Waikouaiti genealogist Allan Steel photographs a headstone
at Hawksbury Cemetery.
A Waikouaiti genealogist has spent many Sundays
photographing graves and plaques of servicemen and women in
Otago cemeteries to help family historians fill gaps.
Allan Steel (60) said the more information available for
genealogists the easier it was to create a family tree.
''I know what it's like when you are trying to find a
headstone for someone in a town that you can't get to. If
someone in Auckland wants to get a photo of a plaque of his
grandfather in Andersons Bay, then I'm making it available.''
He had photographed 5800 graves and plaques of 6100
servicemen and women in Dunedin cemeteries since last
November. About 300 of the 6100 names were from memorials of
those buried overseas or those who died on the way to war and
were buried at sea, he said.
The Dunedin City Council website had a record of those buried
in council cemeteries but did not record the information on
memorial plaques, he said.
The headstone of Sergeant Jim Hall at Hawksbury Cemetery,
Waikouaiti. Photos by Gerard O'Brien.
For example, a headstone of a husband and wife had a
plaque with the names of their three sons, who were killed in
combat, he said.
''But there's no official records of the sons at the
council,'' Mr Steel said.
The photo would help genealogists learn of the three fallen
men, he said.
But the database contained mostly those who served, returned
and died in New Zealand, such as his father, James Allan
Steel, who served in the Middle East between 1941 and 1943
and was buried in Andersons Bay Cemetery in 1962.
Mr Steel photographed the graves and plaques on Sunday
mornings and returned home to match the names of the
servicemen and women with cemetery records and the records of
the units in which they had served, and then transcribed them
into a spreadsheet.
He had taken all the photos for the project and was inputting
the data, he said. When the spreadsheet was complete, he
would send it to several museums and would not be updating
the project with more photos, he said.
''I'm not guaranteeing I've found them all, but I've made as
good as an attempt as I can.''
The project was a follow-on from another he completed last
year, in which he photographed all the 8100 graves and
plaques in 18 Otago cemeteries and transcribed the
information to a spreadsheet to to provide back-up in the
event of a natural disaster destroying the sites.