The Cemetery Project
The Portsmouth Town Council has tasked the Portsmouth Historical Society to assist the Portsmouth Town Planner to document and manage the historic cemeteries in the Town.
We are in the process of forming s cemetery project committee that will lead the cemetery project.
For more information on how to participate, e-mail PHSInfo@Portsmouthistorical.org
Kick-off Meeting: July 24 @ 6 PM
A Kick-off Meeting for all who are interested in participating in the Cemetery Project will be held at the Portsmouth Free Public Library on Monday July 24th at 6 PM. Historical Society Board member and Cemetery Project coordinator, Gary Crosby, will discuss procedures for volunteers to follow in updating the status and information on Portsmouth Cemeteries. The first phase of this inventory will focus on Town-owned cemeteries (about 20). Individual and/or group cemetery assignments for will be made to ensure that all Town-owned cemeteries are covered in this inventory.
The Cemetery Committee is working on the details of the project execution, but, generally, the following process is recommended.
Their are many databases and sources of information on cemeteries and gravesites. The most central database for Rhode Island Cemeteries is the
It has listings of documented cemeteries with varying levels of information and details for each RI Town.
Please review the RI Historical Cemetery Handbook.
See the below aides for transcribing headstone information and naming of photos.
How to Properly Survey a Cemetery or Graveyard or Site.
The general procedure for documenting a cemetery site is as follows:
Before You Actually Visit the Cemetery Site
It is important to gather existing information on the cemetery you plan to visit and start your information package.
1. Download the information contained in the above database for the subject cemetery. Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission Web Page.
2. Examine the sheet for missing information.
3. Print out a blank copy of the Cemetery Inspection Report.
4. Contact the Town Planner, Gary Crosby to determine what additional information he has on the site.
5. Go to the Town GIS database (select the GIS icon on the Town Home Page (www.portsmouthri.com).
(1) Determine the plat number that the cemetery is in.
(2) Note if it is Town-owned or privately-owned. If privately-owned, note the owner for completing the Cemetery Property Owner Permission Form.
6. Visit the Town Hall Town Clerk’s Office and examine the deed of the property to determine if any cemetery information is contained in the deed. Make notes on what you find.
7. If visiting a cemetery on private property, print out a Cemetery Property Owner Permission Form. Contact the owner to complete the form. When interviewing the owner, please make sure they know that the town is establishing a property tax credit program for residents who maintain historic grave sites on their property.
8. Print out, fill out and sign the Volunteer Permission Slip (unless you have previously submitted a form to the Society Cemetery Project Committee).
Visiting the Cemetery Site
9. Before going onto private property, ensure the private property owner has signed a Cemetery Property Owner Permission Form.
10. Use a GPS app on your smart phone to document the exact geographic location of the cemetery
11. Using the Cemetery Inspection Report Form as a guide, document the details of the cemetery site. (If you have time, compare the gravestones to the list in the RI Cemeteries database.)
Completing the Cemetery Survey
12. Complete the documentation forms for all information and return the completed forms to the Historical Society Cemetery Committee for entry into the cemetery database. Your information package should include the following:
(1) Cemetery Information Printout of the Existing Information from the Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission Web Page. Ensure that as much missing information as possible is documented on the Cemetery Inspection Report Form.
(3) Cemetery Property Owner Permission Form (if visiting a cemetery site on private property).
(5) Photos (electronic files are preferred) (DVD or thumb drive); or, arrange to e-mail your photo files. (see Standardized Naming for Digital Photos of Gravestones (PDF). for naming photo files.
(6) Headstone Transcriptions using the Headstone Transcription Form (PDF).