The Church of England has launched a new project to map all its churchyards using laser equipment.
The Church has partnered with Cumbrian-based surveying company Atlantic Geomatics, who will map its churchyards using backpack-mounted laser scanners as well as photographing the headstones.
The resulting records will be published on a new website, where they will enable family historians to discover where their ancestors are buried.
Bishop Andrew Rumsey, lead Bishop for church buildings said: “This impressive national project will make a huge difference to those researching family history, as well as easing the administrative burden on parishes.
“It will improve management of burial grounds, and make information more fully accessible than ever before, supported by additional services by subscription for those wishing to go further.
“It will soon be possible to visit almost any Anglican burial ground in the country and see in real time the location of burial plots. For those researching at distance in the UK or overseas, the digital records will place detailed information from churchyards at their fingertips.”
The project aims to survey the majority of the Church of England’s 19,000 burial grounds by 2028.
The website, which is due to launch in spring 2022, will combine data on burials and biodiversity data on the plants and animals in the churchyards.
It is described as free to access for Church of England parishes, with additional services available to subscribers.
The programme has now successfully mapped the churchyard of St Bega in Bassenthwaite in the Diocese of Carlisle.
This follows a pilot project last year which mapped the churchyards of All Hallows Church in Kirkburton and Emmanuel Church in Shelley, both in the Diocese of Leeds.
Rosemary Collins is the staff writer of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine