Recording Gravestones and Graveyards: General Guidance
The following sections outline:
- the steps to take before carrying out any recording (pre-survey checklist),
- how to undertake recording in the field (fieldwork checklist),
- and what to do with your survey once you have finished (post-survey checklist).
Click here for links to resources and downloads for gravestone and graveyard recording. For further reading see the bibliographies in An Introduction to Graveyard Recording (get download [6MB]) and Researching Your Graveyard (get download [2MB]).
Pre-survey work: what to do before you start recording
Before you start you need to find out more about your graveyard. In particular:
- Whether the site or any of its gravestones and features are listed or scheduled. If your graveyard is listed or scheduled this will determine the type of recording you can complete and who to contact for advice and permission to record. For more information about working in a listed or scheduled graveyard see Historic Scotland's free guidance leaflet (get download [40K]). To find out if your graveyard is listed or scheduled consult Historic Scotland's Listed Buildings of Scotland and Scheduled Ancient Monuments lists on PASTMAP and contact your local authority planning department.
- Check if any earlier recording work has been completed for your graveyard. Save duplication of effort and make sure that your work has the widest possible future application by checking if your new survey can be cross-referenced to any earlier work. It is a good idea to check both local libraries and archives as well as national collections. Researching Your Graveyard (get download [2MB]) offers guidance on consulting information held in archives and libraries across Scotland. The Scottish Genealogical Society compiles a list of published and unpublished memorial inscriptions held in their library.
- Do not start work without receiving permission to record or before contacting people who may be able to help you. If you are unsure who owns the graveyard, contact your Local Authority Manager in the first instance. The Church of Scotland (property and Endowments) Act 1925 transferred responsibility for most Church of Scotland graveyards over to local authorities. As a result, the vast majority of graveyards in Scotland are owned and maintained by local government. However, a number of graveyards remain in the hands of religious bodies, private trusts, private commercial ventures or private individuals. In some cases the person(s) undertaking graveyard maintenance may not be the actual owners of a graveyard. A list of organisations and individuals who may be able to assist you with your recording project can be found in the contacts section.
- Check if it is possible to find any financial support for your recording work. The free booklet Sources of Financial Assistance the Conservation of Scotland's Historic Graveyards (get download [859K]) provides information about sources of funding for projects seeking to conserve sites or to enhance the enjoyment of graveyards through research, interpretation and education.
- Ensure that you and your colleagues are fully briefed on working safely in graveyards (get download [747K]).
- Check you and your colleagues are aware of the appropriate course of action to take for overgrown or buried gravestones. Basic guidance on dealing with vegetation on gravestones and historic structures more generally has been prepared by the National Trust (England) and the Chicora Foundation (USA). A methodology to locate, and record buried gravestones has been developed by the Moray Burial Ground Research Group (get download [1MB])
Page last updated August 2006