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News / Clark County News

Vancouver burial records now online

Website has benefits for both city staff and local residents

By Justin Runquist, Columbian Small Cities Reporter
Published: February 23, 2015, 12:00am
22 Photos
Grave markers at the Old City Cemetery, on Thursday, Feb. 19.
Grave markers at the Old City Cemetery, on Thursday, Feb. 19. Public works just launched a new searchable database that makes it easier for history buffs, genealogists and anyone else to find old burial plots in Vancouver's three city-operated cemeteries. Photo Gallery

For More Information

City of Vancouver website page on city cemeteries, with links to additional online resources:

cityofvancouver.us/cemeteries

The weathered headstones dotting the landscapes of Vancouver’s graveyards feature the names of some of the earliest pioneers in state history.

Walking through Old City Cemetery along East Mill Plain and Grand boulevards, the final resting places of Esther Short and Charles Wilbur Slocum are still visible to this day. Traditionally, the city’s finance department has maintained ledgers listing the names of Vancouver’s permanent residents there and in the city’s two other public burial grounds — Fisher Cemetery, Park Hill Cemetery.

Over the years, the records have come in handy for many genealogists, historians and others trying to track down the gravesites of family members and local pioneers dating back to the mid- or early 1800s.

Now, tracing those roots in the city’s cemeteries has become a little easier with the launch of a new website full of burial records.

For More Information

City of Vancouver website page on city cemeteries, with links to additional online resources:

cityofvancouver.us/cemeteries

Since 2013, the city has worked on converting the ledgers to an online database available for the public to search. This month, public works officials went live with the site, cityofvancouver.us/cemeteries.

The benefits of moving the records online are twofold, said Brian Potter, who oversees the grounds and cemetery crews for public works.

“First, it allows cemetery staff to more efficiently enter data, check records and manage deeds,” Potter said in a prepared statement. “Second, it provides the public with an interesting and effective experience of searching for deceased loved ones, as well as historically significant individuals, through the ease of their home computers. It truly modernizes the city’s cemetery operations.”

The site will help the city streamline record-keeping operations, he said. Cemetery crews can use it to search the system for the burial records while working in the field. City staff will also be able to provide digital rights of burial, and run a variety of electronic reports and digital maps of the burial grounds.

The database was created from thousands of original plot records, and cemetery markers and monuments throughout the city. To find a plot, the city recommends at least typing in the last name of the deceased. Some of the oldest records may be incomplete or contain spelling errors.

To put together the site, the city worked with webcemeteries.com, a Pennsylvania-based tech company that consults with hundreds of cemeteries throughout the country. The company used GPS coordinates and satellites to map out the three cemeteries.

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Columbian Small Cities Reporter