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Technology meets history with virtual cemetery database

Burial locations can now be found online at Resurrection, Mater Dolorosa
Cliff Russell, director of the Diocese of Owensboro’s Catholic Cemeteries Office, and Vicki Jones, office assistant, look through files on Oct. 6, 2020. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC


For the first time ever, family members and genealogists alike will be able to digitally search for gravesite locations at Resurrection Cemetery on Highway 54 in Owensboro and Mater Dolorosa Cemetery on West 9th St. in Owensboro.

This new function is the result of several years of work by the staff at the Diocese of Owensboro’s Catholic Cemeteries Office, which oversees Resurrection and Mater Dolorosa.

Cliff Russell, the director of the Catholic Cemeteries Office, and Vicki Jones, office assistant, told The Western Kentucky Catholic on Oct. 6 that prior to the digitization, records had been stored on physical cards in drawers.

“Having everything on the computer makes it more convenient and secure,” said Jones, explaining that this is an added benefit of placing the information online.

Jones joined the cemetery office in June 2018. That fall, they started entering the information in the database, which was only made available to the public this year.

Jones and Russell explained that there are currently 4,986 buried at Resurrection Cemetery, all of which can be searched at The COVID-19 pandemic has put a delay on completing and proofing Mater Dolorosa’s site, but the cemeteries staff continue to work on it when possible. They said it is searchable – with the caveat that it has not yet been fully proofed – at

The simple, user-friendly Cemify sites feature a bird’s-eye map of the applicable cemetery, with a search bar on the left side into which visitors can type a name. After typing the name and hitting the “Enter” key, a list of burials with that name appears under the search bar. Digital markers also appear on the map, indicating the location of all of those names.

Visitors can click on the names to be sent to a page with the section, lot and grave number of each person. 

A bird’s-eye view of Mater Dolorosa Cemetery in Owensboro is seen on the landing page for the cemetery’s digital search engine. SCREENSHOT

Russell said it helps to be able to pull up the exact plot specifications online, rather than trying to describe the physical location to someone who is seeking to visit the gravesite of a loved one. The convenience helps ease the experience overall.

“I had a lady call whose grandfather was buried here, and she was able to find where he was buried” thanks to the online site, said Jones.

Additionally, “we have a lot of people doing genealogy and now we can just point them to the website,” said Russell.

He added that this process has taken so long to complete because the paper-focused system did work sufficiently for many years and “it was such a daunting task to transition from the old way of doing things.”

Previously, the gravesites were listed in a physical card catalogue in drawers in the cemeteries office. Jones pulled out every single card and entered the information in an Excel spreadsheet, which was then uploaded to the Cemify software. Cemify also provided the mapping based on paper maps in the cemeteries office.

“It’s been a multi-step process and will continue to be,” Russell said of the ongoing work of maintaining and proofing the databases.

He said that eventually, they’d like to offer even more information, such as obituaries, scanned and digitized for the public to view – “but that’s a long way off because of the amount of stuff that it is.”

A historical marker notes that Bishop Francis R. Cotton of the Diocese of Owensboro was the first to be buried at Resurrection Cemetery on Sept. 30, 1960. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC

Besides searching for gravesites, Russell said you can currently view plot availability for purchase on Resurrection’s Cemify site. Resurrection’s site also features information on the purchase of memorial markers, as well as rules and regulations for the cemetery.

“I’m excited about the fact that technology has met the history,” said Russell. “Because the technology is not going away – it’s only going to advance.”

“This is a great service for the cemeteries and for the public in general,” he said.

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Did you know?

This year is the 60th anniversary of Resurrection Cemetery’s founding and of Bishop Francis R. Cotton’s burial, which took place on Sept. 30, 1960. Bishop Cotton, the first bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro, was the first person to be buried at Resurrection.


All Souls Day

The Catholic Church observes All Souls Day annually on November 2. It is a special day to remember those who have died and to pray for their souls. Read Bishop Medley’s November 2019 column about this feast day at

Originally printed in the November 2020 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

Copyright © 2020 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic

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