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Names in Norfolk Cemeteries
by John Cardiff
Last updated: 08 Aug 2009

The Norfolk County Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society recently (Spring 2006) released version 1.0 of a PDF file on CD-ROM which indexes names on stones in Norfolk County cemeteries. It is available from the Branch for $20 plus $5 shipping. Copyright 2006, the data is current to 2003. I recently got to test drive a copy.

This CD-ROM is a much better resource than the Ontario Cemeteries Finding Aid index. It covers all known Norfolk cemeteries, not just the smattering online. Moreover, the Branch has re-checked many cemeteries in recent years, so this index should benefit from any error detection.

What’s in this Adobe Reader-compatible PDF data file? A 1688-page book that alphabetically lists 45 people per page, double-spaced. Each single-line entry consists of four columns: surname, first name, cemetery name, and transcription page number. The cemetery name column provides the name of the Branch’s printed cemetery stone transcription you may order for a stone’s complete text. (A separate PDF on this CD lists all publications available for sale from OGS/Norfolk.)

A printed 1688-page document would be awkward to use, heavy to carry, expensive to print, buy and mail, and take up a lot of bookshelf real estate. Having the same data in PDF format on a CD-ROM solves all those problems. Thank you, Norfolk Branch.

Acrobat Reader provides the ability to re-size the page -- handy for those who struggle to read small type.  You can also cut-and-paste selected entries into another document, to build your own family-specific list. A big plus is Acrobat Reader’s ability to search this document for whatever text you choose to enter.

Enter a surname and it returns a list of everyone in every cemetery with that surname, plus an entry count. Counting Elizabeths won't help you much, but counting Thompsons might. Enter the name of a cemetery and it returns an every name list of those buried there, plus a count of names found in that cemetery.

Surviving spouses frequently put both names on the stone in anticipation of also being interred there. My father’s stone also lists my mother although she is still living. Both names appear in this PDF, just as they do on the stone, suggesting both are deceased. A search for Cardiff returns a list of that surname on stones in all cemeteries, regardless of the number of stones, or the true status of those named.

This PDF can save genealogists tons of time and effort.  Too bad it was so long in coming. The Branch has had a printed version of this PDF available for in-house research for more than a year.

That said, nothing in this world is perfect. Obviously, unreadable stones could not be transcribed and therefore are not included. The omission of an alphabetical table of contents with starting page numbers, which would have made document navigation easier, is perhaps my biggest regret. (Click here to see ours.)

Transcription errors and omissions are another problem. David Weatherly is on a Doan’s Hollow Cemetery stone. But the surname in this index is spelled with an extra e -- Weatherley. There are stones for both George Jackson and his relict Elizabeth in St. John’s Anglican Cemetery, but neither is listed in this publication. Infrequently words like Cemetery are misspelled, which can throw a cemetery name count off.

One of Norfolk’s prettiest cemeteries is Evergreen Cemetery in Lynedoch. This cemetery is where remains from the area’s old Methodist burying ground ended up. While everyone else refers to this cemetery as "Evergreen," which is the name over the entrance, OGS/Norfolk has chosen to use a more accurate, but less search-intuitive name: "Old Methodist & Evergreen." 

A more serious reservation is surname transcription inconsistences. For example, this Adobe PDF document spells McCall both Mc Call and McCall, inserting a space that does not appear on the stones. Transcriptions are seldom, if ever, perfect, but this error occurs in over 10 percent of McCall listings -- maybe 30 out of 230. OGS/Norfolk really ought to stress proof-reading more. These McCall spaces have been reported to the Branch time and again during the past dozen years, but remain uncorrected.

The foregoing not withstanding, my highest praise is reserved for those who produce truly useful, reasonably priced resources. This CD-ROM definitely qualifies.

Names in Norfolk County Cemeteries (2003) ver. 1.0 in PDF format on is available from Norfolk Branch of Ontario Genealogy Society.


Copyright 2006-2009 John Cardiff