Looking for a way to make it a bit easier for yourself and your family to locate great-great-grandma Ethel’s grave site? When you use GPS technology, this becomes simple for anyone, regardless of their familiarity with the rows upon rows of identical-looking headstones and grassy plots. There are many factors to consider when you do it yourself to assure you are recording the proper GPS coordinates of the grave. Here’s a rundown on what you need to know about marking a grave site’s GPS coordinates.
Locating a city using a GPS device is relatively simple due to the size of the area being located. Locating a small portion the size of a grave site is a little more difficult to pinpoint. For example, if you have a GPS device and are looking for a specific restaurant, you might notice that it directs you close to the location, but is still a little bit off when it comes time to turn into the driveway. Maybe it tells you to turn into the business ahead of it, or even just past the driveway. As annoying as this might be, it’s just the nature of the technology. If you use a little common sense, you can find the driveway yourself. Consider the device as just a guide.
The average person will not likely be able to afford the commercial grade GPS device necessary for precise plotting down to a specific grave site. However, some consumer grade devices can get you within 20′ diameter of the site you are plotting, and sometimes even better. When looking for a device, look for a handheld unit that offers WAAS correction. This means the device relies on one or more FAA satellites to correct the GPS data. You should also use a GPS device that marks a waypoint based on averages gathered over a period of time. Some Garmin devices, for example, come with these features.
A crucial component to properly marking GPS coordinates of the grave site is how sensitive the receiver is even in conditions making it tough to get satellite signal, such as tree cover. This is simple: find a model that specifically states it has a “high sensitivity” GPS chipset. Older Garmin models will not have this feature, so seek out those that do.
The Garmin eTrex Venture HC includes all the features you’ll need, including the high sensitivity chipset. It also features a screen that is easy to read, even in daylight, and as an added bonus, is highly affordable.
No Automotive-Specific GPS Devices
This should be a no-brainer, but in case you don’t know how these devices function, here’s why you need to avoid a car-specific device. The firmware inside the GPS devices built to get you from point A to point B in your car is specifically designed to record on-road positions. If your car or person happen to head off-road, or on a road that isn’t precisely geolocated, the device will move the little icon of your car’s position back to the nearest road, something called “road snap.” Sometimes, if you wander 200′ or more from a road, the device still tries to place you back on the road using the nearest coordinates of that road. This results in inaccurate coordinate data. Great feature for driving, not so much for walking around a cemetery. Any attempts to accurately gather coordinate data will be in vain, as improper coordinates will be recorded.
If you do your homework, you should discover the GPS unit that is just right for you when it comes to mapping grave locations of your loved ones, whether for personal use or genealogical purposes.