Project 2017/2018 Grave Marker Photographs
One of the assets the Old Cemeteries Society has is a very good searchable database that is accurate and fairly up to date. We are able to search by name, date of death, location, and a number of other criteria.
Our current project is to photograph each grave marker in Ross Bay Cemetery and link the photos to the corresponding plot number on the database. Given that there are in excess of 28,000 burials in Ross Bay Cemetery, this is a huge task. But, how hard can it be to take a bunch of pictures?
In reality, here is what goes into photographing a cemetery.
First you have to establish a starting point and a plot number for each block or section so that the sequence of pictures can be followed throught the whole process. When this list has been completed, you are ready to go into the cemetery.
The second step is the hard part! Each site has to be "prepared". We walk the rows with brooms, trowels and shovels to clean each monument and make sure that all the features and names are visible. Many of the markers and curbing are overgrown, partly buried or covered with grass clippings from lawn cutting. (The parks maintenance crew do not care if the markers get covered over with grass) This process can take a lot of time but is vital to the whole project.
Once this is complete (sections at a time) we can start taking the actual photos. This process takes a team of two unless the lighting is just perfect. One will handle the camera and the other will use a large piece of cardboard to provide shade so that the photos will be consistent with no shadows. We will take at least two pictures of each plot having a memorial feature on it. One to show the overall plot and one close-up of each feature. By feature, we mean names, curbing, architectural features and other inscriptions. On the larger monuments, this will entail taking lots of pictures! A regular battery will allow you to take around 500 pictures. It's now time for a coffee or maybe something stronger.
Now you can download the group to your computer, hope the sequence is maintained and edit each picture.
The next step is to transfer the group of picture to the society computer for adding to the database. This requires that each picture be re-named to the correspond with the actual cemetery address. (B87W36-1, B87W36-2 etc). Once this is done, each picture is "linked" to the corresponding database plot number.
Our database is built in Access and allows us to add a variety of fields that show when an address is displayed. Photos are one of the fields.
When this project is complete, we plan on adding this database to this website for all to use.
For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 250 598-8870
2016 Restoration Projects
As part of our continuing Row Marker project, we have placed a new marker pointing the way to the grave of Nellie Cashman (U64E51). This is
one of 9 new markers being placed this year.
2015 Restoration Projects
Restoration work continues at Ross Bay Cemetery in 2015. Below are examples of our restoration efforts for this summer. These two monuments were vandalized many years ago and have lain in the ground for over 50 years. We hope to re-erect six more before the end of the year.
2013 Restoration Projects
Two projects have been recently conceived by the Old Cemeteries Society executive.
Ross Family Markers
The first is the re-creation of a Ross family grave marker and the restoration of the Isabella Ross grave marker.
The Ross family is woven into the very fabric of Victoria’s creation and early history. In 1843 James Douglas sent Charles Ross to a desolate piece of land on the tip of Vancouver’s Island with instructions to build a new fort. This new fort became what we now know as Victoria. After the untimely death of Charles Ross in 1844, his First Nations wife and her children continued to live in Victoria and influence its history.
In 1994, the Old Cemeteries Society erected a wooden replica grave marker for Isabella Ross on her unmarked grave (plot C 009 E 22). Today it is in poor shape and badly in need of refurbishing.
In the 1980’s the last wooden grave marker was removed from the cemetery and placed in storage by the City of Victoria Parks Department.
It is split in several pieces and barely legible. Thankfully someone felt it was worth saving and historically significant. This old marker commemorates the Ross family and we have used it as a pattern for other markers. It is now time to re-create and reinstall it in Ross Bay Cemetery at the Ross family gravesite (plot F 033 W 21).
The Old Cemeteries Society feels that in recognition of First Nations in our history and in this year of the 170th anniversary of Fort Victoria, it is appropriate that we honour both by restoring Isabella’s marker and re-creating the original grave marker for the Ross family.
The new and restored Ross grave markers will remind all who visit Ross Bay Cemetery of the contribution this family has made to the creation and growth of Victoria.
Grimm Family Gravesite Fence
The second project is to completely refurbish the wrought iron fencing around the Grimm family plot (C 026/27 E 22).
Over the past 20 years the Old Cemeteries Society has restored most of the historic iron features in Ross Bay Cemetery. Our last major ironwork project was in 2002-2004 when we teamed up with the Vancouver Island Blacksmiths Association to completely rebuild the Parker-Ball fence (for more information go to GRAVE PRESERVATION)
In 2011, the Old Cemeteries Society cleaned and painted all 55 iron features in Ross Bay Cemetery except for the Grimm fence. At that time we felt that it was too far gone and would require a major restoration. This is the year for the restoration.
The Grimm fence will hopefully stand for another century as an example of the blacksmiths art and a reminder of the harsh realities of pioneer life in Victoria
Pioneer Square Update September 2013
This month saw the start of upgrades to the Old Burying Grounds on Quadra Street. The City of Victoria has allocated $700,000 over a three year period to completely revitalize what has become known as Pioneer Square. This first phase will see new paths, lighting, benches and additional landscaping. Some of the grave markers that are considered in good to fair condition will be cleaned and refurbished. Work on this phase should be completed by the end of October.
Pioneer Square (Old Burying Ground) Planning Project
Approximately 75 people attended the second Open house on March 28, 2012; 50 survey/questionnaires were completed and received. In addition, several people took paper copies or information on how to access the online survey with them so they could complete the survey later. Generally, the feedback was good - most supported the vision statement and the general ideas and goals in the plan although there were some discussion and feedback around some of the specifics.
The survey and display boards are now available on the City's website along with a copy of the draft plan. There is a link to the information at
www.victoria.ca under Latest News. The online survey will be open until April 16th.
After the survey closes, the results will be compiled, potential revisions to the management plan will be identified and the Pioneer Square Advisory
Group will meet again.
The OCS website has a Pioneer Square (Old Burying Ground) section at http://www.oldcem.bc.ca/cem_pn.htm
Ross Bay Row Marker Project - see example
Project update April 2013
Thanks to the Thrifty Foods Smile Card Program and generous donations from our membership, we are pleased to announce the completion of Phase 4 of this
project. Row markers are now placed in three "belts" across the cemetery from Memorial Crescent to St. Charles Lane. One belt is on plot #75 near Fairfield Road, one is across the middle of the cemetery on plot #40, and one is on plot #1 on the Dallas Road side of the cemetery. In phase 4 we have placed markers strategically along all the pathways within the cemetery. A map with all the locations and locating instructions has been placed in the shadow box at the caretakers shed across from Ross Bay Villa.
We have now placed 171 markers and it is our hope that they will continue to help everyone find grave sites for generations to come. This completes our Row Marker Project. Thank you for your support.
Dec 5, 2009 - Another path of destruction!
On Friday morning almost 50 headstones were found damaged at Ross Bay
Cemetery. Representatives from the Old Cemeteries Society executive attended
the scene of the crime on Saturday morning to list and photograph the
We have attached a few pictures of some damaged markers. The swath
seems to have started at the south east corner at St Charles Lane and ended
by the washrooms at Memorial Crescent.
The City Parks Dept. was very quick
to address the problem by reporting the vandalism to Police and authorizing
Mortimer's Monumental Works to start work immediately. 23 monuments were
repaired immediately and the remaining will be attended to on Monday
December 7, 2009. We will be notifying any descendants we have in our
records. Another senseless act of cowardice.
Read the Times Colonist Article
Aug 2009 Recent Vandalism at Ross Bay Cemetery -
- CTV News
Vandalism - has been a problem in RBC throughout its existence.
Read more about cemetery vandalism
City of Victoria - Parks Division - Cemeteries