The Rookwood Project
This page celebrates the SAG volunteers who transcribed monumental inscriptions at Rookwood Cemetery from 1981 to 1994 recording a total of 236,000 headstones! Members can access the 2022 webinar from Heather Garnsey, The Rookwood Project - how a small group of volunteers conquered one of the world's biggest cemeteries, from the Webinar Library in the Member Area.
Image by Ian Anderson
Rookwood Cemetery, also known as the 'Necropolis' and 'Haslem’s Creek Cemetery', was established in 1867 and covers 775 acres, complete with its own railway line and station. Rookwood was made up of individual denominational cemeteries including Anglican, Jewish, Independent, Muslim and the General Section, with a heritage section containing the earliest graves, which is where the volunteers started.
Overview of the Transcription Process
On September 13th, 1981 the transcribers commenced in the Old Church of England portion of the cemetery, utilising flour, soap foam, angle lights, and shining a mirror on the inscription to make out the partially eligible words. By 1985, two thirds of the transcription process was complete, and the project finished in 1994. That year, the transcriptions were released on microfiche and in 2002, the transcriptions were re - published on CD.
A grant of $25,000 had been received from the Australian Bicentennial Authority to support and publish a book about the project.
MIDAS, the Society of Australian Genealogist's archives catalogue, can be used to search for information on graves and monumental photographs. To search on MIDAS, in the search library catalogue, search for 'ROOKWOOD' and select 'CD's'. Then, the transcriptions of the CD can be downloaded: MIDAS Homepage. If you cannot find a person from the collection list on Ancestry, Findmypast, or on MIDAS, it means there was no headstone available to transcribe at the time of the project.
Information on library resources referencing Rookwood can be found here:
Nearby Graves Report
If you request a copy of the detail of the burial, then a nearby graves report will be sent, providing at least one page either side of the page containing your requested plot, thus enabling you to check for any other family headstones nearby.
The Society of Australian Genealogists would like to thank all volunteers involved for their outstanding achievement in bringing this project to fruition. Click here for a full list list.
Volunteers of the Rookwood Cemetery Project as featured in: Burge, Laurel, David A. Weston, and Joan. Sigrist. The Sleeping City : the Story of Rookwood Necropolis. Sydney: Society of Australian Genealogists in conjunction with Hale & Iremonger, 1993.