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Genealogist leaves no tombstone unturned

John_SalterCUMMING, Ga. — A researcher and genealogist spent seven months tallying Forsyth County cemeteries to complete the painstakingly historical endeavor of documenting every grave.

John Salter, 64, a professional writer, researcher, historian and genealogist, has recently published his latest book entitled, “Forsyth County, Georgia, Cemeteries.”

Salter will be at the Historical Society of Forsyth County, 101 School Street in Cumming, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 for a book signing and book sale event.

The book contains data collected from about 90 county cemeteries, including more than 26,000 inscriptions and more than 40,000 dates.

It contains 663 pages, including 114 pages of “every name” index. The book was published with the help of a grant from the R. J. Taylor, Jr., Foundation. The book costs $60 including sales tax, with $50 going toward nonprofit organizations and libraries.

We recently caught up with Salter for a question-and-answer session.

Forsyth Herald: What is your profession?

Salter: I retired from being a scientist and engineer about five years ago. I then followed my passion of genealogy research and now do it professionally.

FH: What propelled you to write this book?

Salter: More than anything else, it was needed. It had been 30 years since the last one had been published, and there were many new grave markers.

FH: What is your favorite Forsyth County cemetery?

Salter: I like the smaller family cemeteries or the smaller church cemeteries, especially those that are in quiet locations.

FH: What are some of the things that surprised you while you were doing your research?

Salter: I suppose the most surprising thing was the number of old family names I kept coming across as I took the census of each cemetery. The county has really grown over the last few years, but the older Forsyth County family names are still predominant in the cemeteries.

FH: What kept you going through all of these records?

Salter: I kept a record of all the known cemeteries and, as I finished one, I would update the numbers: How the cemetery had grown, how many inscriptions there were and so on. It was satisfying to see that the number was growing steadily, and I was getting closer to completing it.

FH: What was the process for you to get this information? Did you have to go to every cemetery in the county?

Salter: I went to every cemetery I could find in the county and copied every inscription I could read. There were more than 26,000 inscriptions that were legible. They are all in the book. I was prevented from going to one cemetery because of ongoing litigation, but there were fairly recent photographs of those markers.

FH: How long was your research and what is included in the book?

Salter: It took from October 2010 until May 2011 to visit and record the inscriptions. I went whenever I could on weekdays when weather permitted. I would guess I put about 1,000 hours into the research. Then the work started on compiling all of the data, verifying it and indexing. That took another three months or about 400 hours.

FH: Do you tell the stories behind some of the graves?

Salter: It was evident from the beginning that this was going to be a large book. Unfortunately, there was no room to fill in much more than the names, dates and any genealogical [information] that I thought would be helpful to researchers. The book is 663 pages. Adding family information would have increased the size of the book beyond where it would have been possible without multiple volumes.

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