Genealogy buffs and families can now look no further than the World Wide Web for persons buried right here in Warsaw’s Oakwood Cemetery.
With the assistance of the Kosciusko County Historical Society, Oakwood Cemetery has photographed and mapped 95 percent of its 70 acres and 18,000 graves.
“We get calls from all over regarding their loved ones,” said Hal Heagy, cemetery sexton. “We wanted to get into the technology age. This puts GPS locations in place of physical books, allowing anyone anywhere in the world to locate a person buried here.”
The project involves volunteers photographing each gravestone, then marking each location for Geographic Information System and GPS mapping purposes before entering collected data — like birth and death dates — into a database. The database is then accessible to the public through Kosciusko County’s Beacon website, www.beacon.schneidercorp.com/?site=KosciuskoCountyIN.
The project has been in the works for three years and maps not only Oakwood Cemetery, but every cemetery in the county. In addition to mapping the acreage, the project aides the Historical Society. Bill Holder of the Historical Society and head of the county’s GIS program, spearheads the mapping project.
“I provide (the volunteers) with aerial photo maps, so they can see the gravestones,” said Holder. “They then take those maps out with them.”
Volunteers go up and down rows at cemeteries taking photos, using the aerial maps as reference points and markers for where they left off. Holder noted multiple shots are often needed per gravestone, especially on older and harder to read ones.
The entire project is expected to wrap up in 2013.
For information, to donate or volunteer, contact KCHS at (574) 269-1078 or visit kosciuskohistory.com/genealogy.
(The Paper Reporter Sarah Wright contributed to this story.)