What is a Cemetery?
The Guidelines definition of a cemetery is straightforward -- it includes places where the dead are buried. The human dead anyway -- pet cemeteries are not included. It addition to the types of features mentioned in the Guidelines, columbariums (a place for the storage of urns containing cremated remains) are also included.
Some small family cemeteries (usually historical) are included in the database, but in general more recent family cemeteries are not included. Single graves also are generally not included, unless they are the graves of famous historical figures.
Where does our Cemetery database originate?
There are two principal sources of cemetery data in the TNMC Structures database: US Geological Survey Topographic maps, and the USGenWeb project.
US Geological Survey topographic maps were produced from about 1879 to 1992 using a combination of aerial photographs and on-the-ground surveys and inventories. In addition to large more-modern cemeteries, many small cemeteries of historical significance were mapped, and these are included in our database. If you are viewing a listed cemetery location in the Aerial Imagery view of the Potlatch editor, and there doesn't seem to be anything visible there, try switching over from aerial imagery to USGS Topos, and then you often will see the notation of a cemetery on the topographic map.
Additional cemetery locations were submitted to the database by the USGenWeb Project. This volunteer project, started in 1996, fosters Internet resources for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States.
Because many historical cemeteries have been carefully documented and included in the database, please do not remove cemeteries from the database simply because they are not visible in aerial imagery. Only remove cemeteries if the imagery shows without a doubt that the landscape has been altered (for example, a shopping center now exists where the cemetery used to be), or if you have local or on-the-ground knowledge that the cemetery has been moved or destroyed.
Where should I place a cemetery structure point?
The general rule is to locate the cemetery structure point at the centroid of the cemetery area. A single point should be placed even if a cemetery has a combination of facilities (graves, mauseleums, columbariums).
Some columbarium-only facilities are located in church buildings, although their presence may be difficult to ascertain or validate; they should be represented by a point at the center of the church structure.
What are authoritative sources of information about cemetery locations?
There are no single complete authoritative sources of information about cemeteries, but there are many internet resources that together can provide a fairly complete list of cemeteries:
What Address should be given for rural cemeteries?
Many cemeteries are located in rural areas where county and state roads do not have precise mailing addresses. You can attempt to find an address through reverse geocoding in Google Maps Classic:
Why do we collect information about cemeteries?
Perhaps the original reason we started collecting information about cemeteries is that they were prominent feature types shown on USGS topographic maps. But another reason is that there are many people that are interested in history and genealogy and find this information useful. One of our volunteers says:
"...as a lifelong genealogist, I have been frustrated with the gap between local information about cemeteries and what is easily available in a consistent, reliable, national format. I have benefited from hundreds of thousands of hours of work by others and this is the way I am giving back."
What is a Post Office?
The authoritative list for Post Offices is the US Postal Service website. On this website there is a link to the Find Locations web page where you can do a search for a particular post office. There are quite a few types of Location Types you can choose from, but the USGS guidelines stipulate that only official USPS facilities should be included in the National Structures dataset: this translates to the Post Offices and Village Post Offices location types. To do a search for only these two types, select “Post Offices and Approved Postal Providers” from the Location Types list and then click on the Refine search link, and then make sure that only Post Offices and Village Post Offices are checked.
This restricted definition means that many locations that sell stamps or have only automated postal centers or only participate in the PO Box Online program, such as markets, banks, and office and mailing supply stores and other types of Contract Postal Units, do not qualify as Post Offices for the National Structures dataset. To be sure that a location is an official Post Office, search for it at the USPS website using the search criteria described above. Another indication of an official Post Office is that all Post Offices are required to fly the US Flag outside the building.
Naming Post Offices:
The guidelines stipulate that the correct way to name a post office is: <name> Post Office, for example “Pueblo Post Office”. The name is the name that is shown in the USPS website. Occasionally, you will see a Post Office on the USPS website that has a name like “Westminster (Harris Park)”; in this case, name the post office as: "Westminster Post Office Harris Park Station”.
Editing/Reviewing Post Offices for a city or county:
You might want to review all of the Post Offices for a city or county. To do this, go to the USPS Find Locations web page; restrict the search to Post Offices and Village Post Offices; type in the city of interest; and select a reasonable search radius. Then go through all of the locations and make sure they are in the Structures database. If you are working on a county, then successively type in the names of various cities in that county with a reasonable search radius for each so that when each of your search results are combined you get complete results for the whole county. NOTE: there is a USPS web page for searching for Post Offices within a county, but this search uses an out-of-date-database, so it is recommended not to rely on this county search.