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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Headstone project cataloguing gravesites

  • The Harvey County Genealogical Society has been working to make a complete record of every cemetery, tombstone and burial site in the Harvey County area.


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  • The Harvey County Genealogical Society has been working to make a complete record of every cemetery, tombstone and burial site in the Harvey County area.
    Dubbed the Harvey County Headstone Project, the ongoing program has received more publicity and exposure due to recent open presentations at Newton Public Library, lead by Darren McMannis.
    “I started photographing the headstones in the summer of 2005,” McMannis said. “I photographed every headstone in every cemetery in Harvey County, some with multiple photos — a total of 46,000 photographs.”
    The information on the headstones — such as the deceased’s name, birth and death dates, and any epitaphs — has been collected and transcribed by McMannis and other members of the Harvey County Genealogical Society, and soon will be put into an online database for the public to access on the Internet.
    “As headstones continue to weather and, in some cases, break or disappear,” McMannis said, “having photographic documentation becomes a means to preserve the granite memorial to those who chose to make Harvey County their final home.”
    The project has been a long and time-consuming one, however. About 16,000 headstones have been entered into the database, with 14,000 to go. The genealogical society hopes the project will be finished within the next several months.
    “I took all of the photos, and members of the society have been verifying information into the database,” McMannis said. “Carol Gibbens, Jane Jones, Patti Unruh, Annette Cook, Kelly Krotz, Ruthann Dirks and myself have all been working on this phase of the project.”
    The society has also worked with various genealogists and cemetery sextons in order to get the most accurate records and information possible for each headstone’s database entry.
    From this, the Headstone Project also can find out details about a deceased’s living family members, career, military record and other public information, such as marriage and birth certificates, so those details can be entered into the database, as well.
    “[We can then] connect the individuals in the database together, grouped as families, so that the family lines and relationships are clear,” McMannis said. “The database allows people to be connected both as parents and as children, which can then be printed out in various ancestry charts.”
    McMannis also said the goal of the project isn’t just to create a database of grave sites within the county, but to eventually be able to tell a person’s life story from what information is collected by the genealogical society or submitted by the public.
    In the future, the project hopes to be able to attach railroad news, local sports articles from newspapers, and yearbooks to the individual database entries of the deceased catalogued in this project.
    “This information will be attached in the database to the individual, in order to eventually create a complete history of their life,” McMannis said.
    Page 2 of 2 - For more information on the Harvey County Headstone Project or to submit information, contact McMannis at HarveyCountyRoots@cox.net, or visit the Harvey County Genealogical Society’s Web site at www.HarveyCountyRoots.com.
    The genealogical society also sponsors “Third Tuesday Genealogy” at the Newton Public Library, a once-monthly seminar that helps local residents learn more about, and look up, their ancestral histories.
    The next Third Tuesday Genealogy meeting is at 7 p.m. on July 20.

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