Friday, March 17, 2006

The Cathays Cemetary Project

This blog has been set up to allow discussion on a potential transcription project for the Cathays Cemetary in Cardiff, Wales.

The proposal is to photograph and transcribe the contents of the cemetary, a no mean task considering the size of it, and publish those results for researchers to benefit in locating their ancestors.

I'll start by posting my interest in the project and thoughts on how we should proceed, how the data can be accessed etc.

For a couple of years now I've been photographing the graveyards in Monmouthshire and Glamorgan and publishing them on the OGRE website (which can be found at For the usual churchyard sized cemetary this format is adequate and easily maintainable and there are usually no more than a hundred or so graves to be catalogued.

For larger municipal graveyards, this format becomes unwieldy as you cannot list 10,000 graves on a single HTML page as it would be impossible to maintain and would take ages to load when viewed.

Thus, the first question is how to store and access the data? The two obvious options are an on-line database and query pages, or a set of static, linked HTML pages in alphabetical order, for example.

The next obvious issue would be organising and managing the photography of the headstones. From experience I know that I can do an average graveyard in a couple of hours. By the time you've waded through brambles and all sorts of obstructions (probably not an issue in the Cathays cemetary), got the camera to focus and fiddled with the zoom etc you are looking at perhaps a couple of shots a minute maximum.

Now a number of those shots will be duds due to lighting and focus issues, therefore we need to be able to re-shoot images on demand for those that do not come out properly. Obviously the graveyard needs to be sectioned and organised. Some of this may be possible to review given the level of detail in the Google Map satellite imagery, but I suspect a fairly detailed site visit would be required to examine how to use natural boundaries to give small, workable areas.

The volunteers who can help photograph the graves will obviously need access to the kind of equipment which can give a minimum image resolution, and the ability and technical knowledge to be able to crop and rotate those images and submit them to a central repository (such dreary things as file naming conventions to prevent overwriting images, and backups come to mind here).

Now comes the hard part, transcribing the images. This is the most tricky part, and requires many cups of black coffee and late nights... Welsh transcriptions should really be handled by Welsh speakers as I know when I transcribe welsh data it slows me to a snails pace checking the spelling and translating the dates etc to English.

All transcriptions need to be checked for accuracy, as it is very easy to transpose the data when you've typed in thousands of surnames.

And this brings us back to the data format. A couple of methods strike me as the way forward, firstly, to use an on-line form to submit and review data, or a simple spreadsheet.

The online form will be the harder way to do it, and would require an on-line database to provide access. This would require an amount of effort to set up and check before it could be used.

A spreadsheet is easier to handle and mail, and we can use it to generate HTML or a set of data for a database, and can be up and running fairly swiftly.

Finally, I would prefer to see this offered to the end user as a free resource that can be accessed without charge. Something to consider for this is that a free website is usually rubbish due to the small bandwidth provided and the lack of service. If this is to be published on the web it needs to have a small downtime (all computers crash sometimes), it needs to be reliably back-up by the service provider in case they have a disaster, and it needs a good bandwidth allowance to allow people to get at the site to see the data.

So, having said all that, let's get a discussion going and see where it takes us.

Richard, aka The OGRE.


At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Ian said...

At the risk of confusing/broadening the discussion too much, would it be a good idea to to consider a wider project where a list of volunteers could be collated for all parts of Glam or even Wales. The benefits would be considerable, if well coordinated.
1. Family historians could photograph MIs
2. Volunteers could contact church / Council departments to urge release of data, or transcribe MIs
3. SKS could run a training day on Database writing
4. Local coordinators could input data and make it available on line for all to use

At 9:01 PM, Anonymous Emma said...

Put my name down as a volunteer for transcription. I am a Welsh speaker (which may help). I would love to help in other ways but unfortunately my camera is not up to it!! I think this is a great idea, as graveyards seem to be dissapearing at a rate of knotts, and they are are victims of our Welsh weather!

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Caroleann said...

I would like to help as a volunteer
on the transcription for Cathays cemetery. I have Grandparents and G Grandparents and other family.
I would help in other ways but live in Yorkshire

At 10:56 PM, Anonymous Caroleann said...

buried in the cemetery

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Andrea said...

Not, alas, Welsh speaking.
And too far away to photograph.
But willing volunteer for transcribing.

An online database would certainly be the most efficient way for end-users to access the information.

How does the rootsweb system work? Would they be willing to host it without charge?

At 7:06 PM, Blogger The OGRE said...

Ian - thats exactly what I'm trying to do with the OGRE website... I've dozens of completed cemetaries and no time to transcribe them. I'll post a full list later in case you want to transcribe some of them :)

At 2:35 PM, Blogger bcp said...

Can anyone tell me is the Cathays Cemetary Project still active as the dates of previous communications whould appear that thing have come to an end.

At 4:29 AM, Blogger cilycoed said...

Hi Richard,

I've been really ill for a long time and have come back, if I can be of any use with transcribing I would more than pleased to help.

New Zealand.

At 1:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello there. I am very interested in your work on the photograph project at cat hays cemetery. However, try as I might, I can't find the data by following any of the links. This is a very old post so not sure I will get a reply but please could you point me in the right direction. Many thanks ld

At 1:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ps im posting this in 2015


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