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History groups embark on a grave mission
HISTORY groups in Oxfordshire are busy recording inscriptions from gravestones from about 300 churchyards in the county.
In the last 20 years inscriptions from about 200 churchyards have been archived by the Oxfordshire Family History Society and are used by people researching their family trees.
The Littlemore History Society is the latest group to contribute to the collection and is in the process of recording gravestones from St Mary and St Nicholas Church in Littlemore.
Society chairman Pat Good, from Littlemore, said: “All the gravestones are going to be recorded. All the local history groups are going to do this and they will be a permanent record in the Oxfordshire archives.”
The group has recorded about 30 gravestones so far, spending about three hours there.
Members decipher what is on the stones, write them down and then take a picture.
Mrs Good, 83, said: “We use a special technique – you cannot always see these things. We have to spray the gravestones and the water shows off the writing. Or we get a mirror or a shiny bit of foil over what we want to read. It is an amazing technique.”
The mirror or foil reflects the daylight onto the gravestone, making it easier to read to read the inscription.
Alan Simpson, monumental inscriptions co-ordinator for the Oxfordshire Family History Society, said: “It is quite a slow process as you can imagine.
“It might take a year to do one churchyard and there are more than 300 churchyards in Oxfordshire, so we still have a way to go.”
He added: “All the churchyards we have done can be reproduced on a CD. People interested are those researching their family history. This lets them see stones dedicated to their ancestors and lets them read what is says on them.”
There are other groups recording the inscriptions in Deddington, Stanton Harcourt and Cowley St James.
Churches that have had gravestonesrecorded include the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, St Giles, St Clements, Marston and Headington Quarry.
Dr Simpson said: “The other support service we offer is if people know they have someone buried in Oxfordshire but are not sure when, we can check through the index.”
CDs with information on gravestone inscriptions including pictures and a plan of the churchyard requested, are available to buy for £6.
A search for a name to find out where they are buried is £1.50.
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