2015-01-01 / News

New Mapping System at Mackinac Island Cemeteries Important to Retaining History

By Stephanie Fortino

The City of Mackinac Island Cemetery Committee hopes to have a completed digital mapping system by next June, which will help the city clerk’s office keep track of plots and burials more efficiently. The map is one of many updates the city is considering relating to its cemeteries and burial policies.

Armand “Smi” Horn is the cemetery committee chair. Much of the information about who is buried where and who owns which plots has never been recorded. Instead, access to the information relies largely on the memory of the oldest committee members.

“Not many people know it anymore,” Mr. Horn said. “We can’t remember everything, and the ones of us that could are going. . . A world of knowledge, our seniors are.”

The City of Mackinac Island had used hand-drawn maps, incomplete records, and memory to keep track of the people buried in the cemeteries and those who purchased burial plots. Mr. Horn said the hand-drawn maps were sometimes inaccurate and incomplete. Some purchased plots were never recorded or marked in the cemetery. But this new mapping system and record-keeping effort will correct those errors.

The two city cemeteries have been mapped using Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates. Next, the cemetery committee will begin reviewing that information closely, checking names, reviewing locations, and filling in as much information as possible. The committee will begin with Ste. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery between Custer Street and Garrison Road in the center of the Island, then move to the Mackinac Island Cemetery (often referred to as the Protestant Cemetery) between Garrison Road and Fort Holmes Road.

For many years, the city has allowed unmarked graves for those who could not afford headstones, but not all of the names have been recorded. One of the biggest challenges will be making sure they learn all of the names of those buried and include them accurately on the map, Mr. Horn said.

“We’re getting it squared away,” Mr. Horn said.

In partnership with the Mackinac Island Community Foundation, the committee is also working to install headstones for unmarked graves. This summer, nine headstones were purchased. Mr. Horn estimates that between 20 and 30 headstones have been installed in total.

The city foreman and maintenance crew have been put in charge of coordinating burials, which is expected to smooth the process.

The city council will soon increase the burial plot fees, as suggested by the cemetery committee. Mackinac Island residents purchasing burial plots will pay $400 per person (up from $300) and non-residents will have to pay $10,000 (up from $2,000).

“Resident,” however, has yet to be defined by the city. Island residents will likely include people who claim their homestead on Mackinac Island, those who have lived on the Island for more than a year, and those who have lineal descendants buried on Mackinac Island. This will allow people who do not live on Mackinac Island to purchase plots in family sections where their direct family members were laid to rest.

Other burial fees will remain the same, including perpetual lot care at $300 per person and corner markers at $25.

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