History of Cemetery Records Online
by Steve Johnson, April 3, 2009 (originally written March 1,
|Screen shot of the original home page. Click
|The second design of the site incorporated
a Frontpage Theme. Click to enlarge.
|The third design of the site utilized a table
design. Click to enlarge.
|The fourth design of the site uses the newsletter
style. Click to enlarge.
|The fifth design of the site carried the newsletter
style into a full screen width. Click to enlarge.
|The sixth design of the site is a total departure
from previous designs. Click to enlarge.
|The seventh design expands on the sixth, by
emphasizing simplicity. Click to enlarge.
|The eighth went back to the full screen mode,
and sought to create more simplicity. Click to enlarge.
Since 1983, I have been involved in online computing, using my
old TRS-80 computer and a 300 baud modem. Anyone remember acoustic
couplers? Me and my friends would spend hours into midnight hopping
from one bulletin board to another.
In 1992 I started researching my ancestry. I spent many weekends
driving up to the Los Angeles Family History Center, piecing together
my family's past using microfilms and books.
In 1993, now with my aging Atari ST computer, and a speedy 9600
baud modem, I used the old FidoNet bulletin board network to interact
with genealogists across the country, sending out e-mails and finding
It wasn't until 1996 that I began surfing the web, searching for
ancestors. I was searching for surnames on Alta Vista and found
several websites that had cemetery transcriptions. I wanted to find
cemetery records for various cemeteries that my ancestors were buried
in. But I was not able to find a central directory of cemetery websites.
So in March of 1997, I created a web page named "Cemetery Interment
Lists on the Internet" as a directory of cemetery web sites
that provided online records.
The web page was actually hosted on my personal website that I
had created a month earlier. The site was coded by hand using a
text editor. I spent several hours each day combing the 'Net for
cemetery websites, and organizing the links geographically. I soon
broke out the links into separate state pages. With all different
pages, I created an external style sheet file to control the design.
I submitted the website to all the major search engines, and wrote
to all of the USGenWeb county coordinators. Within 6 months, the
site was receiving about 500 visitors a day. Yahoo was the only
directory that would not list the site. I later learned it was because
the site did not have its own domain name!
Some visitors starting sending actual recordings of tombstone inscriptions
that they compiled. I originally had not intended to publish these.
At first, I had referred them all to Pam Reid, the creator of the
Tombstone Transcription Project. But some of these people specifically
wanted me to publish it on Cemetery Interment Lists on the Internet,
because they wanted their records to get as much exposure as possible.
I had plenty of web space then (a whole 5Mb) and went ahead and
By December of 1998, the site was receiving about 800 visitors
a day. The server that hosted my personal home page could not adequately
support the traffic. It was just one of those slow servers that
hosted the freebie webspace you got as part of your dial-up ISP
account. I needed a faster server and more space.
I registered the "interment.net" domain, and set up a
site with Hostpro. I also purchased
Microsoft Frontpage 98, and converted the entire site to a Frontpage
web. I submitted the site to Yahoo, and this time it was accepted.
By March of 1999, the site's 2nd birthday, we were getting about
1,500 visitors. The Yahoo listing really made a difference.
Because of the change in domain names, I had to contact the webmasters
of all the websites that linked to ours. I was able to run searches
on AltaVista to find about 300 of these sites. Most of the webmasters
complied with the change. I figure there is still another 300 sites
out there still linking to the old URL. In fact, I still have the
old site up, but all the pages are redirecting to the new domain.
The old site continues to be one of our largest referrers of visitors.
By the following June, several visitors were sending me their cemetery
transcriptions. At the same time, I was finding that so many of
the websites that I was linking to had moved to different domains,
thus breaking the links. I made the decision to focus on publishing
cemetery records. Linking to other sites became a secondary focus.
On June 6, 1999, in order to support the new goal of publishing
records, the site went through another major redesign, and was renamed
to "Cemetery Records on the Internet".
Up until July 1999, the site was funded by my own personal finances,
which was next to nothing. But now, it was costing me. The site
demanded so much of my time, and the mostly hosting fees also cutting
into our budget, I began selling advertising space to offset the
In July 1999, The Cemetery Column
was born, to serve as an electronic journal of articles covering
topics relating to cemetery records, cemetery preservation, cemetery
history, and general genealogy. I wanted to create the Column to
serve as a dedicated media outlet for cemetery recordists.
On December 1, 1999, traffic reached 2,000 unique visitors per
day. The server we were hosted on was creating a bottleneck, causing
difficulty to some visitors. We moved the site to its own dedicated
server. In addition, we began developing the site using Macromedia's
Dreamweaver, and launched
the fourth design. On top of all that, the was renamed to "Cemetery
It was also around this time Maggie Rail joined us to help out.
She had previous experience publishing cemetery transcriptions online
with the Washington State GenWen Archives. Eventually, she took
over operations here at Interment.net as the editor.
By 2001, with Maggie holding down the publishing duties I was able
to focus more attention building publicity through magazines like
Family History Magazine and others, electronic newsletters like
RootsWeb, and doing smaller publicity arrangements with other websites
and organizations. Visitorship to Interment began soaring in the
Summer of 2001, until the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001,
which caused visitorship to plummet for the next several months.
It wasn't until January of 2003 that visitorship caught back up
and surpassed the levels saw in Summer of 2001, and then soared
again hitting a high point of about 16,000 visitors per day in March
2003. But a couple months later, Google, the most popular search
engine at that time, made radical changes to its search algorithm,
and suddenly traffic to Interment plummeted over the next several
months, hitting lows of about 7,000 visitors per day by September
The next several months saw an "up and down" rollercoaster
traffic patterns, where visitorship hit highs of 16,000 per day,
and then Google making more algorithm changes, bringing it back
down as low as 7,000.
In May of 2005, I incorporated web publishing operations into a
company called Clear Digital Media, Inc.
To remedy the up and down "rollercoaster" like traffic
patterns created by Google's constant algorithm changes, we converted
the What's New page into a weblog in November 2005, and converted
the Cemetery Column into another weblog in February 2006, to escape
some of the penalties that Google scores inadvertently on websites
that shouldn't be penalized. Thus far it appears to be working,
as visitorship is peaking again, reaching highs into the 17,000
Converting the What's New page and the Cemetery Column into a weblog
format also automated many of our manual tasks, and brought us access
to a whole new world of weblog search engines and RSS syndication.
As of today, April 2009, Interment.net continues to be within the
top 15 of the most popular FREE genealogy websites. Though several
more genealogy websites, both free and commercial have appeared,
giving us lots of competition, Interment continues to push on giving
cemetery transcribers and genealogy researchers a place to find
online burial records.
- Steve Johnson
Sponsored Genealogy Links