Local News

County gravesite information going online

SEBRING - Mike Flood bends down on one knee in front of a headstone to pluck a few sprigs of grass and then takes a photo of the grave marker with his smartphone.

He moves to his right to photograph the next headstone or marker and continues the routine until he has a visual record of every grave site.

About four months ago, Flood, who is a member of the Highlands County Genealogical Society, began documenting local cemeteries and grave sites for an online database.

Two others, who are not with the society, are also working on the project in Highlands County. The photos Flood and the others are taking are being uploaded to the BillionGraves website.

Flood said BillionGraves is a private company with a website that helps people locate where their loved ones are buried.

According to the BillionGraves' website, modern technology is used to capture images of headstones with their GPS locations so users worldwide can access those records anywhere.

"I was individually mapping them and putting them on a separate web page, but I found this a whole lot easier. I am converting everything over to a BillionGraves," Flood said.

A smartphone application from BillionGraves automatically records the longitude and latitude of the grave site photographs.

After he takes the photos, BillionGraves allows anybody to go in and transcribe the information from the photographs, Flood noted.

Once they are transcribed, he has control over them, Flood said, "so I go back and check everything and make sure they are all transcribed right.

"It saves me a lot of work."

Friday, Flood photographed headstones and markers in the Oak Hill Cemetery, north of Lake Placid.

Today, he is planning to go to Venus to take photos at the Settlers Cemetery, located behind the Venus United Methodist Church near the intersection of

Old State Road 8 and County Road 731.

Flood is also seeking out remote or smaller grave sites. Soon he will be taking photographs of three graves in a cow pasture in Bassinger.

"I hear there are a couple just south of Sebring," Flood said. "I will have to do a little research to find them."

Many churches have their own little graveyards, too, he added.

Flood has been to all except two of the 17 Highlands County cemeteries listed on BillionGraves.

The grave documentation should be completed in the county before the end of the year, he said. Then he will branch out to the county's border areas, such as to cemeteries in Polk County, located near the Polk -Highlands border.

Flood is also transcribing/photographing Bible records, the birth, marriage and death information people write in their Bibles along with the newspaper clippings of obituaries and births. He is putting the information online.

"I am looking for Bible records all over," he said.

Flood, who was a member of a genealogical society in Maryland, became a member of the Highlands County Genealogical Society in 2002-03 after relocating to Highlands County.

For more information, go to the website www.fl-genweb.org, select "Highlands County" and then on the left select "cemeteries." Scroll down for a listing of cemeteries by community. Some of the cemeteries are linked to the BillionGraves website. Some cemeteries, such as Lakeside Cemetery in Sebring, have a listing of names of the deceased.

To contact Flood call 863-471-6381 or stop by on Thursdays at the Highlands County Genealogical Society's library at the Sebring Chamber of Commerce on the Circle at 309 Circle Park Drive. The society's library is open 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.

People can bring their Bibles to the society's library for documentation.