WHITEHALL (AP) - Charting and photographing cemeteries might not seem like a popular item on someone's list after retirement, but that's what Jim Seidelman is doing, and the work is proving to be extremely valuable.
Seidelman, of Los Angeles, and his sister, Sue Feltes of Osseo, have produced about two dozen collections of cemeteries in the Eau Claire area over nine years and are working on others.
Seidelman, a retired assistant film editor in Hollywood, comes to Trempealeau County for about a month each year to meet with family and work on the cemetery projects.
It was about 12 years ago, when Seidelman had a detached retina, that he learned of a grave marker website, which listed obituaries and other items of interest to genealogists.
"I photograph complete cemeteries and include as much information as I can find," Seidelman said. "I try to find out all I can, including photographs and obituaries, to make it as complete as possible.
"There is a lot of history in cemeteries," he added. "Not only do we collect data, but we are able to chart out the location of various graves, which has proven quite valuable."
Whitehall City Administrator Tina Sass praised the charting aspect, saying: "It's a lot better than what we had and makes things easier for the city in helping people locate particular sites."
Helpful sextons make the recharting a bit easier.
"If they supply certain information, things go along a bit smoother," Seidelman said.
Seidelman and Feltes met Tuesday with the sexton of the relatively secluded Old Whitehall Cemetery, just east of Whitehall. The siblings previously had been working on the Lincoln Cemetery in Whitehall.
The first question we get is, 'How much is this going to cost,' " Feltes said. "People are a bit surprised that we would go to this much work and not charge anything. We just enjoy it and they are nice to have as time goes on."
Feltes remembers going through family albums with her mother and labeling photographs.
"Jim and I didn't know who a lot of those people were," she said. "It got us into checking into genealogy and Jim took off with it."
Copies of the completed compilations are given to the appropriate cemetery associations and churches, if necessary, and a copy of each edition is at the Osseo library.
"We just think it's great for genealogy," Feltes said. "It's a nice way of people being remembered."
But not everyone is pleased with the investigations, Seidelman said, mentioning that some are upset about pictures and identifications of family members being in the books.
"The cemeteries are usually public and people elect to have their names and dates on there," Seidelman said. "We look at it as more of a service."
Most of the completed albums involve Trempealeau County cemeteries, although others have been done in Augusta and Eau Claire.
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