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Find a Grave - I completed my first cemetery...what now?

Just under three months ago I compared to and announced that I would begin my cemetery picture-taking and transcribing efforts with Find A Grave. I really, really wanted to use BillionGraves, but because of Find A Grave's longevity and database size I would dedicate my volunteer efforts to it. Here are the two articles:

Find a Grave - the Internet's most valuable resource? - big competition for Find a Grave

CemeteryYesterday, Dave (Legacy Family Tree's owner) and I completed our first cemetery - the Sunwest Cemetery in El Mirage, Arizona. We chose it because it was small and nearby. Little did we know when we started that we would take so many pictures and transcribe so many names. Here's the statistics:

  • Combined, we took about 2,000 pictures of headstones which took us about 10 hours total.
  • On average, it took about one minute per picture to upload to Find a Grave and transcribe it. 33 hours total.

We digitized and indexed the entire cemetery in 44 total hours. Wow, that really adds up - just over an entire work week for one person. And that's for a relatively small cemetery. I wonder how this would compare if we were to use the BillionGraves method? It would still take the same amount of time to take the pictures, but the longest part of the process was the uploading and transcribing the images. Had we used BillionGraves, as soon as the images were automatically uploaded from my smart phone, their indexing would begin immediately by volunteers around the world. So in the end, it might still take about the same amount of man hours, but the work would be spread around amongst other volunteers. Undoubtedly there are many who prefer to just index the images from their computer rather than digitize and upload them. I guess my conclusion is that I wish Find a Grave would incorporate the BillionGraves technology or that the two services would somehow work together. Regardless, researchers looking for ancestors in the Sunwest Cemetery in El Mirage, Arizona will have a much easier job now, and I am happy to have helped a little.

So what's my next step? I think Dave and I will choose another cemetery to photograph for Find a Grave but will probably try to enlist the help of others for the uploading/transcribing phase. Maybe we'll put all of our pictures in a public Dropbox folder, give you the link, and go from there. No, we wouldn't get official credit for managing the resulting memorial pages, but that's not what it's about for me. I would love to see every tombstone in every cemetery on earth included in the Find a Grave database AND I would like to see some kind of progress meter on how close we are to that goal. If a Find a Grave administrator reads this :) you would really enhance your service by adding such a tool.

In the meantime, let us continue to "pay it forward" by volunteering in a project like Find a Grave, FamilySearch Indexing, or others.


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I have used Findagrave for about 10 years and love it. I have photographed 5 cemeteries in my county and put them online. I have not used Billion Graves or Resting Spot much yet, but I downloaded the apps to my Droid. Why does Billion Graves not charge users to add info, but charges that same user to access info. If I'm going to add info to a site, I think I should be able to access that info for free. Findagrave has many useful features that make it my fave: plot locations, link family members, add bios, virtual cemeteries, etc. I like your idea of a progress meter, but I don't know how FAG would do that. Congrats on your first cemetery, and thank you for adding info. Genealogy would be much harder without volunteers.

Beth - Billion Graves doesn't charge to search their database at I think the only place they charge is if you want to do the searching from your smart phone. I think it's a one-time fee of $2.99.

I too agree with the article and have placed a link for this conversation to the Findagrave community.

I gave Billion Graves a try but none of the people or cemeteries I looked for was there.I am staying with Find a Grave. I did try to transcribe a few headstones for Billion Graves but didn't have much luck. I think out of 10 I could only make out 3.
Hopefully that is not the norm. Some of the problems were the angles that the picture was taken at. I haven't given up though.

I haven't tried the 10 to the 6th site but
use FAG a lot. The forum Cemeteries and Genealogy is a very friendly place with lots of help.

There is a setting in the Billion Graves app (at least the iPhone version) to save a copy of the photos on your phone. So, you could take them with your phone in the Billion Graves app, which would upload them to that site, and then download them off your phone onto your computer and manually add them onto FindAGrave. That's what I'm doing. It really doesn't take any extra effort and the Billion Graves volunteers make quick work of getting them transcribed.

I love both the Find-a-Grave and Billiongraves sites, but both have problems. For me, the biggest shortcoming of Find-a-Grave is that there are so many memorials without pictures. This makes the memorial information completely unverifiable. It's bad enough that the headstone could have an error, but without a picture I don't even know if that was transcribed correctly. Billiongraves solves that problem, but the Android app that I use is still buggy, and the data that can be entered per internment is quite limited.

Where could I find that little program that checks FindAGrave for names in your Legacy File? Thought I bookmarked it but can't find it on my computer.

I hope your Canadian readers will support which is the leading provider of Canadian headstone photographs. It is a totally non-profit volunteer organization.

The reason you have found so many memorials on Find-a-grave without photos may be a result of entries being made by people who KNOW that the person is buried there and have the data (perhaps from an obituary) but the contributor doesn't have a photo. That is certainly my case. I have created memorials for family members who are buried in other parts of the country and then submitted requests for photos from the many volunteers who take photos upon request. In most cases, photos have been added and the photographer has been very willing to allow my use of their photo in my own records.

Sally - could it be LTools that you're thinking of? If so, it's at

The program to search FindAGrave for people in your Legacy DB is

i read on billiongraves blog that they have tried to partner with find a grave but that find a grave is not willing to work with them (very silly of find a grave) but i really like the idea of Lewis Hartswick so that you can contribute to both of the projects. while billiongraves is quite new i would love to see their database grow.

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