Volunteers at Newark Cemetery are helping people find long-lost graves.
The Friends of Newark Cemetery run a grave-locating service that enables anyone to visit and find the resting place of a relative or loved one.
Its volunteers have access to a database containing details of the thousands of people buried in the cemetery.
Newark Cemetery, between Elm Avenue and London Road, contains more than 18,000 graves, including 147 Polish war graves.
More than 40,500 people have been laid to rest in the cemetery, which covers an area of around 20 acres.
In many cases more than one person is buried in a grave. That could be because a couple — or up to five members of the same family — were laid to rest in the same plot.
In some plots, up to 15 children were buried together because stillborn children and children who died within days of each other were historically buried in the same plot.
The Friends of Newark Cemetery previously held two or three grave-locating sessions a year, but they have become more frequent.
The volunteers hold sessions at the cemetery’s Chapel Interpretation Centre where anyone can go to locate a plot.
Volunteers can search the Deceased Online database, which contains personal details of all those buried at the cemetery and who they are buried alongside.
It also produces a reference number the volunteers use to locate a grave.
Volunteer Viv Claxton, of Newark, is trained to search the database.
“There is a massive amount of work that can be done here,” she said.
“Because we have got new people coming into our group we are being trained to search for graves.”
Viv said many volunteers became involved after finding the final resting place of a relative.
Mrs Joyce Thompson, 69, of Newark, sought help to find an unmarked grave.
Her younger brother, John Dennis Bambridge, died from meningitis when he was just ten months-old.
Mrs Thompson, who was three at the time, said: “I always knew I had a brother and that he died.
“I saw the grave locating service in the Advertiser and thought I would try to find out where John was buried.”
Volunteers from the Friends of Newark Cemetery looked up his name and found details of his burial plot.
A volunteer helped Mrs Thompson find the unmarked grave. She placed a cross and flowers there and it has been regularly tended since.
“I now know where he is and who is in the plot with him,” Mrs Thompson said.
“I felt relief, and it was nice to know because my mum didn’t know where he was. She never spoke about it.”
Mrs Thompson now volunteers with the group and is learning how to search for graves.
“I knew how I felt and it is nice doing it for other people,” she said.
Volunteer Mr Robert Roe, of Balderton, became involved after using the service to find where his brother, David Roe, was buried.
David died when he was three days-old at Peel Street Hospital, Nottingham, and his parents never told Robert where he was buried.
Robert, who was born three years after David, said: “After he died, he was buried in a pauper’s grave with no markings or headstone.”
Robert, who has seven brothers and a sister, said they were delighted to find out more about David.
“It solved a little problem in all our heads,” he said.
“We all knew we had a brother but we never knew where he was so I decided to search for him.”
'It is a valuable service to have'
Viv said it was interesting to find out the occupations of people buried in the cemetery because it also painted a picture of Newark’s old industries.
She said volunteers had found many brewers and maltsters, coalmen, and many signalmen.
Viv found a long-forgotten, unkempt grave of a Blanche Parkin, who was buried near the Chapel Interpretation Centre in 1929.
The grave was overgrown and covered in moss and she decided to tidy it up.
She looked up details of Blanche’s burial plot and those she was buried with.
Newark Town Council, which is responsible for the cemetery, can also provide information about the location of graves.
The service provided by the volunteers has helped to share the workload.
Deputy town clerk Mr James Radley said: “In some cases people did not know where the graves of their loved ones were.
“It is a valuable service to have.”
Finding a plot reference
Anyone wanting to use the service can visit the Chapel Interpretation Centre during a session and give the name of a relative or loved one, and an approximate date of death, to one of the volunteers.
They search for the name on Deceased Online, which also produces the information recorded when the person died.
That includes their date of death, date of burial, age, address, marital status and occupation.
It also brings up a reference number for the grave plot they are buried in and details of anyone else buried in the same plot.
With the reference number, the volunteers can locate any grave.
The largest part of the cemetery, from London Road along the length of Elm Avenue, is divided into two parts — east and west.
The eastern part is on the left side of the central path, when viewed from London Road, and the western part is on the right.
There are more than 400 rows of graves, with every 50th row marked by a stone. The first row is at the London Road entrance and the last is near the end of Elm Avenue.
Each of the east and west parts are sub-divided into columns denoted by letters of the alphabet. Some of the columns are signposted with small stone markers.
An example of a grave reference number would be WA68. The W refers to the west part of the cemetery; the A refers to the column and 68 refers to the row.
In older parts of the cemetery, many plots are unmarked. That means they are either an unmarked grave or that someone bought the plot but it was never used.
There have been three extensions to the cemetery on land between Elm Avenue and Thoresby Avenue, the most recent in 2013.
Each extension is sub-divded into east and west and their own rows and columns.
Grave references for these newer parts have an X in them, which stands for extra.
Grave-locating sessions are advertised in advance on the Friends of Newark Cemetery Facebook page. People can also contact Newark Town Council by visiting the Town Hall or calling 01636 680333.