Just hours after publishing my article, Find a Grave - the Internet's Most Valuable Resource? I learned about BillionGraves.com. I am blown away with their technology....
As I wrote earlier today, Dave and I were going to begin photographing our local cemetery to begin our volunteer efforts with Find A Grave. We've just returned home having completing one section. Dave took 84 pictures with his camera. I took the same 84 pictures using the free Billion Graves app on my smartphone. We did this to compare the process and results of the two services.
We both arrived home at approximately the same time. All 84 of my pictures have been uploaded (they were actually automatically uploaded before I even returned home) to BillionGraves.com, linked to the correct cemetery, and geocoded. And the best part is that even before I returned home, nearly 1/2 of all of the images had already been transcribed by other volunteers and added to its searchable database. I am amazed.
In the image below (click to enlarge) notice that there are 84 pictures for the Eternal Valley Memorial Park, 37 have now been transcribed, and there is a little balloon next to each grave which corresponds to the GPS data (it's not terribly accurate, but that's likely a factor of my phone's GPS settings). Look at the Transcribe tab at the top. As soon as images are taken by volunteers, they are automatically added to the Transcribe pool which is open for anyone to begin transcribing.
Meanwhile, Dave is still trying to find the right cable to connect his camera to his computer. I'll describe the two processes below:
Find A Grave
- Take a picture of the tombstone
- Upload the pictures from your camera to your computer
- Login to Find A Grave and click Add Burial Records
- Click on the Family and Friends link
- Add the transcription information
- Resize the digital image so it is no wider than 1200 pixels
- Modify the file size (adjust the jpg compression) so that it is no larger than 750kb
- Manually upload the image to the newly-created or existing memorial page
- Take a picture of the tombstone with your GPS-enabled smartphone
- When you are done, click on the upload button
- Login to BillionGraves.com and add the transcription. Either you or other online volunteers can do this
From my initial experience, I really want to use Billion Graves because the process is so much faster. Light-years faster. But Find A Grave has been around for 16 years, has over 71 million records, and over 800,000 volunteers have participated. In fact, searching for the surname Brown on Find A Grave returned 172,650 records. The same search at Billion Graves returned just 2,695. I should also mention here that another new smartphone app called RestingSpot is trying to do the same thing. A search for Brown there returned just 12 results. Another negative for Billion Graves is that you cannot upload photos from your computer. They have to be taken with their smartphone app.
Where do we go from here?
Because of its longevity and database size I will probably stick with Find A Grave's manual process for now. But competition breeds technological advances and we, the end-user are the ones who benefit. I'd love for the two organizations to work together and build on each other's strengths. I'd also love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.