In today’s world, technology is growing at a rapid pace. It is now routinely found in areas that heretofore had not even been imagined by our parents, let alone our grandparents. One such area where you may not have considered how technology could be used is in our cemeteries. Yes, that’s right, I said cemeteries. And, of course, it is the youth who lead the way.
“A couple of months ago I was looking for an Eagle Scout project with some of my friends, and my mom showed me a website called billiongraves.com that basically is trying to record images of gravestones and log their GPS locations. Since I am into using technology, that appealed to me right away,” said Cade Fuhriman, a 16-year-old high school student from Salt Lake City, Utah.
Cade’s mother is Rachel (Frieden) Fuhriman, daughter of Martin and Deb Frieden, who grew up in rural Elgin and graduated from Valley High School in 1996. When Cade discovered that all the cemeteries in Utah had already been documented, his mother had an idea.
“I knew of a place just down that road from where my parents live, the Apostolic Church Cemetery, that would be perfect for a project like this. We checked it out and no one had done anything with it yet, so here we are,” explained Rachel, who now lives with her husband Shawn in Salt Lake City.
The Apostolic Church Cemetery, located southeast of Elgin on Abbey Road, was mowed and cared for by the Frieden family for a number of years. Cade estimates that there are more than 400 graves to be photographed and transcribed in the cemetery, several of which belong to his relatives. As we walked among the grave markers, he stopped to do a little cleaning and take a photo of his great-great-grandfather’s grave, Jacob Friederich Sr.
“There are many people buried here that are our relatives, including some with the last name of Friederich, Schneider, Butikofer, and Frieden. It’s just amazing that you can do something like this, which could be very helpful to someone searching for a relative who doesn’t live close by,” said Deb Frieden, Cade’s grandmother who lives just down the road from the cemetery.
The goal of billiongraves.com is to preserve at least one billion graves by using modern technology to capture images of headstones with their GPS locations so that users worldwide can access those records from anywhere. The site can be searched by location of a known cemetery or by an individual’s name. It is relatively easy to use and anyone can create an account for free.
As Cade began the project, he expected that preparation and organization would be the most difficult part of the task.
“Doing some cleaning of the stones so that they will be readable when they are photographed will take some time, and I will have some family members helping me with that. I also have a group of 8 to 10 fellow Scouts who will help me transcribe all the information from the stones into billiongraves.com. I have to make sure that we aren’t redoing graves that may have already been done and that we aren’t overlooking any, as well,” said the aspiring Eagle Scout.
Fuhriman is a member of Troop 7630, which is in the Great Salt Lake Council in Utah. He is hoping that after he returns home, he can complete the project within a couple of weeks. As of this writing, 502 images had been entered into billiongraves.com for the Apostolic Cemetery, which is actually located just across the county line in Clayton County.
“When I was researching the Apostolic Cemetery, I noticed that of the 127 cemeteries listed in Clayton County, only four of them had documented photos. There seems to be plenty of opportunity for anyone else who is interested in doing something like this to help document their family or community history,” observed Cade.
Billiongraves.com has partnered with familysearch.org and myheritage.com to assist those who have a desire to discover more about their family history through the use of technology. Anyone who creates an account on billiongraves.com can become involved in the transcription of gravestone photos already uploaded by others like Cade. If you are interested in taking photos of gravestones, the first step is to determine if a cemetery has been documented and to what extent. After downloading the billiongraves.com app on a smart phone, you can visit the cemetery to take photographs and add to the site any information that has not already been recorded.
It might interest some to know that a search of Fayette County on billiongraves.com currently lists 59 cemeteries, of which only 11 have documented photos. On your next trip to any cemetery in Fayette County, you might want to consider taking your smart phone along and playing a role in the preservation of your community’s history.
Fuhriman’s interest in technology and his experience as a family historian consultant for his congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City made this project a perfect fit for him. Combining those two things, as well as the connection his own family has to the Apostolic Church Cemetery has been rewarding for him.
“I hope that when this project is completed, it will benefit people here as well as people who may not live in this area but do have an interest because their family has a history here. Hopefully having the information available online will help people make connections that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” closed Fuhriman.
While technology may frustrate us from time to time, there is no doubting that it can often be used to turn a daunting task into a more manageable one. By helping to create access to information in cemeteries across the country and throughout the world, you just might be able to help someone find that lost relative for whom they have been searching. Or, like Cade Fuhriman, you might learn a little about your own family as well.
Nicolas and Liam Birch
We completed our project 23 July, 2013. We visited cemeteries in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming (Single Adult group helped out there), others helped us in Nebraska, Texas, Virginia, Arizona and some friends tried in Germany as well.
Our Uncle and Aunt went to Virginia and took Patrick Henry’s grave site (Give me Liberty or Give me Death!!!) and also took Ralph Waldo Emerson’s mothers grave site and Pocahontas’ grave. We also had a single adult group help us in Wyoming! That was awesome! There was 12 or 15 of them helping us.
We went to Plain City Cemetery the weekend before Memorial Day, and several people were there cleaning the graves, we told them what we were doing, and they told us “Congratulations,” “Bless you!” and “You are doing a wonderful thing, thank you!”
Thanks again for this great and rewarding experience!
My name is Jefferson Knight, and I performed my Eagle Project in both the Chinn Cemetery, located in Copper Canyon, Texas, and the Old Alton Cemetery, located in Denton, Texas. To give you an idea of where this is, it is about 40 minutes away from Dallas. My project was officially signed off by Billion Graves on August 21st, 2013.
During the summer of 2012, I wanted to begin on my Eagle Project, as I was a life scout. My mom showed me Billion Graves, and how the website stated this was a great Eagle Project. I never got to actually working on my Eagle Project that summer, and when summer or 2013 came around, I knew this would have to be the summer I complete my Eagle Project, especially since high school was starting next year, and I wouldn’t have any time to complete it during the school year. I thought up many ideas that sounded interesting, but in the end I decided, “Why did I abandon the Billion Graves idea in the first place?!” It was a unique, interesting, and worthwhile Eagle Project that I was interested in. So I began to make plans to perform that Eagle Project.
Upon completing the proposal, all those who needed to sign off on my idea, found it unique and approved. After much planning on my behalf, I split up the project into two phases: a picture taking and uploading phase, as well as a transcribing phase. I recruited a good number of volunteers from my church, and set the dates to perform the project.
Many volunteers found the project interesting as it wasn’t too physically taxing, and also helped serve people for genealogical purposes, which my church very much supports. Both cemeteries had a rich history, and volunteers were able to see that, as they found valuable, and interesting information on the gravestones. For someone who is in the same position as I was, looking for an interesting, worthwhile Eagle Project, I would recommend this kind of project, as it will be very worthwhile (compared to mowing a lawn or something), and is very repeatable! Just find some cemeteries that have not yet been photographed and transcribed near you!
I did my project at the Lyman, Wyoming Cemetery on July 25-26, 2013 with the help of 25 of my family members. I planned my project at that time because we were having a family reunion in Lyman that weekend. It was great to have so much help in photographing all of the remaining headstones in the cemetery.
After I got home, I transcribed dozens of remaining records which took until August 14th (I didn’t work on it every day).
A cool experience from this project was being able to be back in Lyman, Wyoming where my grandmother was raised (she came from a family of 17 children) and to be able to photograph some of their graves.
My name is Thomas Peck, and I did an eagle project for BillionGraves on Saturday, June 15. For my project I had everyone involved meet at a local church. From there we split into two groups: one went to the graveyard with smartphones while the other stayed at the church with laptops and transcribed the images.
One of my brilliant ideas was to get sticky notes and mark the gravestones that had after taking the pictures. The only problem with this was that sticky notes do not stick well to hundred year old headstones. Another brilliant idea was to get some paper and write down the transcription of the gravestone then take a picture of the transcription and link it with the gravestones picture. This was quite effective because it is much simpler to read something on a paper then off a photograph of an ancient gravestone.
One thing I had a problem with was not giving enough instructions. If I did it again I would spend more time giving instructions on how to take pictures.
My name is James Smith and I am currently in Troop 711 in Rockledge, FL. The bulk of my project was completed here in the Florida Memorial Gardens cemetery, but other helpers in Colorado took pictures at one or two cemeteries in Colorado Springs. I completed my project on August 3.
My goal was to get 10,000 pictures and in the end we got over 12,000. This was my second attempt at an eagle project as my other quite literally burned to the ground. I was going to clear brush in Waldo Canyon near Colorado Springs for fire mitigation purposes, but the fire beat me to it by about a week.
My advice is to pick a day with good weather. The first day we took pictures, the sun was out, so we had to worry about shadows and it was quite hot. However, the second day it was overcast and we went really quickly.
This was a great project because it can affect so many people for generations.
Nathaniel E. Brandon
I did my project at The Memorial Gardens of the Wasatch, in Ogden, UT
I completed my project on July 20, 2013
This is a fun project, takes lots of time to put together. It is fun once you’re at the cemetery and actively engaged. It is also a very educational experience. A must do for genealogists! It’s a very family friendly project. You learn a lot about people.
These scouts have done some amazing things by serving the families of loved ones buried in these cemeteries! We are so proud of all of you! Congratulations!
BillionGraves is a huge fan of Scouting! Already we have had many scouts organize their Eagle Projects to capture and record images for BillionGraves. We couldn’t be more thrilled!
To show our gratitude and support for these awesome scouts—thanks to American Monument—BillionGraves is giving away granite plaques to every scout who uploads 10,000 images or more for their Eagle Scout Project. This beautiful plaque (see example on right) is our way of honoring these ambitious young men who have put in hours of service for the benefit of others.
BillionGraves is a worldwide project that gives people more access to their ancestor’s records than ever before. Using BillionGraves for your Eagle Scout project is not only free, but very meaningful. Through using modern technology, you can make these records available to families all over the world!
If you know of anyone looking for an Eagle Scout project, recommend BillionGraves to them and have them check out our Eagle Scout information packet for more details. We are happy to help you organize your Eagle Project and answer any questions you might have.