Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cemetery Transcriptions: Ontario and Devon

Fairfield United Cemetery, Stephen, Huron, Ontario

Those of us with ancestors who emigrated in Ontario have the good fortune of being able to access gravestone transcriptions for hundreds of cemeteries. The wealth of printed transcriptions is the result of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) undertaking to transcribe existing gravestones in cemeteries throughout Ontario. The availability of these transcriptions, which can be purchased from the various OGS Branches, has saved me valuable research time on many occasions.

Walk into the local branch of a public library and you will more than likely find copies of the transcriptions for nearby graveyards. Larger regional libraries often have a more extensive collection. The Canadiana Department of the North York Central Library in Toronto has the most complete collection of transcriptions, and also houses the library of the OGS.

Unfortunately a master index to the transcriptions does not yet exist. The closest to a comprehension index is the Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid. The OGS has also been indexing transcriptions but the project is far from complete.

Some Ontario transcriptions are also available through

Another very useful cemetery resource for Ontario researchers is the CanadaGenWeb Cemetery Project. A notable feature of the Cemetery Project is the availability of photographs. Volunteers undertake to photograph every gravestone in a cemetery. The photographs are submitted to the Cemetery Project, indexed and then uploaded to the website.

In comparison to the wealth of resources available online and in print for Ontario cemeteries, there is very little available for cemeteries in Devon. There does not seem to have ever been a major effort to document gravestones and make this information widely available. Some churches have printed guides available. Other churches have made this information available online. But in most cases determining whether ggg-grandfather has a gravestone requires a graveyard visit. Difficult if you don't live in Devon and time-consuming even if you do.

However, all is not lost. The Gravestone Photographic Resource Project was started by Charles Sale in 1998 to photographically record grave monuments and make the information they contain publicly available via the Internet. 825 English cemeteries have been photographed to date and North Devon is particularly well represented. I have been making extensive use of the Project's resources as I prepare for my trip to Devon this summer. I recently received photographs of three gravestones connected to my MOCK ancestors at St Brannock's, Braunton, and have been using the project to develop an index of pre-1813 monuments at St Peter's, Tawstock.

Every year gravestones are lost due to vandalism or become unreadable due to weathering. Any effort to transcribe inscriptions or photograph gravestones should be encouraged.

1 comment:

  1. Here are two other rather useful Ontario cemetery collections that contain many photos.

    The first is the Northern Ontario Gravemarker Gallery at The coverage is excellent.

    The other is an Eastern Ontario/Western Quebec site, which if you have Loyalist or French-Canadian ancestors is quite handy. It is at The coverage is better closer to Ottawa, but quite good overall.