Family history research is now big business and a hugely popular hobby drawing people from all over the world to seek out old records and old graves.

A new, free Burial Grounds Project by the Church of England will see every churchyard in the Diocese of Truro digitally mapped along with the digitization of parish records meaning parishes and public will now be able to view the information freely and easily.

The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen said: “Having laboriously traced my own family tree in the old Cornwall Council records office many years ago, I know what a valuable resource this digital tool will be for many people researching their own genealogy. It’s also a way of making our churches more ‘porous’ and welcoming to visitors: I’m very much in favour of anything that helps us do that, so I commend this project wholeheartedly.”

The project is free to parishes and all the work will be done by a team from Atlantic Geomatics, the company hired by the Church of England to undertake the work. All that is required from the parish is access to the churchyard and church so that the mapping and digitizing of the parish records can occur. These digital records and images will then be integrated with the Church Heritage Record, the national database of the Church of England, which the diocese has access to.

A simplified version of the digital map and images of the records created will be safely and permanently curated and will be freely available for parishes and the public to view. Other more complex functionality, such as managing the map and searching across the national database, will be available on payment of a subscription.

Staff from Atlantic Geomatics will be in touch with parishes to arrange a date to come and complete the work.

The ground survey is expected to take less than half a day and involve a member of Atlantic Geomatics staff walking through the churchyard with a backpack containing an array of lasers and cameras. There will be no impact on the churchyard or people and it is not necessary to close the churchyard for this purpose.

Only visible memorials will be surveyed and mapped.

Atlantic Geomatics staff will also digitize any parish records held in the church or elsewhere.