Lives Behind the Stones

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This was a Heritage Lottery funded project with the original aim of preserving records of early burials at the Jewish Gilroes site in response to some worrying signs of subsidence and deterioration of the land. The project developed into cataloging the entire Jewish Cemetery so that the website now provides a full genealogical research facility.

With a team of six co-ordinators and over thirty volunteers, the project took place over a period of twelve months during 2013/14. All the stones were photographed for the database. Small plaques were made for any unmarked plots, new row markers were installed and three information boards were erected at the entrance to the site for ease of plot location. Volunteers helped with inputting basic information into the database and researching those names which looked as if they might tell a story.

The Team

The Team, led by Rosalind Adam, included Howard Freeman in charge of website, database and photography, Sandra Cohen in charge of administration and finance, Laurence Jacobs in charge of cataloguing plots and plans, Carol Cambers in charge of research and Prof. Newman as historical adviser.

Learning to Research

With the help and support of the Leicestershire and Rutland Records Office, a group of volunteers were shown the basic skills needed for family research.

A group of researchers at the Records Office, Wigston

A group of researchers at the Records Office, Wigston

Under the capable guidance of Carol Cambers, and with help from Jenny Moran from the Records Office, the volunteers delved into the past. Their resulting stories can be found here.

Photographing the Stones

ifA small but intrepid group met at Gilroes for a series of photography sessions during the Autumn of 2013, as seen in the photograph to the left. The timing was not good. The weather was not kind but we now have a photograph of every stone and these have been entered onto the database. This means that if visitors make a search on a name, the results will bring up a photograph of the headstone as well as text information.

Collecting and Inputting Data

This was one of those tasks that seemed to grow ever larger. The more we did, the more there seemed to be done. An extra special thanks goes to all those volunteers who gave up evening after evening to check and input data.

Plaques for Unmarked Graves

The hardest part of this task was checking that the names were correct. Some of the unmarked plots go back to the early 1900s and records were entered into the Council Burial Books by hand.IMG_2579A number of the unmarked plots were for stillborn babies. We did not have individual plaques made for these plots. Instead there is one plaque to mark the main area of babies and young children’s graves. At the last check, all other unmarked plots now have a small granite plaque displaying the name of the deceased. The photograph on the right shows the Mason, Gary Grant, discussing the style of the plaques with members of the team.

Creating Information Boards

IMG_2785Producing these lists was harder than we originally expected. It took Laurence Jacobs and Sandra Cohen many months of checking and rechecking names and plot numbers, before they were able to finally produce the draft for these boards.
The picture on the left shows Sandra Cohen holding a mock-up of one of the boards. The information boards were printed and affixed by Soar Valley Press.

Creating, Writing and Illustrating this Website

Many new skills have been acquired during this project. We knew that we would be learning about researching family histories but, for many of us, this section of the project was the most demanding. With much help from Howard Freeman, there is now a large group of volunteers who can find their way around a database. Again with Howard’s help, we have created webpages of text using computer code to change styles, fonts and layout.

We hope that you enjoy reading this website and that you find the stories both interesting and educational. I think I can speak for all the team when I say that we have all learned so much from doing this project and thanks again to the Heritage Lottery Team for making it possible.

I shall leave you with a little peek at our ‘half-way-through’ volunteers’ lunch party: