Where did the summer go?

12-SEP-2009: I occasionally get back here to add more information but unfortunately
I’m not too consistent about it.

This summer (2008) I joined the Chisago
County Historical Society. Their research library is located in Lindstrom, MN
and contains a wealth of genealogical information regarding the
pioneers and descendants. They were predominately Swedish and some German immigrants who
settled this area in the 1850’s. The library holds books, lists, family
histories, and other materials created by local historians and writers.

All of this information is in hard copy form (printed) and not
accessible on a computer or via the internet. I have begun a
"digitization" project to help bring some of the important information
online. One source of genealogy information in their library are death records and
cemetery interments. There have been  Society volunteers who have
collected and cataloged this information for many years. It was easy to choose these
records to receive the first attention.

I broke the project into several phases. The first was to gauge the
acceptance to making the information available via the internet in the first place. The
concept and samples I created were received with enthusiasm and
I received encouragement to proceed. The second phase was to determine an
effective method to host the data. The Society has a basic web
presence on a single HTML page that is managed by a local ISP. Developing
an expanded website coupled with maintenance issues was discarded (for
the moment) in favor of using a popular website called

This is a free web service that hosts cemetery interment records. It also includes the ability to add photographs, biographies, and other
pertinent information for genealogy research. I posted some basic
samples and showed this concept to some of the Board members. This idea was also accepted and approved.

Until now, there had been no organized effort to create the official Chisago County cemetery list on this site. It was necessary to move some cemetery listings out of Chisago County and into the
appropriate county. I found several "made up" cemetery names where the interments needed to be transferred into the proper cemetery. Several cemeteries need to be consolidated or merged together. There are a few pending corrections that will be resolved when the administrative queue on the website is completed.

During this process I traveled to each location and photographed the signage and gates. In addition, the GPS coordinates for
each cemetery were added to the website listings. The next phase was to start posting the interments.

Interments can be added to the website manually, one at a time. Many people choose this method, especially if they are listing family members and including obituaries, photos, and biographies. The other option is a batch process. A spreadsheet is populated with basic information such as Name, Date of Birth, and Date of Death. The spreadsheet is uploaded to the website and is processed during the next batch process cycle, usually less than one week.

I reviewed the 40+ cemeteries and decided to work through the list from the smallest to the largest. I started with the Glader Cemetery south of Lindstrom and the Old Lutheran Cemetery in Harris, MN. Both of these sites are "full", where no additional interments will be made. Using my digital camera I made photographs of every visible marker in these cemeteries, created a spreadsheet, and uploaded the information. When the interments came online, I uploaded the proper photos for each interment.

This worked fine, but it became apparent that a lot of time was be needed to upload photographs one at a time. I solicited advice from the site owner, Jim Tipton, and he told me it was possible to bulk load photographs too. This was not an advertised feature because it required some manipulation beyond the normal processes established for the website. In general, here’s how it works: I create the spreadsheet and upload it normally. After the interments are posted I download the listings form the website. This step adds the Unique Identifier Code to the spreadsheet for each record. I then populate the spreadsheet with the image filename(s) for each record. I send this new spreadsheet in CSV format directly to Jim. In the meantime, I down-sample my original 1 ~ 2 Mb images to the requisite < 250-Kb file size. I then upload these images to an FTP website where Jim can down load them direct. At his end he coordinates my spreadsheet and image files for uploading into the system.

All the pieces are in place to bring the records online with minimal manual involvement. It works and save a tremendous amout of time at my end.

So the project continues… photographing, transcribing, auditing against existing records, uploading spreadsheets and photos. I estimate there are 30,000 or more records that will go online during the next year. Some Chisago County Historical Society members have vounteered to help with the photogrpahy. When considering a person might average 1 photograph per minute, this project represents 500 hours of photography work in itself. The additional transcription and image manipulations will probably add another 1,500 hours of work.

The final result will be an up-to-date audit, data that is accessible worldwide, and photo documentation for validation. Although adding obituaries or biographies are out of scope in this project, family members can add this informtion if they choose to do so.

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