Monday, September 19, 2011

Tuesday's Tip - Beware! Online Cemetery Transcriptions

The title of this blog is a bit alarmist, but I wanted to get your attention.  Today’s tip is just a reminder that cemetery transcriptions are not always complete.  That is especially true of those such as Find A Grave.

There are reasons for this, and a couple are:  the deceased person’s card or record was missed when the transcription was done as was the case with Lafayette Cutter in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Newfield, NY; there may be older cemetery transcriptions on websites that have not been updated, as was with Enoch and Emma Hardenbrook in the Ovid Union Cemetery in Ovid, New York, or it was not recorded because the transcription was done from reading the stones, and either the stone had disintegrated or your ancestor did not have a stone (again the case with Lafayette Cutter).

I was searching for Nathaniel Simpson’s date of death.  Nathaniel and his wife, Mary, raised my great-grandfather Enos Hardenbrook.  Although his wife, Mary Simpson, is buried in Trumansburg’s Grove Cemetery, Nathaniel was not listed, nor could I find him in any of the local Ulysses cemeteries.

The Index of Trumansburg Newspapers 1827-1940 by Bernece B. Weitzel, stated Nathaniel died in January 1930.   I had the opportunity this weekend to view the 31 January 1930 microfilm of the Free Press and Sentinel at the Ulysses Philomatic Library in Trumansburg, New York. There I found Nathaniel’s obituary that stated Nathaniel died 28 January 1930 and he was indeed buried in Grove Cemetery.  We did not have time to visit the cemetery, but I will be in contact with the sexton and verify the location of Nathaniel’s grave.

A reminder – don’t take the online lists as “gospel.”  Check with the cemetery sexton or the town clerk in the locality where the cemetery is located to verify the burials in the particular cemetery in which you are looking.  

As a postscript: my husband recently purchased a stone for Lafayette Cutter. My husband located Lafayette's grave in April 2011, exactly 100 years from Lafayette's date of death.  Lafayette was the only one in that family plot without a stone. The stone is lovely, as close as possible in keeping with the other family stones.


  1. Thanks very much for the reminder, which extends to transcriptions of almost any kind. My g-grandfather is listed in the cemetery's records--online AND in the printed record card at the office--as Max, but his name was really Mayer. In other words, whoever printed or typed the cemetery's index card for him didn't transcribe it correctly from the headstone or got it wrong from a relative. Only because I looked at the stone could I confirm that it was him! Guess there's no substitute for checking the originals.

  2. Marian: You are absolutely correct. It is so easy to get caught up in the research and finding that elusive relative that sometimes we forget to question the validity of the source.