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Community / Family history project aims to photograph every gravestone

The graveyard at the Knab in Lerwick. Photo: Shetland News

A “PIONEERING” project to photograph every gravestone in Shetland to provide a historical record for families and folk interested genealogy is well underway.

The Shetland Family History Society has completed around three quarters of the isles so far.

It follows a previous project to transcribe all headstone inscriptions throughout Shetland, which was organised into 30 books.

In a letter to local community councils, society chair Susan Cooper said the hope is to have the photos and inscriptions available online to its members.

“Graves deteriorate, so to have the writing and a photo really helps families and genealogy,” she wrote.

“We have found this particularly useful during the pandemic for older people or folk who are shielding and who might not be able to travel.”

The society is working with a local web design company on the project.

The project has used volunteers so far but there will be expense with building a platform for the photos to be viewed.

Cooper added that this type of scheme “really boosts the travel and tourism sector” – with families coming from all over the world to see where their ancestors came from.

“We usually host many visitors in our open office every afternoon,” she added.

“Since the pandemic we have seen a rise in online enquiries and having a photo to email to researchers is a terrific complement to our services.

“It’s something that all ages can become interested in and able to undertake wherever you live.

“We firmly believe that it promotes wellbeing and for some has really increased their internet skills tremendously during these uncertain times.”

The society has written to every community council in Shetland ahead of potentially applying for funding.

The Shetland Family History Society has been on the go since 1996 and it has nearly 1,000 members from across the globe.