Our project: Telling their story
filling in the dash between birth and death
The enthusiastic volunteers of the Capel District Cemeteries Group form the core of family members, local history buffs and the wider community keen to share the stories of those interred in the cemeteries of Capel Shire in the south west of Western Australia. Our work began in 2017 with the Capel Cemetery Survey. Over the past four years the group has worked at the Capel Cemetery and the Ron Maidment Archive Room in the Iluka Capel Library to compile a comprehensive register of the approximately 700 persons at rest in the Capel Cemetery. Since then this Register has been available to the public through the library and now, we are pleased to announce, via this website.
Early in the original register project it became apparent that the story of each of those 700 in the cemetery was important and we explored many options of how to tell them and share them, a daunting task.
In 2020 , after a Covid imposed lull, we established a system to store-hard copies of what we discovered about each individual. We explored possibilities of a blog and possible links with shire GIS mapping. Then the Capel Cemetery Survey morphed into the Capel District Cemeteries Project (Inc) and we decided that a website would be the best way to share “their stories.”
The Theme – The Dash- was chosen. A headstone records a person’s birth and death dates, usually separated by a dash. The dash is small, but it represents a person’s life. We wanted to be able to fill in the dash so that our forebears’ stories are told and remebered.
We became an independent incorporated group, and through the Bendigo Bank Capel “Pitch Night” in October 2020, received a share of the community funds. This enabled us to access the services of a local web designer, who helped us establish this website to share the stories we are creating.
Our hope is that the website will provide a platform to share our research and to connect with those who are searching for family members now, and into the future. We hope that if you have information to share about Capel Cemetery forbears you will join us in the storytelling, come forward, click CONTACT US and share your knowledge to fill in the DASH.
Acknowledgement of Country
Capel District Cemeteries Project respectfully acknowledges the Wadandi people, traditional custodians of this land, as being the first people of this country. We recognise and pay respects to the Aboriginal peoples who lived and cared for this land in the time well before those interred in Capel District cemeteries came to add their contributions to this place. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
Original patrons: Geoffrey & Eleanor Roberts
The Capel Cemetery is in the South West of Western Australia on Urquhart Road, Capel. It was officially reserved in 1854 for the gazetted township of Coolingup. The earliest burial was that of Elizabeth Payne who succumbed to measles in 1884. The Capel River precinct had been visited by English explorers as early as 1834 and was thought to be highly suited for settlement for farming and agricultural ventures. The cemetery site was originally owned by the Roberts Family. Gynudup School, the first formal school established in Capel District was opened by Rev Joseph Withers in 1864 on a site within the cemetery’s boundary.
Where we are today
The Cemetery Register
The Cemetery Register will continue to be modified as additions and further information is contributed. The Register has been compiled using the information on Capel Cemetery gravestone inscriptions, in the Shire of Capel burial records and in earlier records kept by James Levi Bentley, transcriptions from the Wellington District Death Register, and maps and plans of the Capel Cemetery. These have been supplemented by use of online sources such as TROVE, Ancestry.com, Lorraine’s Cemetery Records and online indexes including WA Births Deaths and Marriages, Reverse Marriages, Busselton Family History Society indexes and “Western Australian Burial Location Index” along with family history information supplied by descendants.
Today the Capel Shire, in its role as the local Cemetery Board, has responsibility for the cemetery’s administration and maintenance. Graves are organised in five major sections and the recently covered and refurbished niche wall can be found along the cemetery’s southern pathway.
We have been pleased that the recent focus on the stories of the cemetery has encouraged renewed involvement of local families in the upkeep of their ancestors’ graves and sharing their stories. It has also enriched connections with other community groups, notably supporting the RSL with profiles of War Service Veterans, and the wider world of local and social historians.
The community and families share the responsibility of telling the stories of those interred since 1854. We hope this will give a glimpse of the history of Capel District we know it now.
Other community groups, such as the Lions Club in Boyanup, share our interest in showing respect for our past and support the upkeep of cemeteries in other parts of the shire. We know there are some ‘lonely graves” and unmarked graves as well which can tell yet another part of the story. In future, we hope more research (and more curious researchers!) will enable the project to honour those interred in other parts of Capel District. You are warmly invited to join us.