Another Method of Finding Cemetery Locations

I have written before about the U.S. government’s Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database at https://geonames.usgs.gov that provides exact latitudes and longitudes for thousands of cemeteries and other named places within the United States. To find a cemetery, all you do is search the GNIS database, find the latitude and longitude for the cemetery you seek, enter those coordinates into a GPS, and follow the instructions shown on the GPS to drive directly to the cemetery.

NOTE: Nowadays, you do not even need a dedicated GPS device. Most Android phones and all iPhones have available apps that will provide GPS capabilities within your cell phone. Some of them will even display the latest traffic reports along your planned route wile you are driving. Many of these GPS-emulation apps are available free of charge while a few cost a modest amount of money, always less than the cost of purchasing a dedicated GPS device.

There is but one problem with the government’s GNIS database: it doesn’t include all the cemeteries! For years, it did not list the small, rural cemetery where several of my relatives are buried, where I already own a burial plot, and where I intend to spend eternity. However, I checked again when writing this article and found that the Morse’s Corner Cemetery is now listed in the GNIS database. So much for the idea of my being buried at an unlisted address!

Despite my recent success, the GNIS database still does not list ALL cemeteries. Luckily, I found another source of possible information.

The POI Factory is an online service that provides exact geographic coordinates to owners of GPS devices, including anyone who owns a cell phone with a GPS app installed. (The letters “POI” apparently stand for “Points Of Interest.”) The web site has more than one million locations in the database with everything from highway rest areas to state parks to fast food restaurants. There’s even a list of the locations of 3,484 Red Light Camera intersections and 1,861 Speed Cameras. That last list is updated weekly. The database also includes a lot of cemeteries.

Like the GNIS database mentioned earlier, not every cemetery is listed in the POI Factory. However, if I cannot find a cemetery’s location in one database, I’d quickly look in another.

In order to find locations within the POI Factory, you will have to register on the site and create a user name and password. Most of POI Factory’s content is available free of charge although access to the law enforcement camera locations requires a paid subscription. The revenue keeps POI Factory running.

To find cemeteries or any other place listed in the POI Factory’s database, go to http://www.poi-factory.com and click on “Search for POI Files.”

Next, enter a keyword for whatever you are seeking. In this case, enter “cemetery” and then click on SEARCH.

You will then be presented with a list of hundreds of cemeteries, too many to search manually. In the unlabelled box just below the POI Factory logo near the top left corner, enter identifying words or phrases. For instance, in my case I would enter “Maine” or (even better) “Penobscot” (the name of the county where I know the cemetery is located). If I already know the name of the cemetery, I might enter that, such as “Evergreen.” Then click on SEARCH once again.

A new list will appear that contains cemetery locations that match your search terms. Latitude and longitude are also displayed.

The POI Factory will even create a computer file containing the names and exact locations of all the locations found. In theory, that file can be copied to some GPS devices, although not all, and then used to easily find locations without any need to manually enter the geographic coordinates. Instructions for use of the files will vary from one GPS to another; see your GPS owners manual for instructions.

Of course, the use of the POI Factory is not limited to finding cemeteries. It will find all sorts of named locations and even many unnamed ones. The list includes country courthouses, hospitals, medical centers, stores, fast food restaurants, and much more.

If you own a GPS or a cell phone with a GPS app installed, you need to know about the POI Factory! You may not need to use it often but, when you do have a need, it can be valuable.

The POI Factory is available at: http://www.poi-factory.com.

A series of tutorials about the use of the POI Factory web site and about several other GPS-related topics may be found at http://www.poi-factory.com/tutorials.

Now, go visit a cemetery!

10 Comments

Mr. Eastman:

Do I guess correctly that you possibly have Morse ancestry?

If so, have you any relation to Jedidiah Morse and Samuel F. B. Morse?

Jim Gammon

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There are thousands of Evergreen Cemeteries, thankfully it allows you to narrow the number to a geographic area like a county. Seeing this is about Cemeteries have you ever considered writing an article on gaining information

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Dick, I like to use topo maps prior to WWII to find the small cemeteries. The older the topo map the better. The water features and roads are still there today to get the location on a current map. I have to think GNIS has added the info to their data base from these maps. But people do the entering and people can miss info unintentionally.
Carolyn

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Dick,
Is there a future article you might consider writing about which free GPS apps both for Android and iPhones would be best for using when acquiring lat and long coordinates for cemeteries? Thanks. Carol

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    Thank you for the suggestion.

    A review of ALL the GPS apps for cell phones will take a while to research and write it as there are lots of such apps available. Also, I need to buy another cell phone if I am to test both Android cell phones and Apple iPhones!

    I will say that of all the GPS apps I have tried so far, my favorite for both Android phones and iPhones is Waze. It is free. See https://www.waze.com/ for more information about Waze. To download and install the free Waze app, go to the iPhone Play Store or to Google Play (for Android devices).

    Waze is not designed for finding cemeteries although I have learned that it will do that as well as find many other things. It is designed primarily to provide the best routes while driving an automobile. It also displays up-to-the-minute information about traffic jams. While not designed as a cemetery finding aid, I have used Waze several times to find cemeteries and it has never failed me so far. Admittedly, I have only used it for that purpose 3 or 4 times so that is a rather limited test. Still, I have been pleased with the results.

    Until I can write my own article (someday), Android users might want to read 10 best GPS app and navigation app options for Android at https://www.androidauthority.com/best-gps-app-and-navigation-app-for-android-357870 while iPhone users can read The Best Free GPS Apps for Your iPhone at https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2414409,00.asp

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Not mentioned in the article is USGS – The National Map Corps (TNMCorps); I have been a volunteer with them for the last two years and is great way to add lost cemetery and verify other cemetery location for the USGS database. The TNNCorps is a crowd-sourced mapping project that relies on volunteers to assist the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Geospatial Program by collecting and editing man-made structures data. The structure feature types that volunteers are currently collecting include schools, colleges and universities, fire and EMS stations, law enforcement, prisons and correctional facilities, hospitals, ambulance services, cemeteries, and post offices. Volunteers can collect and update the 10 different structure feature types in all 50 states, as well as in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Similar to how OpenStreetMap® allows anyone to collect, edit, and use geographic data through an online map editor, the USGS has developed a customized online editor to allow volunteers to participate in the collection and verification of structures data. After going through a tiered quality assurance process the structures data gets incorporated into the USGS’ The National Map. For more information on The National Map Corps and volunteered geographic information, visit our project website.
In a previous comment from another user, it was mentioned using older USGS maps, below is the link and how I use them.
https://store.usgs.gov/filter-products?country=US&sort=old_first Even though it states store, without login in can download a PDF map for free. For the best results I would recommending using maps from the late 1940s or early 1950s, these seem to have the most information. In my experience, I have found that the 1949 were the best (cemeteries proper name), if available. The older maps 1906 -1930, has churches and schools, but no cemeteries.
From the USGS website:
Select the Country (USA) and Region (State), then you can use a keyword if you know the area, the maps are usually name by the larger town/city in the vicinity. You also can try putting the county. I also have just put in the state and looked for the maps that way.
Once I have found and downloaded the map, I blow-up it up 150% and scan it for cemeteries, after I find a cemetery I pull up Google maps and try to use the terrain (roads, ponds, …), to match of the location to get a grid location. Sometimes the USGS maps have the cemetery’s proper names and other times it just states cemetery. For those that just states just “cemeteries”, I have to make the trip to location to see what cemetery it actually is.
Besides using the Old USGS maps, I search out old cemetery books for description of location, and just plain ask people if they know of any old cemetery in the area.
Once I have located them I add them to the USGS National Map Corps, FindAGrave, and Google Maps.

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    So while locations may not be in the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), this does not mean that they USGS is not tracking them. What you see in GNIS and TNMCorps, both part of the USGS, are vastly different. Many people do not know that there is process to add/change/update the information in GNIS. If you volunteer with the TNMCorps, then you can become part of the process. On the USGS TNMCorps website, you will see there are different colors on the map (orange – unedited, green – edited, blue – peer reviewed, purple – advanced edited, and yellow – approved). The first two phases – orange and green, greatly outnumber the yellow (approved); which is what you will find in GNIS and the National Map. As peer-review I can validate other volunteer’s additions/updates/correction, but not my own. If want to be part of the process volunteer at
    https://nationalmap.gov/TheNationalMapCorps/

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I continued to be surprised at how many researchers who use smart phones are unaware of the GPS capabilities built into most smartphones nowadays. They will post queries on the internet asking for locations of various places important to them, but they will not use or bother to learn about the DIY methods for using what is known and contributing to what is not known. I was camping last summer & took an informal poll of campers who were obviously using smartphones. I focused on the younger generation. 5 out of 5 I talked with were ignorant of the fact that they were carrying GPS receivers that did not need the internet to be useful. Grrrr.

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Dick,
Congratulations on this post being referenced in as an excerpt published on page 4 of PGSA’s May 2018 monthly newsletter “Genealogy Notebook” (Copyright © 2018 Polish Genealogical Society of America, All rights reserved.). [And a copy can be reviewed at the link – https://app.box.com/s/9gecg6nsm61lc4jv014q1af8zufq7m4e ]
For those not in the “know”, the Polish Genealogical Society of America (PGSA) exists as an international nonprofit educational organization to collect, disseminate, and preserve information on Polish and Polish-American family history and to help researchers use that information.
For more info, they can be found at their website – pgsa.org
Job well done. Thanks and keep up the good work.
Warmest regards,
Larry
2018MY02 06:20 Sydney Australia, MY01 16:20 US EDT

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