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Moving from using books and ledgers can be a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may think. The pressures of the digital age, advancements in technology, increased customer expectations and higher demands on accessibility to data are making it more important than ever to make sure your records are protected and digitally available. So what are your options? Here’s a brief outline:
- In an ideal scenario you would get your books scanned, transcribed and migrated into a really good software system (ideally one that has the ability to hold and display the scanned imagery).
- Transcription can be costly, particularly where there are a high volume of records so the next preferred option is to scan your books, insert these into a software system and start using that system to record your burials, contracts/deeds moving forward. The nice thing about this option is that you have your books to hand within the system so they can be referred to quickly and easily and you can transcribe as you go or get an intern or volunteer to help you.
- If your budget cannot stretch to a scanning company then you could just photograph each page using a high quality camera and make sure you carefully label each image. These can then also be inserted into the software system so that they are protected and stored digitally but also in a place that you can still easily access them. Again, using a software moving forward will mean that your future records are digital and the older ones can be transcribed as and when the resources become available.
- For cemeteries that are closed or not very operational, your main reasons for digitising records will be to protect the records and make them searchable for genealogy reasons. If it’s for internal use you may decide that you don’t need a software system to meet your needs (although you can get PlotBox ‘lite’ for as little as $9 per month). You could store your scanned imagery or pictures on a hard drive or in the cloud using a service like Dropbox or your Google Drive. If you are transcribing your records I would recommend using Google Sheets as opposed to an excel document. If you use google sheets you can share the document with others who may be helping you but also it means that if your laptop breaks you don’t loose any data as it’s still in your drive and can be accessed by you from another device. If you want your digital records to be made available to the public for genealogy searches (and potentially generate revenue) there are options available such as hosting your own website or joining an established website specialising in deceased records (see reference below).
In a nutshell, there are a few options. Which one is right for you will depend on the number of records, your budget and how the records will be used.
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