STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — Finding loved ones and historic figures buried at the Marble Falls City Cemetery won’t require walking from plot to plot in the hopes of stumbling upon for whom who you’re looking.
Now, you can let your fingers do the walking after the city of Marble Falls completed an online cemetery map.
After clicking on the link to the city cemetery from the city’s website, scroll to the bottom to a section that reads, “How to Locate a Loved One.”
The first link, “Locate a Gravesite,” will give instructions on how to read the map. The cemetery map is divided into 13 sections, or “gardens.” From there, visitors are instructed to locate the row then finally the grave.
Under “Cemetery Database by Surname” is an 88-page listing of every person who is on a headstone or a niche listed in alphabetical order by last name. It includes each person’s birth and burial dates. That listing also gives the garden, row, and grave next to each name.
There’s a map legend and instructions on how to read the row markers.
Marble Falls Parks and Recreation Director Robert Moss said the importance of the online database can best be explained by how staff members helped people locate loved ones before.
“We had a huge map that would be unrolled on a hood of truck to spread it out,” Moss told the Marble Falls Parks and Recreation Commission during its regular meeting Oct. 2.
The online version is much easier to navigate, and there’s no need to refold a map.
Eventually, the database will include a search feature to allow people to type in the deceased’s name, a feature that will include information on the deceased and a photo of the gravesite if one is available, Moss said. There may also be a static map displayed at the cemetery for those who do not have access to the online version.
“The challenge is keeping the static map updated,” Moss said. “It will need to be relatively easy and inexpensive to keep it updated, as it may only be good for a couple of years.”
Commissioner Charles Watkins said he wanted to create a map of gravesites of historical figures for a self-guided walking tour. Moss said this can be done and that he would look into it in the future.
“Maybe color them a different color and add more information,” Moss said.
Watkins also mentioned either the city or the Marble Falls Cemetery Association setting aside money to help families with restoration of headstones or other features on gravesites. Moss said the association was looking for grants to help with that.
Several members of the Marble Falls Cemetery Association also attended the meeting. Member Bessie Jackson said the biggest help the association needs are for people who know of loved ones buried in the St. Frederick Baptist Church portion of the cemetery that is located on the back end. She noted families buried their loved ones there but didn’t have the money to purchase a proper headstone, which makes it challenging to correctly identify who is there.
As part of the cemetery online work, Texas Cemetery Restoration used a machine that took images and recorded GPS coordinates every 2 feet as it examined the ground for “disturbances,” or graves. The crew also took 2,000 photos of gravesites to match the GPS coordinates.
“There are no markers or recollection of those people,” Jackson said of the St. Frederick’s portion of the cemetery. “We’ll have to get people who’ve had loved ones buried there to tell us who’s there. With this (cemetery online work) being done, it’ll be a lot easier.”
To help overcome this challenge, Moss said families have a year to put at least a grass marker on a gravesite that will include the name of the deceased and the date of death. These markers are typically no more than $100.
“In the future, when a plot is purchased, a deposit may be required so there’s money to go get it done,” he said. “If a family gets it done and provides proof, they get the deposit back.”
Association member Vashti Tucker asked city staff if they had thought of how they would reclaim a plot that was sold to a family but abandoned.
Moss said there are laws that allow cities to reclaim those plots after a certain amount of time has passed.
“There are unused gravesites that push a hundred years ago,” he said. “It may be a good thing to look at to officially recover those things. There’s nothing to stop us from figuring out a way.”
The association also is working on obtaining a Historic Texas Cemetery Designation, special cemetery board member Jane Knapik said.