Saturday, January 26, 2008

Coming together slowly

As of yesterday evening we had state content added up to Georgia, and the first article in the Learning Center, "Saving A Cemetery: Getting Started". I don't anticipate adding too much over the weekend but next week should see a lot of material added to the site. I have to say that I'm very pleased with the traffic to the site since turning on the address and swapping the name over. Before that we were seeing about 10 visitors per day Yesterday alone we were at over 600 visits and the current grand total is at 1800. Things are coming together nicely so far.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

So where is everything?

By now you've no doubt noticed that there is very little in the way of actual content on the new website. The structure is in place and ready to go but thats about it. It's not my intention to just copy what we had with the old Saving Graves website. Most of what is there today is very outdated and many of the links no longer work. So what I'm doing is going through each state one by one and starting over fresh by creating new information centers for them. These information centers are a new version of the old state paged with some things removed and other things added in. They are currently broken up into two separate areas - State Preservation and State Profile. As these areas are created I check each link to make sure that it is still working and at the same time search out new ones that would be of value or interest. It's a time consuming process and with luck I can get through two or three states per day. You can help be submitting information on your states that can be added in. Also if your interested you might want to think about becoming the Saving Graves Advocate Board Member for your state. Information on that can be found on the webiste under the navigation links.

Back to our roots

Saving Graves is back. We have reacquired several of the old domain names and are moving forward with the slow process of building Saving Graves from the ground up. There is a lot of work to do here. The domain names that we registered for the star of the new project,, .com and . net will still get you here. But our primary web address is I should mention that after several months of trying we have been unsuccessful in our attempts to obtain the domain. That address still points to the old Saving Graves website that has not been updated in several years. If you have any links to that address of if you know of anyone that does please correct them to the address.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Haddock Cemetery, Gainesboro Arkansas

I just discovered an article printed in the Batesville Daily Guard about a cemetery restoration project that could be used as a model for future projects. It's a great story about how a group of formed a cemetery association and have done everything exactly right so far. Reading the article is like reading a primer on what to do when taking on a project such as this - from writing the history of the cemetery to exploring the possibility of getting prisoner details for clean up crews to researching possible grants to arranging regular maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery by local Boy Scouts and the possibility of reopening this once abandoned cemetery to new burials in the future! It's really great to read about folks like William Coe, Gary Hodge and the others that have come together to form the Haddock Cemetery Association. I wish the the best of luck with the cemetery and support them 100%

Website progressing smoothly

The new website is coming together! Once I was able to pick a color scheme for the site and get that in place I was able to start to figure out what would be best in terms of layout - what goes where, how it links to other things and such. After a couple of false starts and trying some things that just did not work out at all I came up with a format that I feel is much more professional and easy to navigate that anything that we have had in the past. And now that that is in place I can start newt week to enter the information for all 50 states. If all goes well I hope to be able to get at least two states a day done. Then I can move on to some of the other areas that I'd like to get in place before we open on April 1st. I don't see any reason why we cannot make that date if not be ready well before it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

First, some history...

Back in March of 2000, I became aware of a project called "Save Our Old Cemeteries", a part of a small family history website. The subject of endangered cemeteries was something that I had a lifelong interested in. As a boy, my family would makes several long weekend trips a year from our home in Michigan down to Allen County, Kentucky where my Dad was born. He always made it a point to spend what little time we could at the small family cemetery located in the middle of a farm, where his mother's relatives were buried. We always took the time to do what cleaning and upkeep on the cemetery that we could and this made a huge impression on me. One that has stuck with me all my life. I quickly became involved with this project and it quickly became clear that the size and scope of the website would outgrow it's current location. I offered to take over the management of that part of the website and spin it off as a separate site with a new name and a vision - Saving Graves.

In a short matter of time it was clear that the Saving Graves website was meeting a need. With no publicity at all the website averaged over 1000 visitors per day in it's first week. Traffic to the site continued to grow at a steady pace for my entire involvement with the project to a point where over 5.7 million unique visitors were logged during 2004. We launched a nationwide petition drive for the establishment of a series of federal laws on cemetery protection and preservation that gathered well over 1.2 million signatures and drew the attention of several prominent members of Congress. As a result a series of meetings were scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C. during the early part of November 2001. Sadly, the events of September 11 not only forced the postponement of these meetings but drew the attention of Congress elsewhere. Saving Graves however continued to grow and expand with separate websites specific to cemetery preservation issues in Australia, Canada, The United Kingdom and several others.

In November 2005, I decided to step aside as the Saving Graves project manager and turned the daily operation over to Steve Stymiest of Rock Hill, South Carolina. At that time I transfered the various registered domain names over to Steve, but retained copyright on the website and it's contents. A year later, on November 15, 2006 Steve passed away. I was informed of his passing by his life partner, William Roberts who also informed me that he had no intention of letting go of Saving Graves but continuing it along with Steve's oldest son as a memorial to Steve. Since that time the website has sat there for the most part untouched. Several months ago I was contacted by a group of Saving Graves State Coordinators to see if I knew of any way to contact William Rogers as there attempts were left unanswered. They did not want to see the project die and hoped to revive it. Without going into detail, after a lot of work I was able to get in contact with William Rogers and after talking about the situation, he agreed to turn Saving Graves back over to me. At that point I contacted as many of the remaining State Coordinators and we developed a plan for a totally new Saving Graves website that would be launched shortly after the domain was transfered back to my name. Well, for reasons that I have no idea why, William Rogers suddenly stopped talking to me a again refused to have any contact with anyone regarding Saving Graves. We were able to obtain the domain name that had been allowed to expire and had been purchased by someone else. But without the domain name there was little point in trying to start the project back up again. It was my feeling that enough damage had already been done to the name Saving Graves by allowing the original website to fall into a horrible state of disrepair with numerous dead or broken links and outdated information. This would have led to two separate and very different Saving Graves websites and a great deal of confusion.

After several months of trying to resolve this mess, and getting a great deal of encouragement from the cemetery preservation community not only online but from federal, state and local levels, I reached the conclusion that it was pointless to try to continue my efforts to restart Saving Graves and it was in the best interests of everyone to start a new project. That project is and if everything goes right is scheduled to go live on April 1st of this year. Starting over allows me the option of looking back over the history of Saving Graves and reflect on not only what we did right but perhaps more importantly what we did wrong and take that into account in building this new project. Saving Graves was a great project. Who knows, at some point in the future things may work out so we can reacquire the domain name and bring it back to life. But for now it's time to move on and create something even better that will not only help to educate more people in cemetery related issues but at the same time allow more people to be involved in the project. As we get closer to launch I'll have more to say on this. Just remember, no matter what the name of the website is or what the format looks like is not really important. What really matters is that simple thing remain the same: our mission. Preserving, protecting and restoring endangered or forgotten historic cemeteries. I look forward to seeing all of you, old friends and new in this new project and I cannot wait to get started on it.