Transcribing photos on BillionGraves is a fairly simple process. You put as much information as possible into the appropriate fields (Given Names, Family Names, etc.), and you then put anything that doesn’t fit into the free-text boxes that appear after you click “Add Description.” There are instructions on how to handle special cases on our transcription help page. Overall, it isn’t tricky. But there are a few things you can do that will make transcribing even easier.

Foreign Grave Markers

First, if you don’t know the language of the headstone and aren’t familiar with the way it is laid out, pull up Google Translate or some other quick reference. While transcribing Swedish headstones, I discovered that “hustrun” is not an extremely common given name, but rather a title meaning “wife” (it may also be in the possessive case, Google isn’t clear on that, but it clarifies that it is not a given name, and that’s what I as a transcriber need to know). There are still many headstones that aren’t in my native English that puzzle me—which is why I take advantage of the “skip image” function. If it’s a headstone from a country foreign to me, I know that there is at least one person registered with BillionGraves who understands the area, because he or she uploaded the photo in the first place. As more people participate in the BillionGraves project, the number of people who understand diverse grave marker types and languages will grow, and they can help with markers that may not be familiar to you. (You’re helping others right now, by transcribing the photos that make sense to you.)

Transcribing Shortcuts

Once you’ve made sure you can understand all necessary information on the stone, there’s nothing to stop you from quickly filling out the form and moving on to the next photo. But if you happen to dislike using your mouse, we’ve set up a several keyboard shortcuts for you to make the process faster for the mouse-averse. We mentioned two of them before, but we’ve added many more since then. This is a complete list of our current shortcuts:

  • Add an Individual: CTRL + I 
  • Open the Description Box: CTRL + D 
  • Rotate the Image: CTRL + R (rotates the image 90 degrees clockwise) 
  • Zoom In on Image: CTRL + + 
  • Zoom Out from Image: CTRL + – 
  • Scroll Image Up: CTRL + Up arrow 
  • Scroll Image Down: CTRL + Down arrow 
  • Scroll Image Right: CTRL + Right arrow 
  • Scroll Image Left: CTRL + Left arrow 
  • Save the Transcription: CTRL + S 
  • Go to Next Image: CTRL + M
Reporting Photos

When a photo is impossible to transcribe, either because the photo is bad, the stone is too worn, there’s nothing to transcribe, or it’s in a language that isn’t supported yet, remember that you can report the image by clicking the red button beneath it (sorry, no shortcut for this). You can then select the reason you’re reporting the image and it will be sorted so we can take a look and decide what the best solution is for each photo.
If you have any tips for your fellow transcribers, please post them in the comments.