Find a Grave - the Internet's most valuable resource?
6 Million New Records (free) at FamilySearch from 20 countries - big competition for Find A Grave

Just hours after publishing my article, Find a Grave - the Internet's Most Valuable Resource? I learned about 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, 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

Billion Graves

  • Take a picture of the tombstone with your GPS-enabled smartphone
  • When you are done, click on the upload button
  • Login to 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.


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I think another drawback with BillionGraves is you have to have an iPhone...not just any smart phone. I have a smart phone with GPS and with a camera, but it's not an iPhone, so this does me no good whatsoever. Perhaps FindAGrave should make a similar app too, then it will have the same ease of use for the iPhone crowd (or they could be really revolutionary and build apps for OTHER smart phones) while still allowing others the manual way?

Great new idea! As the smart phone becomes the next standard this could really take off. The biggest flaw I can see is the lack of being able to upload photos from the computer. I prefer to have more control of when I want to upload and which ones I want to upload. This also may have a larger error factor than Find A Grave does since things go in automatically, and of course the possibility for abuse or tampering would make me leary of the info gleaned from this site. Not yet able to work with it personally I think I will have to reserve my definitive review. This would be great technology, as you said, if Find A Grave could incorporate it into their standing system and still keep their checks and balances in place.

Meghan - I have an android phone and it works with that too. I agree - I'd love to see Find a Grave built an app and work in a similar manner.

One more thing to note-- charges $2.99 some users are mentioning to search/obtain information (it is free to upload the information though), while Find A Grave is currently free (or paid for by ads on the site but free to users).

Melanie - partially correct. BillionGraves' has a smartphone app that does charge, but everything online is free. Their smartphone app to take the pictures is free also.

I personally believe BillionGraves has an awesome model for adding images. I seriously have no hesitation now about taking pictures w/ my smartphone for uploading to their site. I even have my 13 and 7 year old go with me to take pictures. I find the manual process for Find-A-Grave such a burden that I do not see myself adding pictures to it anymore in masse. As the number of smartphone users increase, BillionGraves is in a great position. Oh, and Kimberlee - you do have control of which pics get uploaded with BillionGraves.

Billion needs a better search module. Searched Aye and got anybody with an initial "A" or "E". Saw no way to limit search or specify exact match. Will stick with FindAGrave until Billion shows improvement. Easy upload isn't enough to sell me on the site.

Geoff- Good to know! Am hoping the new technology and competition spurs better products all around!

I have added pictures and information to find a grave for 10 years. I just visited "A Billion Graves" and find their search function really inadequate. I tried by surname then by state and finally by cemetery and not one came up that was where they should have been. I don't have a smart phone or i phone, I upload my pictures from my computer. This site may improve over time but for now I will stay with find a grave.

Another drawback for BillionGraves in not being able to upload pics from our computers is I have several pictures of grave stones which I took years ago and since then those stones have deteriorated beyond recognition. Thus these stones would not be recorded on BillionGraves whereas I have posted them on Find-A-Grave.

I think that over time, we'll see Billions reach critical mass. What I'm skeptical about is the commitment of the owners/authors. They are just way too anonymous for my taste, not that I suspect nefarious intentions or anything like that. I would just like to see an "About Us" page that describes who they are, where they are located, how they got started, how they are funded,and a public statement about their commitment to the project.

I put the app on my ipad...only problem, I was going to take pictures of my previous headstone pictures to submit. Those can't be submitted as you need the GPS turned on, and the pictures are here at home, not at the original location of the cemetery.

I do not own a smart phone - mostly because I do not hear well on cell phones, so I have not learned to use a smart phone. So I will NOT use Billion graves for uploading. I would however upload from a computer.
Also I have found a lot of information on FindAGrave for my husband's family - and as yet I have found no data for his family (or mine) on BillionGraves. Maybe they have good technology, but until they have a billion grave records, the name is very misleading.

Interesting possibilities, but concerned about the quality/completeness of the final results. Deeply involved with recording and publishing cemetery transcripts, and though this may work for 'easy' stones, what about the thousands that can only be read with specialised techniques - photographs are incredible useful, for some checks, but no substitute for detailed transcription in the field! Nevertheless - will monitor your site with interest ...

I don't have an iPhone either, nor any other brand of smart-phone. Many people prefer cheaper phones and phone plans. So this new service is of no use to me and doubtful will ever be. I have also read that pictures taken by cell phones lack the quality of those taken by digital cameras.

Pro's and Con's, plus one:


I am a long time user of Find-A-Grave. I take pictures, not as many as I would like, and post them. What I try to do, is the use the Link Feature between Individuals, showing relationships. Some folks / contributors have added obituaries and other stories. One create feature for adding people and their pictures is the ability to upload a Spreadsheet.

Pro: Relationships and Stories, Upload Spreadsheet
Con: Cables, Upload, Time


Went out yesterday using BillionGraves. Quick and Easy. Took a number of pictures, as I moved to the next set of headstones, Uploaded the 10 or 15 pictures.

Pro: Quick, Easy, Take Picture, Upload (DONE)
Con: just a bunch of pictures, no stories, no relationships

New one:

This has to ability to upload from the "field" AND the ability to add the stories when you get to a computer. This is more about telling the story behind those that we remember through the pictures.

Pro: Quick, Easy, Related Stories
Con: The Android AP had a bug (crashing) the last time I used it.

I really like the concept of RestingSpot, where the story can be kept alive by and for family members.

I am for using them all, as you never know what connection(s) we might make for others or for ourselves.


I would like to encourage all genealogist to add tombstone photos, obituaries and links to all their families findagrave pages. I did that as I found nothing about my ancestors four years ago and now this is another cloud back up of my genealogy research.

I agree with Russ, that they all have their benefits. However, I've been disappointed with the adding of all the extra information to FindAGrave memorials, since its mostly unsourced. I appreciate the well-meaning intentions, but i cringe at the thought that other folks will use that information as fact. Personally I like to let the headstones speak for themselves. I really just want to be able to find ancestral burial spots that I can't travel to myself.
The BillionGraves Android ap worked well for me, although i did experience a crash or two, but both recovered within seconds. And there is a setting where your photos upload the second you snap them, thus eliminating even that simple step of hitting an upload button. All in all, strolling a cemetery snapping pics on my phone is a lovely way to spend my Fall saturday mornings.

As I looked at both sites the thing that I think is best about Find-A-Grave is the additional family history information that it gives. I've been able to connect family lines because of the family relationships that are listed with Find-A-Grave. I don't see anything but the personal information (birth date/death date) about the individual listed on the site. There doesn't seem to be any place for connecting family members together. For that reason alone I will continue to use Find-A-Grave rather than Billion Graves.

I agree with mbm1311 with regards to information being unsourced and possibly in error. However, one can make a simple note about the source or better yet, note that anyone requiring additional or clarifying information can contact you. At that time you can personally provide any sources or tidbits to someone who may be researching that line. The point is, regardless of where we are providing information we must be prepared at any moment to provide evidence for that supposition or fact. Keeps us sharp and our work complete.

There is a new way of uploading your photos automatically to your computer, this is by using a wifi SD card. Unfortunately not all digital cameras can use of the wifi card and the expense of buying the card as well as a new camera may be too much for the average photographer but it's well worth considering if you like to take loads of photos in one go.

Ruby - I've been using the Eye-Fi card from If I have my wireless internet card with me, my camera will automatically transfer my pictures to my computer as I am taking them. Pretty neat technology.

I think the key phrase from the initial article was: "I'd love for the two organizations to work together and build on each other's strengths." All of our long range genealogical programs need to think more about collaboration than what they can do in isolation. Like Mr Ron Tanner said in his RootsTech address, we need to get over our "My-tree-itus", and work together and we could build a family tree in two years that it would easily take 20 or more years to do on our own. Imagine all the duplication that is going to be done by the volunteers working in these two great organizations, (Find-a-Grave and BillionGraves [not to mention the other 'grave' resources]), and how much further along we would be if they could get together NOW!

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