The following article was written by newsletter reader Bobbi King:
There is an ambitious effort taking place in Colorado by a corps of volunteers who are using Global Positional Satellite (GPS) receivers to locate Colorado cemeteries.
The Colorado Council of Genealogical Societies published a directory of Colorado cemeteries in 1985. A committee led by Duane Kniebes is now updating the publication by adding latitude and longitude coordinates to the location information for each cemetery.
Society volunteers with GPS receivers locate a cemetery, either by using previously published survey land descriptions or by following driving directions from a nearby town. They determine the center of the cemetery and mark the location, then record its latitude and longitude according to the information displayed on the GPS receiver.
The task is easier said than done. This researcher struggled through knee-high brambles and scrub brush to arrive at the middle of a cemetery that was nearly completely overgrown with thorn shrubs. The only sign that a cemetery was to be found here amid the treeless high plains of Colorado farmland was one stone sentinel, higher than its neighbors, keeping its head above the brambles. Amid flat dirt fields now harvested of grain, where trees are miles apart, the old cemetery is marked only as a distinct square of neglected high brush, a limestone rock pile, and the lone stone sentinel. Remnants of a wood fence lay beneath the weeds bordering the plot. Yet when the adventurer wanders into the thickets, more gravestones become apparent; in fact, about 10 gravestones remain in this cemetery with clearly engraved names.
Duane Kniebes says, "This project will not only update the 20-year-old directory but will also give future cemetery searchers the exact, easy-to-find location of their objectives. This is especially useful in finding the many small and remote cemeteries that were created before the 1920s." The new efforts have also corrected some previously published incorrect GPS data on a few cemeteries.
For those volunteers who don't own GPS receivers, the society purchased 2 GPS receivers for loan. So far, about half the counties in the state have been marked, with about 37 more counties to go. "The northern half of the state was easier to do, with the greater population base. Now the southern half of the state will be more difficult to cover with its sparse population centers," says the president of the Council. "But I have a big celebration planned for when we complete this project, and with rising gas prices, we need to finish before our pocketbooks are pinched and our cars give out."
Duane Kniebes is an authorized contributor to the USGS Geographic Names Information System web site, where he adds the GPS data obtained from the cemetery project to the GNIS database. Each cemetery's latitude and longitude coordinates are also being added to the cemetery data already on the Colorado USGENWEB web sites. This is a far-reaching society project whose work will ease the way for future cemeterians.