I have written before about the U.S. government’s Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database at http://geonames.usgs.gov/index.html 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 while 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. These Points of Interest include a lot of cemeteries. There’s even a list of the locations of thousands of Red Light Camera intersections and Speed Cameras. That last list is updated weekly.
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. In fact, the POI Factory already contains dozens of pre-loaded files showing the precise locations of many locations of all sorts of common-searched-for locations, including: all the Wal-Mart, Sam’s Clubs, and Super Wal-Mart Centers in the United States & Canada, all the Costco locations in the U.S. and Canada, Motorcycle Campgrounds And Lodging, airport and aviation locations, national parks, and lots of cemeteries with a separate file for each of many U.S. states and several other classifications as well (U.S. National cemeteries, Presidential grave locations, and 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!