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David Winkler

David Winkler

Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at Docufree | Specializing in SaaS, Enterprise Software, Enterprise Content Management, and Business Process Outsourcing

How Cemeteries Can Benefit from Document Scanning and Digitization

This article was originally published on Funeral Home & Cemetery News.

Many cemeteries today are dealing with a critical challenge: They are running out of room. Unfortunately, more burial space for expansion is hard to secure in light of booming urban expansion and stricter zoning regulations.

Another serious challenge cemeteries face is trying to manage a multitude of paper-based records in an increasingly digital world. It is a very manual process for cemetery staff to figure out which lots are available for sale and then to manage the paperwork associated with any new sales. Not to mention, what would happen if a cemetery lost its records due to an unforeseen natural disaster—with no other copies?

The cemetery industry is not typically known for utilizing newer technologies. However, the cost dynamics have changed. Now, it makes more fiscal sense for cemeteries to join the digital transformation that’s been taking place across Corporate America for more than two decades. The costs of technology platforms and digitization have come down to levels where it is justified simply by the reduction in labor costs. Not to mention, the opportunity to eliminate the risk of having a single source of records on paper has never made more sense.

Digitizing records can decrease administration time and increase operational efficiency for cemetery owners and staff. Digitalization allows staff and visitors to immediately see available plots and provides the public with an option to make purchases online. Additionally, anyone can search to see who is buried in a cemetery, then automatically get a map that takes them from the entrance directly to the burial lot.

Public cemeteries can benefit immensely from digitizing their records, and the Town of Marshfield is a prime example.   

Town of Marshfield Gains Peace of Mind with Digital Records

Marshfield, Mass., is a 350-year-old town, 30 miles south of Boston on the Cape Cod Bay. Being locked in on one side by the Atlantic Ocean only exacerbated the space problem the Cemetery Department was dealing with.

The seven cemeteries spread across the Town of Marshfield were filling up pretty quickly, so the issue of cemetery expansion quickly became a priority. As such, The Board of Public Works requested an audit of the cemetery records to verify available lots. The problem the Cemetery Department faced was how to accurately and quickly review a storage safe full of thousands of documents dating back multiple decades.

The records, originally kept in a walk-in safe at Town Hall and using a filing process loosely based on the Dewey Decimal system, amounted to thousands of pieces of paper between the multiple maps for each cemetery, deed and burial cards along with copies of the actual deeds. At the time, the Board Chairman, being a technology proponent, wanted to see all the records digitized and easily available on computers.

The Cemetery Department selected a provider experienced in digital transformation and one that offered a proven, cloud-based cemetery records management platform to help.

The majority of the project was done once the documents were digitized. Immediately thereafter, the Cemetery Department’s staff was able to review records, cross-checking questionable lots, and then rectifying them in the system. Whether it was a superintendent, the cemetery foreman or the administrative clerk, they all now had immediate access and insight into the same cemetery information, getting a real-time overview of which lots were being used and which ones were available.

“The whole process of selling a cemetery lot prior to our digitization project was very, very tedious,” said Dan Bowen, assistant superintendent of business administration for the Town of Marshfield. “Take the call, locate the paper map, get the ladder to reach the shelf where it’s stored, make sure you have the right map, walk it over to the trailer, open the map to review it and call the person back to discuss options—and hope the map you have is accurate. The Cemetery Department operates at more than 90-percent efficiency now.”

The Town of Marshfield’s cemetery records-management solution uses a combination of innovative technologies, capabilities and customer support to successfully digitize and manage both old and new information. Over the course of eight years, digitizing cemetery records have delivered these results for the Town of Marshfield: 

  • Provided anytime-anywhere access to the same data at all cemeteries and Town Hall;
  • Eliminated redundancy of entering owner information onto three different documents;
  • Reduced staff time used for historical and ancestral research with newly created online public access to data;
  • Allowed for reports on sales by date, available lots and veteran lots to be created instantly;
  • Created interactive, visual maps that allow the public to find available lots, ultimately helping the town with lot sales; and
  • Developed mapping navigation features that show the public how to find a burial location.

Do Your Due Diligence on Vendors

Before any cemetery begins a digitization project, it should conduct the necessary homework. Vendors under consideration should have the infrastructure in place to perform large-scale scanning projects and have a track record of working with cemeteries in the past. Also, cemeteries should look for solution providers that offer multiple options for storing and managing records, along with other applications such as digital signature, version control and workflow automation. 

David Winkler is Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at Docufree, a leading provider of enterprise information management (EIM) and digital business process services for cemeteries. For more information, visit

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