsingEnglish.com   

Last September my cousin passed away. I attended the funeral and graveside service. I returned to the cemetery in November to get a photo of the marker and the exact GPS coordinates. I knew his grave would be easy to find because it was located between the road and a fence in the north corner of the cemetery. There was a large tree not far from the grave to use as reference point. Unfortunately I was not successful finding his grave and assumed the headstone still needed to be placed.   

In January I decided to try again but a foot of snow now covered all the graves. This cemetery requires all markers to be flat and flush with the ground so I’d have to wait until the snow melted.   

Most of the snow was gone in February so I made another trip to the cemetery. I took my oldest son along so I’d have a second pair of eyes to make it easier to find the grave. We stopped near the big tree and walked about fifty feet toward the fence which should have put us right over the grave.   

I didn’t see the grave nearby so I enlarged my search to about a fifteen foot radius. Still no grave. I verified I was in line with the big tree near the road so I should be in the right area. I wondered if they were waiting for the ground to settle before placing the stone.   

Which tree?

I used the wrong tree as a reference point.

 

I decided not to give up but to widen my search area. A cold wind was blowing as I searched causing the hand holding my big camera to start hurting. I looked back at the tree and decided I was aligned with the wrong tree! I walked about another fifty feet down and started reading more markers. Still no success and my hand was almost numb.   

Finally I had success. I told my son it was frustrating it took so long to find the grave since I was there for the burial only a few months ago.   

This personal experience reinforces the importance of having GPS coordinates for burial sites. Using trees and other landmarks is not dependable since cemetery topography changes our memory fades of the exact location. It would have been more difficult if my cousin had been buried in another part of the cemetery where there are fewer trees and his grave would been partially covered by snow.  

Take photo of GPS device and the grave

Take photo of GPS device and the grave

 

Take Photos and Get GPS Coordinates

Use a Garmin Nuvi, car GPS navigator, cell phone or a dedicated GPS device to display and record coordinates at the cemetery. 

 

How to Save GPS Coordinates For a Grave

  1. Take a photo of the grave marker.
  2. Display the coordinates screen on your GPS device. To get coordinates on a Garmin Nuvi: Touch “Where To?” → press the down arrow on the right side of the screen → select “Coordinates.” The coordinates display will appear showing your location.
  3. Place your GPS directly on the marker or hold your GPS and stand near the grave.
  4. Position the GPS device (place it near your body and turn your back to the sun to eliminate glare).
  5. Take photo of GPS device.
  6. Preview the photo to make certain you can read the GPS coordinates.
  7. Import photos of graves and GPS coordinate photos into your computer.

Saving Photos and GPS Coordinates for Future Reference

I returned home and imported my cemetery photos into Heritage Collector. Next I displayed the photo of the Garmin coordinate screen, typed in coordinates and then used the cut/paste option to put the GPS coordinates into the photo of the grave.   

I was concerned the GPS coordinates and photo of the grave may be lost or become unassociated with the photo of the grave. I used the new Embed Information option to put the photo caption, date, and GPS coordinates into the IPTC portion of each image file. That way the important information will always remain with the photo file for future reference. Now it’s possible for ALL information to stay embedded in the IPTC portion of the image file.   

Printing a Cemetery Map With GPS Coordinates

The last step was to go into the Heritage Collector’s GPS Track module and create screen captures of the cemetery map at different satellite magnifications (elevations) to make it easier for family members to find my cousin’s grave – even if the cemetery is covered by snow and the old trees are gone. 

A GPS Map makes it easier to find the cemetery and grave

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