- Associated Press - Saturday, August 9, 2014

MOLINE, Ill. (AP) - Moline is digitally mapping the 7,600 burials at Memorial Park Cemetery to make it easier for people to locate a grave site.

Intern Jeremy Sundberg, an Augustana College student, has been working with Todd Green, Moline’s Geographic Information System administrator, on the summer-long project, which, when complete later this year, will allow anyone to type in a name and locate where the person is buried in the cemetery at 5001 34th Ave.

Mr. Sundberg has been working on the project since mid-June, starting by scanning the cemetery’s plot maps into the city’s GIS. He then physically found each grave plug marker and using GPS, recorded the coordinates. Those coordinates were imported into the GIS and coordinated with the plot map. He now is mapping the individual grave locations, as each plot holds a minimum of two burials.

There is much more work that needs to be done, but eventually, a database containing cemetery records will be merged with the information Mr. Sundberg collected.

Mr. Green said when the project is complete, the GIS will allow people to search, then see a map marking the location of the grave and landmarks visible to help guide them, such as adjacent trees or a nearby building. “This will get the person where they need to be,” he said.

Cemetery sexton Todd Slater said it is becoming more common for cemeteries to offer burial records online. Several years ago, Moline’s IT staff mentioned the need to undertake such a project, but first, the cemetery had to input its cemetery records into a database. Once that was complete, the IT department partnered with Augustana College to cost-share a summer intern, and it became possible to tackle the GIS project, he said.

Mr. Slater said many people call or email to ask where a loved one is buried. He said he looks up the information, offers an approximate location and will email or fax a marked plot map. Other people stop by the office to inquire in person. If he is not working, or the cemetery office is closed, the information is not readily available.

Mr. Sundberg will be a senior this fall, and is majoring in geography and minoring in environmental studies. The project has taught him a lot, and he said he is considering a career in mapping.

“It has been interesting to me as well,” Mr. Slater said. “There is a lot more you can do with it than even I could imagine,” he said.

Mr. Green said they will get the information polished, available for use and then look back to see what they learned. “Then we will move on to Riverside Cemetery,” he said.

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Source: The (Moline) Dispatch, https://bit.ly/1pm6DYg

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Information from: The Dispatch, https://www.qconline.com

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