Newnan brings cemetery records into digital age

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Ashley Carmichael, an intern working in a Newnan city summer program, helps check information for mapping Oak Hill Cemetery.

By ELIZABETH RICHARDSON erichardson@newnan.com It's a tedious, monotonous job, but somebody's got to do it. Katrina Cline, finance director for the city of Newnan, and IT Director Clifton Foster have joined forces and enlisted the aid of summer interns to digitally automate deed and burial records for the city's Oak Hill and Eastview cemeteries.
It was a well-overdue move that will not only make work easier for city staff when dealing with cemetery deeds, but, one day, it will allow the public to access the information when conducting genealogical research. In the future, there could also be cemetery maps. Cline said the city decided it was time to transfer its paper records to a digital format a couple of years ago. Officials actively set out to make it a reality about a year ago. Four summer interns with the West Central Georgia Workforce Development federal grant program out of Griffin have been lending a hand to the time-consuming project. Four interns came on board in June. One has already left for college, and the remainder will be working with the city through July. "They have been very helpful getting information," said Cline. The interns have been conducting research, cross-referencing city information and, most recently, doing a cemetery audit of every section, lot and space. The long-time city system consisted of deed information on 3-by-5-inch index card files -- and even handwritten cemetery information dating back to the 1800s. The card files were easily misplaced, and all of the records were in need of preservation. The interns helped scan the city's files, which are now up to date. The city's early cemetery records only had the deceased's name and interment date, and sometimes a cause of death. "Now we're trying to capture additional data from research," said Cline. The interns are conducting research online, at funeral homes and in newspapers in search of the deceased's birthday, death date, nearest relative and a full obituary, if available. City officials hopes that in the next two years, they will be caught up on information and will be able to allow the public to access their online cemetery records. Cline said her office frequently fields calls from out-of-towners requesting specific information about a loved one or ancestor. The online records will relieve them while giving the inquirer convenient access to public information. They hope to have cemetery mapping once the cemeteries have been plotted out. Simultaneously, Newnan is working to scan and archive the Newnan City Council's meeting minutes, which date back to the 1800s and are handwritten. "They're fun to read," said Foster, who's been working diligently on the project as well. Some of the meeting minutes are already available on the city's Web site, www.ci.newnan.ga.us , under "city documents." "This is a work in progress," said Cline. "It's boring, monotonous work, but the end result will be awesome for everybody."


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