Archive for the Public History Category

Cemetery Survey

Sep 22nd, 2015 Posted in Cemeteries, Public History | no comment »

I am conducting a survey for use in my graduate project. The study is to understand how cemetery associations operate from the perspective of the general public, the association members themselves, and the state agencies overseeing the local cemeteries. I am looking at how pioneer/abandoned cemeteries could be better cared for, and what resources these associations and agencies need to accomplish this.

I am inviting your participation, which will involve answering a brief survey that should take no more than 20 minutes to complete. You have the right not to answer any question, and to stop participation at any time. Your answers will remain anonymous.

Confidentiality will be maintained by making sure the answers are completely anonymous, and used only in a tally of all the responses, such as “35% of respondents believe that ____ should be done for cemeteries in Texas.” The results of this study may be used in reports, presentations, or publications but your name will not be used and is not even asked for in the survey, so please do not provide it. If one is given, it will be removed prior to any publication.

The links below depend on your affiliation.

If you are a cemetery association member at large, genealogist, historian, or other cemetery enthusiast, please answer the questions on this survey:

If you are a member of a cemetery association board, please answer the questions on this survey:

If you are an employee or volunteer at the State Historic Preservation Office or other municipal agency charged to oversee cemeteries, please answer the questions on this survey:

These surveys are only available for 7 days so please answer and share as quickly as possible. Thank you for your time!

Public History and Public Outreach

Jul 7th, 2015 Posted in Public History | no comment »

After reading the article, “Pictures to dream with: A public historian in the nursing home,” an NCPH Public History Commons posting, a whirlwind of ideas came to me. The article deals with a public historian using the history at their fingertips to engage a nursing home audience. As a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, one of my favorite things is our time spent with elderly veterans—caroling at Christmas at the VA Hospital, or meeting them as they leave or return from their visits to Washington, D.C. (on the Honor Flight), or serving at a local homeless shelter for veterans (MANA House). I also have long thought that D.A.R. would be a fantastic avenue for doing volunteer work at more senior centers, and maybe some chapters do that as well.
The author of the article writes, “Senior centers, nursing homes, and perhaps even hospital rooms are places public historians should think more about. These are places where resources at our disposal can, with a modest investment of time, meet important existing needs.” She’s absolutely right. They are also places where history is disappearing at a rapid rate. These seniors could also fill a need for public historians. For example, the Library of Congress uses Flikr to crowd source their photographs and get feedback from the public, who might know the when/where of an unknown photograph. (See here.) Many other archives and museums also do this, and other similar programs such as the Memory Project. (See the Arizona Memory Project, for example).  But consider that as the years keep going by, the audience that might have those answers is largely not tech-savvy and also probably not aware of where to look for such photos. Bringing them to these people is a way to possibly capture local history before it fades away. Think of the oral history that could be collected as the author shows her slide shows or the family history that could be captured from a sparked memory from one of these photos.

Like the author says in her other blog post, it may not solve large-scale problems, but I think it’s a great idea and a way to reach more people – and show more people – what public history is all about.

Final draft Visualization – Part 2

Mar 31st, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »


YOU MUST READ THE PART ONE RECAP FIRST so you know where I am going with things.


A screen shot is a little harder for this one, so it’s best to just VISIT THE LINK. and poke around but here’s the idea:


Mad River Cemeteries Google Maps final draft


When you click on a marker, it will give you the lat/long (in some cases, and they are noted, I had to approximate the location based on directions given so some may not be exactly right – I welcome any corrections, please comment) and other information such as whether it is still there, how many burials if known, condition, etc.  There are only three cemeteries still in use today – Myrtle Tree, Nettle Creek, and Terre Haute. Myrtle Tree and Nettle Creek also had churches associated with them. (So did many of the family cemeteries including Shaffer and Zerkle, but that is for another project.)


I had a little fun with the markers, don’t hold it against me. I did color code Shaffer, Zerkle, and Terre Haute to correspond with my NodeXL relationship charts.
And that brings me to the NodeXL charts I created.

Cemetery Groups Shaffer Cemetery

Cemetery Groups Shaffer Cemetery


Cemetery Groups Zerkle Cemetery 2

Cemetery Groups Zerkle Cemetery




























The above two NodeXL charts show the relationships between the people in each cemetery (connections) and where they are buried (color). Corresponding colors in each indicate which families are related. As I said before in my first test, these won’t work for a larger data set so that is why I didn’t include one for Terre Haute. It is the largest cemetery and there is no way I could represent it in a NodeXL file. You can see some of the relations are indicated above in Orange.



Zerkle Cemetery Families

Zerkle Cemetery Families

Shaffer Cemetery Families

Shaffer Cemetery Families




























The two NodeXL charts above show the relationships between the people buried in the cemetery and between those buried across the cemeteries. The colors indicate relationships. You can see the two largest families are the George and Catherine (Roush) Zirkle families (indicated by aqua) and the Abraham and Margaret (Maurer) Zirkle families (indicated in blue – not exactly the same color blue, oops. It’s a royal blue in the Shaffer cemetery and a dark blue in the Zerkle cemetery). Incidentally, George and Abraham were brothers.


Cemetery Cluster Zerkle Cemetery

Cemetery Cluster Zerkle Cemetery


The above cluster was just something I used in the analyzation section of NodeXL. I love how it came out but I don’t know how I did it. It shows the different family relations in the Zerkle cemetery. The program chose the colors, so they really don’t indicate anything other than a family relationship. I tried to repeat it in the Shaffer cemetery but couldn’t. You can see how this would never work for a larger data set, it’s almost too much here.

So there we go. I’ve visualized until my eyes were ready to pop out. I welcome feedback. If anyone can tell me how to do a relationship chart for a really BIG set of data, please let me know!



Final draft Visualization – Part 1: Recap

Mar 30th, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »

This blog will be in two parts. In this first part, I will summarize what I have done so far and refer back to previous blogs as I have gone along this process of figuring out how to visualize some part of the project I am still thinking through and that will be my final thesis project.

The idea is to use technology to enhance research and discover something new using visualization techniques. Considering my ultimate project of creating a completely open source, collaborative, and crowd sourced cemetery database, I had hoped to have more commentary as I went along on this blog. But since I plan to continue to work on this over the next year, hopefully people will find it and comment.

My first goal was to map all the cemeteries in one area – I chose Mad River, Champaign Co., OH because I have spent a lot of time doing genealogy research in the area. (See my family history blog both here on AOM and my previous blog on Blogger.) I tried several different programs, but none did exactly what I had in mind. I ultimately settled on plain old Google Maps, because they recently changed things so you can upload a spreadsheet of information and I thought that might be useful. So I tried it, even before I had my spreadsheet fully finished. You can see how that worked out on my blog from March 13, 2014.

Since that didn’t really seem to turn out to be what I wanted, I decided truly what I wanted was to be able to take the multiple historic maps that I have used in my research, and layer them over a map that indicated where the cemeteries are located now. Many families, like my own, owned property that spilled over the county line between Champaign and Clark counties. I also wanted to see how many of the cemeteries that currently have place names (ie. those that Google Maps actually recognizes without me having to label them. Many of them are listed in the Ohio gazetteer) occurred on property that was owned by someone with the same name. I had a hunch all of them were named after an original land owner. I still want to accomplish this, but what I found out about that process is that it is excruciatingly time consuming, has a huge learning curve that I do not have the time for right now, and will take extra time for the web site to load and maybe that is not ideal for short-attention span blog readers. I have a feeling I will have to take a class on GIS at some point to try to figure this all out. I did learn some things about the cemetery names just from comparing the historic maps to my digital map. You can read about that on my blog from March 16, 2014. I’m still working on some of that as I continue to research those two cemeteries.
Anyway, besides those drawbacks, I also feel like that approach doesn’t address the purpose of the project – to find a visualization that is representative of a larger whole. In other words, what can I do to visualize something small that I can do anywhere? Using historic maps to see if there are cemeteries on the property of a person the cemetery is named after is fine for Champaign and Clark counties in Ohio, but what about other places? Can I do that in Arizona? Maybe, but it’s not going to be quite as effective.

Then I thought I would try to show change over time somehow. You can see my thoughts on this on my blog from March 20, 2014. I was trying to figure out how to show that with maps. I tried to learn to use Omeka and Neatline to do some mapping, but just installing both required a ton of coding knowledge that I don’t have, and help from my husband. (He is the best!!!) We managed to load up both, and successfully wiped out my WordPress blog in the process. Luckily, he figured out how to fix it when I discovered it the next day. Unfortunately right now I don’t have the time to learn to code. Maybe over the summer!

So while the “change over time” angle might work for any area, and I might explore this option some more, I still struggled with the issue of so what? What does this have to do with a crowd sourced database of cemetery information? Who will care? In asking these questions and thinking about Findagrave, which does a little of what I am hoping to do with my project, I thought about relationships. Relationships are at the heart of Findagrave–both the relationships of the deceased AND the relationships of the people making the memorials on Findagrave. Findagrave links people to their spouses and children, and recently added the ability to see someone’s siblings on their page. Since the relationships seem to always get people in a tizzy, I think being able to map relationships would be a good visualization. I went back to my original blog of March 13, 2014 (see link above) and decided I would give NodeXL a try again. This time I figured out how to use it properly!  See my blog from this morning. I think I am on the right track.

I tried to use Manyeyes from IBM to see what their network relationship analysis looked like, but every time I’ve tried (this is the second time) it won’t load Java and says the site is insecure. Even when I ignore that, it still won’t load anything. It’s too frustrating and I don’t even know if it’s going to look any better than what NodeXL does.

Essentially my final draft is a combination of traditional mapping and relationship network analyses. I chose to focus on just two cemeteries, the Shaffer and Zerkle cemeteries, only because as you will see, NodeXL will not work with anything much larger, and even though these two cemeteries have under 30 burials, there are over twice that in relationships mapped out, making them almost unreadable. I really need a program that will allow me to show multiple cemeteries and the relationships between them.  Part Two will go into more detail and show you the visualizations.

Cemetery Visualization Test #2

Mar 29th, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »

I’ve been playing around with NodeXL and trying to see what would work the best. (See here for test #1)

So this time I thought I would try to show the relationships between the people buried in two cemeteries, Shaffer and Zerkle, in Mad River township, Champaign county, OH. If that worked, I could continue to add cemeteries until I had the whole township’s relationships plotted. I started with the Shaffer cemetery database I created.

Four issues occurred:
1) I first realized that in order to relate this to the much larger project (that being a cemetery database and website that I am currently formulating and just have ideas about so can’t share much yet), I needed to use the information (names and relationships) solely from and not any of the other resources I had used to compile my list. It had to be the crowd-sourced information.  So that is what I used.
(2) I realized I could not be true to the actual name as it is spelled on each headstone, otherwise the information wouldn’t graph properly. So I had to standardize a little. (For example, Abraham Zerkel is spelled that way on his headstone, but his wife Margaret’s stone says she is wife of Abraham Zirkle. If I showed their relationship that way, the program would think I had two different Abrahams.) I also had to change some surname spellings due to duplicates. Jacob, Jonathan, and Michael all had same surname spellings for multiple different people. I did the best I could but I had to make sure the relationships graphed properly.
(3) I saved it as a TIFF file and used Paint to add the legend and a title. I learned that you cannot upload a TIFF file to WordPress. Frustrating! I had to convert it to JPEG so I didn’t have to re-do the legend that I made.
(4) And lastly, as you can see I only graphed the Shaffer cemetery. Why? Because if I did more than one, you’d never be able to read it. You can barely read this graph as it is! NodeXL is kind of frustrating in that I can’t share this on the web so that it is interactive. I had to save it as a Tiff file and post it here. Looking at it in NodeXL itself I can click on each node and it will highlight the relationship line so that you can see just everyone that person is related to. But even that on the tiny laptop screen was hard to see, so I know I need to make some small tweaks to this but I can barely see it. I already noticed that at first I had some duplicated names and I couldn’t figure out why (George Stange Jr was there twice – why? because in one field I’d put in George Stange Jr. and the other was George Stange Jr — details!!!)
Shaffer Cemetery NodeXL

So although I am scrapping this idea, I did learn a couple of things that are relevant to my genealogy research, though perhaps not this project.

On to test number three…which I hope is the last! Please comment if you have any suggestions or anything you’d like to add.

Musings and questions surrounding my cemetery visualization project

Mar 20th, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »

I am still trying to get my database updated with all the information I can find on the cemeteries in Mad River township, Champaign, Ohio. What I am trying to do is figure out how cemeteries change over time, and with this I want to know how they reflect the change in the town’s own identity. For example, the Shaffer and Zerkle cemeteries included burials until 1883. What happened in 1883? What I suspect happened – and I am not sure yet as I am still gathering that information – is twofold: the family no longer owned the property (yes, according to the deed records the cemeteries were deeded to the Lutheran Church in St. Paris) and the city cemetery, Terre Haute, was built (not sure, I need to go there in person to look at their records). By comparing the number of family burial sites listed in the historic records to the number of family burial sites still in existence today, I can hopefully make some kind of statement about the changes in views on the importance of cemeteries. fits in here, it’s become such a huge resource for many people interested in finding their family information, yet you really aren’t necessarily always getting the right information. Ownership of the “memorial” becomes a contested area of family vs. other and there is no way to fix this within FAG’s TOS. What does that say about society’s current views on cemeteries? Is photographing our cemeteries a game or a serious attempt at virtual conservation? These are the kinds of questions I am trying to work through in this project.

Cemetery Visualization Project

Mar 16th, 2014 Posted in Public History, Shaffer and Zirkle Descendants | no comment »

Working on this visualization project I think I’ve stumbled on something interesting.

-In my database I have two cemeteries: Zerkle and Shaffer. They are named thusly per Google Maps. The story behind Shaffer is that a family member placed the sign there because it needed a name. I assume that’s why Google maps gives it that place name. I don’t know why the Zerkle cemetery is given that place name, other than because there are Zerkles (all spellings) buried there. But there are Zerkles (all spellings) also buried in Shaffer. That’s not a surprise, they are all intermarried into each other and the land all around both was once owned by Shaffers and Zerkles.

– My spreadsheet that I created shows the earliest burial in Shaffer was 1855, and latest was 1883. Zerkle was 1842 and last 1883.
– The current acreage that I was given by a Mad River Township Trustee was over an acre for Shaffer and just over a half acre for Zerkle.
– The 1874 map I have showing cemetery markings indicates a cemetery near where the current Google maps lists the Shaffer cemetery. Farther down, near where the current Google maps shows the Zerkle cemetery, is the Zerkle Lutheran church. But NO cemetery marker on the 1874 map. In 1874, the Zerkle Lutheran church was still there so it should be showing on the map.
– The deed I have a copy of from 1846 showing Abraham Zerkle deeded 1 acre to the Lutheran Church Trustees for a church and burial ground.
– The Shaffer Huston cemetery mentioned in a couple of sources does not exist anymore. The numbers of burials in the various records of Shaffer and Zerkle cemetery vary — much less in the pre-1950 literature available.

1) I think the Shaffer and Zerkle cemeteries are misnamed. Zerkle should be an acre or more.
2) Shaffer-Huston was moved into the “Shaffer” cemetery – hence why there are more burials than originally accounted for.
3) The earliest burial in the “Zerkle” cemetery was Elizabeth Shaffer. Another reason this was probably the family cemetery located on the Shaffer property not the Zerkle property. The Zerkle cemetery, attached to the Zerkle Lutheran Church didn’t exist until 1846-7.

Now, how do I show all this visually?! Other than the fun color-coded map I made myself using colored pens. :)

Mapping My Cemetery Project

Mar 13th, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »

I’ve created a preliminary map…missing some info of course but here is what I have so far. I used the new Google Maps to plot the cemeteries. I have found the location of the ones I don’t have lat/long for, and based on research and an 1874 map I know where they are located but just need to figure out how to transfer those locations to a map.

It’s a work in progress… but here’s the first step.


And here’s a quick screen shot because I think it will change once I update my spreadsheet some more. Here is the map:

Mad River Cemeteries Map Google Map created by JSM

Mad River Cemeteries Map Google Map created by JSM

And here’s a screen shot of what it looks like when you click on one of the cemeteries….obviously, I am not finished with my database yet because most of them look like this at the moment.

Mad River Cemeteries Screen Shot 2 w: DB info and Findagrave Launch a new mobile app

Mar 3rd, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »

Findagrave Launches a mobile app –  has a huge significance on the project I am working on….yet, then again, maybe it doesn’t matter much.  Either way, check it out here.

New Graph (Cemetery visualization test #1)

Feb 25th, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »

I spent the day making a database of everyone buried in the Shaffer cemetery. Yay! So I have part of part one done. 1 cemetery, 3 different archives of who’s buried there. I imported it into NodeXL and made a chart. No idea what this is telling me, but I’ll get there. I can see that I want it to tell me something!

Graph test