We cannot take responsibility for any injury or accident that may occur while you are photographing a cemetery. Please be careful! Watch out for uneven ground, hidden holes, obstructions, etc. Never visit a cemetery by yourself, take along a friend, relative or fellow volunteer. Bring a cell phone and carry it on your person.
Before photographing a cemetery for this project please sign up, then wait for confirmation from the volunteer coordinator before starting to take photos. This "reserves" the cemetery in your name, and ensures no one wastes their time photographing a cemetery another volunteer is already working on.
If you'd like to photograph multiple cemeteries you can, but it's suggested you start by reserving one and completing it before reserving any others. Once you've completed your first cemetery, you can then reserve up to five at a time.
As many cemeteries have the same name, each cemetery included in our project has a unique ID code. This code helps to ensure that submissions are linked to the correct cemetery.
When corresponding with the volunteer coordinator please be sure to include the cemetery ID code if referring to a cemetery.
You can find the cemetery ID code in two places:
1. When you sign-up to photograph a cemetery from the cemetery page the ID code will be embedded in the form. When the volunteer coordinator responds to your message the cemetery ID code will be in the subject heading of the e-mail (e.g. Cem Proj MB PHOTOS MBERD0212 Eriksdale Cemetery)
2. In the URL of the cemetery page. To find the ID code, locate the cemetery
and take note of the URL of the webpage you are viewing (e.g. http://www.geneofun.on.ca/cems/mb/MBERD0212).
The cemetery ID code is the letter-number combination that begins with the 2 letter province abbreviation -> MBERD0212
We love to receive and post photos of any Canadian cemetery (provided they are not duplicates of photos already posted). The choice of what cemetery to photograph is your decision.
Still not sure what cemetery to photograph? Feel free to choose any cemetery not yet photographed! Pick one that is close to home or one of personal interest. Or contact a province/territory coordinator
, they will work with you to identify which cemeteries in your area have not yet been reserved or photographed and you can then make your choice. (Please note: For most cemeteries coordinators know only as much as is posted on the cemetery page and won't be able to answer questions about size or accessibility).
♦ Permission to photograph
Permission to take photos varies with each cemetery. If you would like to photograph a privately owned cemetery, or a cemetery on private property, it would be best to approach their cemetery board, caretaker or owner and request permission before starting photography.
Many cemeteries have not yet heard of our project and may have questions that can be answered with this information:
- This project is not commercial, it's entirely volunteer-run and completely free to access (no registration required!)
- It's 100% Canadian
- We cater to genealogists and hope to provide them photos of headstones from cemeteries they are unable to visit personally
- If you as the photographer are willing, a copy of the end result (photos & index) can be provided to the cemetery
- Once the photos & index are online the cemetery is more than welcome to link to the page!
- We are willing to work within parameters they set, if it means they will allow photography. Make note of when death registrations are released in the province where you will be taking photos, since death information up to that year is public would the cemetery allow photographs of stones with death dates from that year and prior?
- If the cemetery has any questions or concerns they are welcome to contact the project coordinator at
Tackling a large cemetery may seem daunting but there are a couple of ways to make the task seem much smaller.
- Most large cemeteries are divided into sections, choose one section and make it your project. That's it, just one. If, after finishing, you feel like tackling another you can, or you can stop with one. Doing one section at a time makes it easier for other volunteers to pick up where you left off. If you're not sure which section to choose, start with the oldest or smallest.
As our site is part of CanadaGenWeb our primary goal is providing (and obtaining) as much genealogical information as possible. So from that aspect we encourage the photography of every headstone within a cemetery BUT we also appreciate and welcome partial submissions of a few photos. Each headstone photographed and submitted is possibly the piece to someone's genealogical puzzle, so each one is a treasure.
In short, you don't have to photograph an entire cemetery but we'd love if you would! There is NO time limit so it can be done on your schedule, just keep us posted of your progress (and please sign up
before starting so we can ensure no other volunteer duplicates your efforts).
Headstone photos. Photograph each side of every stone that has an inscription. Some stones require just one photo as only one side of the stone has writing. Others can require several in order to get each side documented. Obviously if a side is blank there's no need for a photo.
Scenery photos. What does the cemetery as a whole look like? Take a few photos from different parts of the cemetery.
Sign photos. Please include a photo or two of the cemetery sign.
Take a friend. Never visit a cemetery by yourself. Bring your spouse, another family member, a friend or fellow volunteer. Besides having some help with photography you'll also have someone with you in case of emergency. Also bring along a cell phone (make sure it's fully charged) and keep it on your person, don't leave it in the car!
Bring along some helpful tools:
- Dark umbrellas can help create shade. Some headstones give off a glare that is difficult to photograph. A dark umbrella can cut out some of that glare making it possible to get a readable photo.
- Soft bristle brushs or brooms can be used to gently sweep away removable debri like leaves & twigs
- A notepad & pencil can be used to write down inscriptions of stones that may not photograph well.
- A flashlight or mirror can help create shadows making some inscriptions stand out better.
Time of day can play a part in how well some stones will photograph. Some stones photograph best with the sun shining on them, others when the sun is behind them.
Weather - overcast or drizzly days can sometimes be the best days as there's no sun to work around. Some (not all!) stones show up better in photos when wet.
- Standing at an angle can help make some inscriptions stand out a bit more in a photo. At times the sun can 'hide' the inscriptions but on an angle there might be enough shadow to make the words stand out. At other times it's the stone itself that creates an interesting challenge - it becomes a mirror reflecting everything nearby including you! Taking a photo from an angle can cut out most of that reflection. (see example
Ken's Photo Tips
- revealing grown-over ground stones, cleaning stones, using mirrors
Please take one photo that gets the entire monument in the frame then a close up for each side with an inscription. (see example) Most digital cameras, even on a phone, give you the option to choose the number of megapixels (MP) you want to use to take a photo. We recommend taking photos with a setting no less than 3MP which would give you photos that are 2048 x 1536 pixels in size. This allows room for cropping later if needed.
Some older stones are difficult (at best) to read. Even if you can't read it, take a photo. Someone, somewhere may be familiar with the stone and be able to submit a correction at a later date.
Headstones can be fragile. They've survived this long, let's do our best to ensure they continue to survive!
What NOT to do
- Don't try to remove moss, lichin or anything stuck to the stone
- Don't use chalk, flour, shaving cream or any kind of chemicals
- Don't rub the stone
What you CAN* do
- Use light & angles (see our list of tips
- Use a soft bristled broom to brush off removable debri. If you don't have one handy, create a breeze to blow it off.
- Some flat stones can get buried by grass, be careful of scraping the stone if attempting to unbury it.
* Some cemeteries have bylaws that won't allow visitors to alter stones they don't own. Be sure to look for and read any signs posted at the cemetery.
- Take note of the address or addresses of nearby places
- Send us detailed directions
- Locate the cemetery on Google Maps
or a similar online mapping service and send us the resulting GPS coordinates.