This wide-ranging, cutting-edge, urgent, amazing project is now complete, according to project director Eileen McGuckian. Montgomery County Cemetery Inventory Revisited (MCCI-R) built upon a ground-breaking survey conducted from 2004 to 2009 to fulfill the urgent goal of advocates to compile an inventory of all local identified burial sites. The Historic Preservation Commission awarded five small grants to Peerless Rockville, and Anne Brockett led volunteers to assemble lists, visit 263 identified sites, create a Microsoft Access database, GIS map, digital photographs, printed inventory forms, paper files at MCHS library, and site cover sheets available on Montgomery Planning website. A brochure was produced, two conservation workshops were conducted for property owners, a Watch List listed endangered cemeteries, and recommendations were made for further progress.
Directed by Montgomery Preservation Inc. (MPI), MCCI-R significantly updates the data, technology, and accessibility of the earlier inventory. Made possible by a mini-grant from Heritage Montgomery, additional funding for this project came from MPI, Peerless Rockville, and General William Smallwood Chapter SAR.
Between January and April 2018, staff conducted five training sessions to prepare 90 volunteers to visit all known burial sites in Montgomery County. Project volunteers (teenagers through senior citizens) assessed conditions, completed survey forms, acquired GPS coordinates, conducted additional research, and photographed the current environment. Volunteers braved overgrown vegetation, uneven ground, heat and humidity, snakes, and biting insects to survey their sites. Current conditions and assessments were compared to the 2004 survey findings, and newly-discovered burial sites were added to the inventory. African American cemeteries became a particular focus, with 86 sites and multiple beneficial societies identified thus far.
All previous efforts were converted into Excel spreadsheets, new sites and ID numbers were added, all paper files at MCHS were scanned, FindaGrave links were updated new entries were created, most sites were personally visited, applications such as MCAtlas, MHT Medusa, GoogleMaps and more were utilized, and contact with volunteers continues to be maintained. The coordinators met with M-NCPPC personnel and the 2004-2009 coordinator to identify sites, review progress, and evaluate findings.
As a result of this project, solid new information is available on Montgomery County cemeteries: Each survey contains additional fields (ownership, safety concerns, designation status). New sites were added, some sites believed lost were found, and a few sites erroneously thought to be cemetery locations were removed from the list. Another result—bolstered by two protection laws passed in 2017, effective in 2018—was more public and private attention to and concern about local burial sites. This project has drawn accolades beyond Montgomery County’s borders.
The final report, submitted in December 2018, includes summaries and statistics derived from MCCI-R project, recommendations, next steps, and a variety of categorical lists.
On May 16, 2019, the Montgomery County Planning Board unanimously adopted the Montgomery County Burial Sites Inventory and Montgomery County Planning Board Guidelines for Burial Sites (PDF).