Cumbria at the forefront of the funeral monuments project

St. Bega, Bassenthwaite. Image: Alexander P. Kapp

Cumbria is at the forefront of a project to bring millions of funerary monuments online.

The Google Maps for Graves program has started scanning headstones in 19,000 locations with surveyors using high-tech backpacks valued at £ 100,000.

The first tombstones to be scanned were in the old church of St. Bega on Lake Bassenthwaite.

One of the first cemeteries to be surveyed was Grasmere – the resting place of the world famous Lakes poet William Wordsworth.

Cumbria-based surveying company Atlantic Geomatics has partnered with the Church of England and will use the hugely expensive backpack-mounted laser scanners, which come with five cameras, two laser scanners and a GPS tracker.

Surveyors walk every other row of graves, scan the position of every monument, building, wall and tree and take up to 50 million measurements in every cemetery.

Each employee will likely be able to scan nine or ten locations a day before processing the data with custom software.

Bishop Andrew Rumsey, CofE Director of Church Buildings, said: “This impressive national project will make a huge difference in family history research and reduce the administrative burden on the ward.

“It will soon be possible to visit almost every Anglican burial site in the country and see the location of burial sites in real time.”

Atlantic Geomatics’ Tim Viney said, “The seven year project will create a database that promises to be a gold mine for amateur genealogists.

“Once the tedious task of compiling the database is completed, it could also ease the pressure on pastors who are inundated with inquiries from around the world from people researching their English ancestors.”

The program was sponsored by Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Caring for God’s Acre, a charity that works to preserve burial sites, and genealogy websites.

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