Cemetery Update Services

Making a Career Out of Recording Cemeteries

By Steve Paul Johnson
June 21, 2002

Debbie Wiczek, owner of Cemetery Updating Services, may be the only person in the world who makes a career out of recording cemeteries.

Twelve years ago, Debbie Wiczek and her friend visited a cemetery in search of the grave of her friend's father who had died some forty years earlier. Because her friend was a very long distance from home and circumstances didn't allow his return, he was unable to attend his father's funeral. When he returned home years later, he had never bothered visiting his father's grave.

When Debbie inquired at the cemetery office about the location of the grave, it took the office over 30 minutes to locate the record, and then handed  her a bad photocopy of a very poorly drawn map.

After finding the grave, Debbie stopped by the office and handed them her business card. At the time, she was operating her own drafting/design business for the home construction industry. She let them know that she could help them with their maps. Later that week, the cemetery called her to do just that. Thus was born a new business venture for Debbie, "Cemetery Updating Services".

"We've done business with close to 150 cemeteries by now", says Debbie. "We do business from coast to coast".

Cemetery Updating Services provides cemeteries with the following services:

  • Gathers all interment records, and publishes them in a water-resistant book
  • Creates a map of the cemetery, including maps of burials
  • Provides a Compact Disc (CD-ROM) of all interment records and maps
  • Updates and corrects records as needed
  • Provides multiple copies of materials as needed
  • In addition, all records are organized as follows:
  • Alphabetically by last name
  • Numerically by grave location
  • Chronologically by date of death
  • Alphabetical and Numerical listing of lot owners
  • Alphabetical and Numerical listing of veterans

 

The work that she does for each cemetery is a three-phase process:

For Phase One, the cemetery provides her with all of their records and maps. She enters the records into a database and re-draws the maps. She notes any discrepancies that were found in the records and draws the maps so that each burial can be seen at a glance, including which graves are empty but sold and which graves are still for sale. When this process is completed, all new maps and records are printed and compiled into a book.

Phase Two involves visiting the cemetery grounds, measuring off the graves, combining information from the headstones with the records provided by the cemetery, and making corrections. When Phase Two is completed and the corrections to be made are indicated on the records and maps, the cemetery personnel may update the records themselves or send them back to Debbie for updating.

During Phase Three, all the corrections that were indicated in Phase Two are made to the records and maps. Then, the book and maps are re-printed, and everything is returned to the cemetery. When this process is completed, the cemetery records are as correct as possible.

Debbie explains that Cemetery Updating Services archives all of its work so that it can be reprinted on demand: "Often cemeteries have only one copy of their records and are very vulnerable to fire or other disasters. After the above process is completed, the data is archived. If because of catastrophe, and the records are destroyed or damaged, the maps and records can be reproduced. Also, because of the 8½" X 11" format, the maps and records can be easily and inexpensively duplicated for extra copies or for resale."

While many cemeteries today are switching over from paper to computer records, Debbie explains that the services her company provides can save them from having to make such expensive computer purchases: "With our service, it is not necessary for a cemetery to expend the money to own and maintain expensive computer equipment and computer trained people to maintain records. However, if they have the computer capability, they can maintain records themselves as new information can be easily added to the original records. With our service, the record efficiency allows them to better manage their assets and makes them better able to track saleable burial sites and lot inactivity. The accessibility and convenience of the information is invaluable."

Debbie relies mostly upon calling cemeteries to find out if they are in need of services. Sometimes business comes from referrals, and sometimes it comes from her company website.

Is there a career on the horizon for other people who visit cemeteries and compile records? If you're dedicated enough, and are willing to work hard to succeed, the answer is "yes". One of the benefits is that you get to travel all over the country, as Debbie is constantly traveling from coast to coast, compiling cemetery records.

- Steve Paul Johnson

 


 

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