Your Quick Tips

Cemetery Transcription Tips
If you’re planning to photograph or transcribe a cemetery, check the USGenWeb Tombstone Transcription page for your county to make sure nobody else has already registered to do that work.
The national page is at Click on “View the Registry” to see a page listing the states. Then click on your state and county to see the registry. Here’s an example from my home state, Pennsylvania.
At the top of the page are links to pages showing cemetery names and locations and to transcriptions and tombstone photos of local cemeteries. Further down on the county page is a registry showing the cemeteries presently “assigned” and the progress that is being made on each.
Some states have a “tips” page, which is useful to read before you head out into the cemetery. Here’s a photo tips page, and here’s another, which gives transcription tips. Many state and county pages also have pages showing common foreign language inscription translations. All of this information is useful both in the planning stage and in the transcribing stage of your cemetery project.

I belong to a tombstone photographers’ group, and we travel from our homes to Blair County, PA, once a year and meet to photograph a cemetery or two (depending on number of interments in the cemeteries, as well as the number of volunteers who can manage the trip). We donate the photos to Blair County USGenWeb Archives for the Tombstone Project, but we also donate copies of the photos on CDs to the local genealogical and historical societies and to libraries.
All contributions to USGenWeb Archives remain the property of the contributor, who by submitting the material to the Archives gives the Archives permission to store the material permanently for free access.
Judy Banja
Blair County USGenWeb Archives

Washington, D.C. Cemetery Website
For any genealogist researching a family in the Washington, D.C. area, Congressional Cemetery has an excellent website full of information. I transcribe interment records for them, and the W eb page is constantly being updated with additional information. I am sure when you check this out and contact the cemetery they would be excited by the attention. Some of the features include

  • Pictures of headstones
  • Interment logs/records
  • Newspaper articles
  • Death certificates for interred individuals

If more cemeteries could do this type of work it would make genealogists research so much easier. The website is at
Barbara Allshouse

More on Hispanic Surnames
Adding to the article on researching Hispanic names in last week’s Ancestry newsletter, don’t forget about the Spanish surname being matriarchal (i.e., when a woman married, her surname became “maiden name y husband’s name”) and was often subsequently shortened to just her maiden name. The children of this marriage might have been known by just her maiden name rather than their father’s name.
For example, Maria Lopez marries Juan Sanchez. She becomes Maria Lopez y Sanchez, or Maria Lopez-Sanchez. Their children might be known by the surname “Lopez y Sanchez” or “Lopez-Sanchez” or “Lopez” or “Sanchez.”
As a professional researcher, I have found that supposed “gaps in chain of title” in deed records are simply a lack of understanding of these possibilities on the part of the researcher.
In many areas of Texas, this custom is in practice still, often by college-educated, professional women. My daughter-in-law, a high school Spanish teacher, uses the hyphenated version, (i.e., her maiden name-my son’s surname), since she had been teaching several years before they met and married, and her teaching certificate, as well as substantial credentials and honors she has achieved, are in her maiden name.
Mary L. Bell
Temple, Texas

If you have a suggestion you would like to share with other researchers, send it to Thanks to all of this week’s contributors!

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4 thoughts on “Your Quick Tips

  1. In addition to the use of “y” (meaning “and”), Hispanic women’s married surnames may appear using “de” (meaning “of” as in “wife of”).

    Jacinta GARCIA marries Andres GARZA. Her married name may appear as: Jacinta GARCIA DE GARZA.

    Searching for male relatives using their maternal surname sometimes yields results when other searches fail. See the article, “Locating Hispanic Ancestors in U.S. Census Records,” in the Ancestry Quick Tip dated 5/16/2002 (URL:

  2. When we lived in Spain, my son’s name appeared in his school directory as Thomas [father’s surname][mother’s surname]. I sent a copy of the page to my own father, so that he could see that his surname was not altogether lost !

    While there, my formal name was Sandra [my father’s surname][my mother’s surname] de [my husband’s surname]. Informally, I was called Sra. de [my husband’s surname].

    Naming customs may well be different in the various Latin American countries…..

  3. When taking photos in Cemenrtaries we do not always have good lighting available or the lighting is from the back of the marker. When you find yourself in conditions like these use a flash, even in daylight. This will help immensily inreading the names later which are obstructed by shadows or other objects. If you have to photograph a tombstone in daylight, move a little to one side and you will usually get a much better photo. It also helps to lower your body and camera some so that the letters can be read more easliy, even use a vertical format if it calls for it. When in doubt, copy the information on a pad so you will have the information just in case the photo does not come out as you would like. Here is the ideal situation for a digital camera as you can see the end result before you leave and may not come back again.

  4. There are no variations from Spain in Latin American countries, when it comes to surname writing patterns. Anyone researching documents outside the United States,including Puerto Rico and other Spanish speaking Caribbean nations, will find the traditional pattern “inherited” from Spain,in the new world. The hyphenated pattern of Hispanic surnames, as stated in the article, is a modern phenomenon found in the USA.

    The traditional way of writing a person’s name on documents, including birth/baptismal/marriage/death certificates,would be as follows: e.g. Maria Lopez y Sanchez de Rodriguez.
    Lopez was Maria’s father’s surname. Sanchez was Maria’s mother’s maiden name and “de” indicates Maria was married to a
    Mr. Rodriguez.

    If we find Maria’s brother, Ricardo, his name would be written: Ricardo Lopez y Sanchez. Now, if Ricardo married Elena Castillo y Ramirez, and have a son,Antonio,the child’s name is:
    Antonio Lopez y Castillo. Yes, can get frustrating in looking up an ancestor and one doesn’t have complete names!
    A person would rarely drop their father’s surname, and this occured when the mother’s family name was of a much higher social standing.

    If a genealogist finds a record (in “the old country”) indicating, e.g. Maria Sanchez de Rodriguez, more than likely, Sanchez is her mother’s maiden name and the father had not given her his family name;a not unusual occurence for children born into common-law “marriages” and those born out of wedlock (father is married to someone other than the birth mother or even single,simply refused to register the child as his,in the local municipal office).

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