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Treasures of the Digital Archives: Cemetery Records

Maggie Rail/Matt Morris, April 2000; Chief Joseph Cemetery in Okanogan County.

Photo Credit: Maggie Rail/Matt Morris, April 2000; Chief Joseph Cemetery in Okanogan County. Cemetery Records Collection.

Currently, the cemetery records series provides indexes to 347 cemeteries across the state. Each index was created by volunteers who put boots on the ground to gather information from each gravesite - not an easy undertaking (pun intended). These volunteers not only catalogued each gravesite for the indexes, but they also conducted research in order to provide some background on the cemeteries. For example, Maggie Rail writes of Greenwood Cemetery in Whitman County: "The first listed burial in the cemetery was in Oct 1878, which is when it was the Oregon Territory. This means the cemetery must have been established about that time. There are two other burials that year, one in November and another in December. After walking this cemetery and seeing so many vacant spaces in the older sections, I am convinced there are many unmarked graves, which I do not account for. I will continue to try however to see if I can find more early records." This is but one sample of the great effort put forth by the volunteers, many of whom are members of the Washington State Cemetery Association, in order for the public to have online access to this wealth of information.