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 savinggraves.org 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 savinggraves.com that had been allowed to expire and had been purchased by someone else. But without the domain name savinggraves.org 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 GravePreservation.org 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.