Church of England to create 'Google Maps for graves' to help family researchers

Tombstones in a graveyard, all names on tombstones over two hundred years old.
Tombstones in a graveyard, all names on tombstones over two hundred years old.

A new Church of England project described as a ‘Google Maps for graves’ will map the final resting places of thousands of British people in graveyards across the country.

Coordinates of graves and burial records will be stored in a searchable database, along with information such as photographs.

The system could be a boon to people researching their family history, The Times reported.

The scheme will cover all 15,000 Anglican graveyards in Britain, and could be online within five years.

The project will be driven by volunteers, with funding from Historic England, using mapping technology from the company Atlantic Geomatics.

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In a pilot project, two churchyards near Huddersfield were ‘digitally mapped’ so that thousands of burial sites, registers and other information were available online.

The two churches, All Hallows’, Kirkburton, and Emmanuel Church, Shelley, piloted the Burial Ground Management System.

Creators Atlantic Geomatic said: “The Burial Ground Management System (BGMS) provides an accurate, interactive map showing not just the location of graves, memorials and art but also trees, ecology, paths and buildings, and offers a whole range of other uses that add value to any cemetery or burial ground.”

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The company says that there are an estimated 35,000,000 burial records from the Church of England.

Sylvia Johnson, the chairwoman of the volunteer group behind the project, told The Times: “It has been very rewarding to see how the volunteers have worked with Atlantic Geomatics, putting in so much hard work and effort in all weathers photographing the memorials, and transcribing burial registers with old-style handwriting.

The system shows information for each grave (Atlantic Geomatics)
The system shows information for each grave (Atlantic Geomatics)

“The team deserve an enormous thank you as their work will benefit so many different people locally, nationally and even internationally.”

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Tim Viney, owner and managing director of Altlantic Geomatics, said: “Across the country there are thousands of burial grounds, each with important assets, buildings and infrastructure.

“These valuable assets, in particular memorials and gravestones, must be maintained, records kept of where they are, what they look like.

“The estimated 35,000,000 burial records relating to the Church of England burial grounds are a huge resource yet they are currently difficult to access.”