Fieldwork: how to record gravestones and graveyards
Many different types of information can be recorded in graveyards and the focus for fieldwork will depend upon the resources available and your own particular interests. It is desirable to complete all of the steps below, however this may not always be possible in practice. In the future, someone may want to use your work for their own research or wish to complete one of the steps that you didn't. Following the guidelines below will make sure that others can easily re-trace your recording methods and thinking and allow your efforts to have the widest possible future benefit. It is important that to check for any earlier work before you begin your own fieldwork so that you can note any mistakes or any changes that have taken place since the previous survey was completed.
- Making a record of the graveyard site itself. In the past emphasis has been placed on recording gravestones, in particular memorial inscriptions, but the Council for Scottish Archaeology's Carved Stones Adviser Project has developed a new initiative to record graveyards as individual burial landscapes. A free Introduction to Graveyard Recording booklet (get download [6MB]) and form (get download [300K]) are available.
- Making a record of each gravestone. To encourage a standard approach to taking information from gravestones, including inscriptions, the Council for Scottish Archaeology's Carved Stones Adviser Project has devised a gravestone recording form (get download [74K]) but forms are also available in Betty Willsher's How to Record Scottish Graveyards (available to purchase from Council for Scottish Archaeology) and in Harold Mytum's How to Record Graveyards (available to purchase from the Council for British Archaeology). The project has also created an expanded form, which can be used to detail and investigate gravestone condition (get download [469K]). The Carved Stones Adviser Project has also produced a range of field guidance notes to help recorders on the topics of making a graveyard plan (get download [850K]) identifying stone types (get download [557K]), identifying lichen, moss and algae (get download [284K]) and identifying stone decay (get download [422K]). The free booklet An Introduction to Graveyard Recording (get download [6MB]) contains basic information about gravestone designs and carvings.
- Remember to take appropriate action with buried or overgrown 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])
- Taking a photographic survey of the gravestones and graveyard. Comprehensive guidance is provided in Tom Grey and Leslie Ferguson's 1997 booklet Photographing Carved Stones published by the Pinkfoot Press, which can be purchased from the Publications Department, Scottish Conservation Bureau, Historic Scotland.
- Making a graveyard site plan to show the position of memorials and other features (get download [850K]).
- Making gravestone rubbings can cause significant damage to gravestones. Before starting any rubbings seek professional advice and always follow best practice. Historic Scotland provide preliminary guidelines for making rubbings of carved stones for scientific purposes (get download [117K]).
Page last updated August 2006