Tombstone Inscriptions, Allegheny County, PA--Collecting, Recording & Submitting

Thank you for expressing an interest in collecting/recording Tombstone Inscriptions.

Pat yourself on the back for "volunteering" to help others, many of whom can't physically get to cemeteries, either because they're handicapped, or are distance challenged. Your efforts will be appreciated by hundreds, who do NOT KNOW where their families are interred. Family researchers hit "brick walls" because they can't find those they are researching. It's amazing how "one clue" from a Tombstone Inscription can help.
Above all, YOU are doing a good deed, and the reward for doing a good deed, is in having done it!


There are public cemeteries, and there are private cemeteries. Most public cemeteries are non-denominational and wide-open to the public.
Private cemeteries, usually those affiliated with some religious group, may require more "delicate" handling.

Here are several pre-planning suggestions to consider:

1.) Insure that "your" cemetery hasn't already been recorded, published, and/or posted on the Internet.
You can place the cemetery name into a "Search" engine on the Internet, and go through the results to find out.  If "your" cemetery has been published (printed), you CAN NOT use the printed item to create your own records as it is copyrighted. You CAN, however, go to the cemetery and with permission (if necessary), record your own findings, if you wish to do so. See Step 2.

2.) Go to "your" cemetery and if an "Office" exists, stop in and ask permission to do Tombstone Inscripton recordings.
You might also ask if they have a copy of interments within that you could have. (This could save you hours of work). Most likely, they'll give you permission to record your own listing, but, will not share what they have with you. If an "Office" doesn't exist, and there isn't anyone around to ask "permission", then you can start recording immediately.

 Some of the first items to record, is the current date, name and location of the cemetery (including directions how to get there), and any historical information you can obtain. A photo of the entrance and a cemetery map would be a bonus. This will assist "viewers" who may want to visit this particular cemetery.

Most cemeteries use "Section" markers to identify division areas. If no "Section" markers exist, you will have to "mentally" sectionalize it for yourself, even draw your own map! This will help you later, marking off "what" areas you've recorded, and keeping track of what is left to do.

5.) TOOLS.
You'll need something to write with and on. Using pencils allow you to fix any mis-written errors easily. You can use a note book to write on...but don't write in the left side this can be used for "special notes" beside your entries. A "clipboard" makes writing much easier, especially when you get near the bottom of your pages. So, you need pencils, note book and a clipboard. A piece of chalk can be used to place a small 'tick mark' on the stones you have recorded (in case you get confused).

Many cemeteries are not maintained well. Expect to have to "cut/trim and or dig out/up" some markers so you can read them. In some cases you may have to kneel down to do this more comfortably . . .so . . . kneepads sure would help, especially if you're doing this for a long time. A small brush (an old paintbrush...etc.) might be needed to "brush" natural debris away so you can read the markers. And, a bottle of water may come in handy for at least three reasons: a.) your thirst; b.) to clean markers; c.) to help read markers (if they're wet they may be able to be read easier).

7.) CLOTHING, etc.
Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. DO NOT wear leather shoes! You'll be sliding all over the place. Some type of walking/tennis shoe will work well, and be comfortable.

============================< S N I P >==================================

RECAP: You need pencils, note book, clipboard, piece of chalk; cutting/digging tool, kneepads, small brush, comfortable clothes/shoes, bottle of water.

============================< S N I P >==================================

I always CAPITALIZE the surname and write it down first, followed by the first name, middle initial, and the dates, then any "other" info. Always separate these facts with punctuation (commas). When recording by hand, you can use abbreviations to help speed up your recording. Make up your own.
I use "mo" = Mother, "fa" = Father, "w/o" = wife of; "h/o" = husband of.
When writing months/days use the familiar "9/7/1893" or write it Sep 7, 1893.
Make it easy for yourself and set your own pace, just remember to write down everything!
When your recording is done for the day, you have to convert your notes to a computer file. When you type it up, everything should be kept on ONE line, if possible...if you must use two lines...indent the 2nd line.

At a minimum, usually contain the family surname, the deceased's first name, a birthdate and a deathdate.
(i.e. SMITH, John, 1890 / 12-Dec-1943)

They may also indicate some family relationship, Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Grandmother, Grandfather; or, "Wife of", "Husband of".
(i.e. SMITH, John, 1890 / 12-Dec-1943, Father, Husband of Mary)

Sometimes there may be a military reference. You should include those details toward the end of your note book line.
(i.e. SMITH, John, 1885 / 1960, Father, Vet WWII, 1st Sgt.)

In the case of a woman, her maiden name may be mentioned.
(i.e. SMITH, Mary, 1885 / 1960, Mother, (nee SWARTZ)<--(Very Important!)

You want to record EVERYTHING that's inscribed. If a marker has any unique features about it (size, shape, markings, etc.) record that info in the lefthand column of your note book, across from that name.

You'll also come across stones with a DIFFERENT surname inscribed rather than the family name. Here's how you notate it:
(i.e. WILLIS, George, 1860 / 1942, Father, (same stone as SMITH, John))
(i.e. SMITH, Mary SWARTZ, 1885 / 1960, Mother, (same stone as John))

While pre-planning, many people have markers put in place BEFORE they die. As a result, the deathdate is usually blank. This means the person is probably STILL ALIVE and their privacy should be protected. You can indicate that a stone exists, BUT, it should NOT contain ANY dates:
(i.e. SMITH, Mary SWARTZ, (no dates))
(You can mark the birthdate in your notes, but don't publish it!)
If it's "obvious" that a person is dead (more than 100 years old), it is "OK" to say:
(i.e. SMITH, Mary SWARTZ, 1845-19__

Most important is your own safety. ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings. Do NOT get so engrossed in what you are doing soas to forget staying ALERT! If at all possible, bring a friend along to help you do your recordings. (Maybe they'll even help!) Actually this can be a very relaxing, enjoyable and educational experience for you. Cemeteries are usually located in countryside atmospheres. You WILL see wildlife! They live there. YOU are the intruder. Don't bother them and they won't bother you! (Most likely they'll run away).

If you come across anything that doesn't seem naturally right to you, report it, either to the cemetery office or to some local authorities.

Good Luck--God Bless, and THANK YOU!

Thanks for stopping by.  If I've helped, or you care to volunteer or contribute files to my website, drop me a line to the E-Mail address on my Home Page (linked below)!

Back to Home Page