Keeping your kids busy during coronavirus closures can be a challenge.

Are you stuck at home while your children’s school or your own office is closed? No worries! BillionGraves has some fun ideas to help keep your family happy and involved while staying healthy!  

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Avoid Large Crowds

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic. What’s a pandemic? The WHO defines it as an “epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people.”

This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. And, as a side note, seasonal outbreaks of influenza are not considered to be pandemics.

Basically, it means a LOT of people are experiencing coronavirus-related closures. We are being advised to avoid large crowds. So how are you going to keep your family busy and happy during this time?

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Stock Up!

Stocking up on at least a two week supply of food, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and the like has been an obvious enough solution to coronavirus closures to so many people that many store shelves are empty.

Shoppers are greeted with signs like “the following items are currently unavailable” or “due to high demand, please limit your purchases to no more than three of this item”.

So, if you have already made your run to the store and loaded up a cart with essentials, what’s next?

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Stock up on things to do!

One of the meaningful things you could do with your children during this time is to help document your local cemetery.

So download the free BillionGraves app to your smartphone by clicking here for Phone/iPad or here for Android.

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Take Photos of Gravestones with Your Smartphone!

If headstones could talk, they would have a lot of stories to tell. But they can’t, so BillionGraves is the next best thing. As gravestones deteriorate, those stories are quickly fading away. We need to capture them before it’s too late.

BillionGraves’ goal is to preserve cemetery data and make it readily available for genealogical research to honor our ancestors and loved ones. Then, even if a loved one’s gravestone is damaged or worn by time, the invaluable information recorded at their final resting place will still be available.

BillionGraves is the world’s largest GPS-linked cemetery data resource. As you take photos with the BillionGraves app, each gravestone is automatically marked with a GPS location. The data is then made readily available at BillionGraves.com for free for millions of families around the globe for generations to come.

Click to view a two-minute video about BillionGraves

Stay Active During Coronovirus Closures

Coronavirus closures shouldn’t mean weeks of sitting around the house. That is not only unhealthy, but it can also lead to depression.

A BillionGraves cemetery documentation project can be a perfect solution to getting your kids outside for a meaningful purpose while still avoiding large crowds.

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Getting Started:

1. Download the BillionGraves app to your smartphone by clicking for iPhone/iPad or Android here.

2. Create a free account on the app or at BillionGraves.com.

3. In the app, click on “take pictures” to begin taking photos in your local cemetery. The GPS location will automatically be recorded.

4. Beginners can usually take about 250 photos per hour. That is about 1 photo every 15 seconds. That will keep you all moving along at a pretty quick pace!

5. When you are finished, connect to Wi-Fi and upload your cemetery photos.

6. Repeat! 🙂

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Michael Valaski is confined to a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy. He and his dad, Bill, work together to take photographs of gravestones with the BillionGraves app.

Photo-taking Tips:

  • Stand to the side to avoid casting a shadow.
  • Remove weeds, grass, or other debris that may block gravestone information.
  • Be sure names and dates are inside the photo frame.
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Linking Photos with the BillionGraves App  

If a gravestone has data on more than one side (for example, parents on one side and children on the other side) there is a way to link them together. Just click on the chain icon in the corner of your screen between each photo that you would like to link (front side, chain icon, backside). 

You can use this linking feature for obelisks that have data on four sides. You can also use it to link a large gravestone with a family surname on it to nearby smaller gravestones with the family member’s first names on them. 

As you participate in a BillionGraves cemetery activity, you are not only linking gravestone data together, you are linking your own family in a united purpose. And this will create strong bonds that will outlast the coronavirus closures!

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Finding a Cemetery to Document

How can you find a cemetery to photograph that has not already been documented by someone else? It’s easy! Here are two ways:

Find a Cemetery to Photograph Using the BillionGraves App:

  1. In the app, click on “find cemeteries.”
  2. Select a cemetery nearby.
  3. Click on “cemetery map” to see a map of the cemetery and pins of photos already taken.
  4. If no pins are present on the map, photograph the entire cemetery.
  5. If pins are present, locate a section of the cemetery with no pins and begin taking photos.
  6. If you happen to duplicate some of the gravestones that have already been photographed, don’t worry about it – they will be merged in the transcription process.
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Find a Cemetery to Photograph Using the BillionGraves Website:

  1. On the website click on the large blue button that says “Search BillionGraves”
  2. Go to the “Cemetery Search” tab.
  3. Enter the city or county you are interested in documenting.
  4. A map will appear. You can either click on the pins on the map or the names of cemeteries below the map.
  5. Once you have opened a specific cemetery, click on the “Volunteer” tab (below the name of the cemetery) to see a map of that cemetery.
  6. The pins will show where photos have already been taken. If there are areas with gravestones that have no pins, then your service is needed to photograph that cemetery! 

If you would like help finding a cemetery to document, send us an email at Volunteer@BillionGraves.com and we’ll be happy to help you!

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What if the Cemeteries Near Us have Already been Photographed?

So what if you live in an area where most of the gravestones have already been documented with the BillionGraves app? Here are a few great ways you can still help.

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Have a “Treasure Hunt” for Recent Burials

If you live in an area where most of the gravestones have already had GPS-linked photos taken, there is still a very valuable way you can participate.

First, go to the BillionGraves website by clicking HERE. Use the steps listed above to find a cemetery you are interested in. Now scroll down the page to see the contributors section that will list when the last photos were taken at that cemetery.

Let’s say the last photos were taken in that cemetery in 2015. If the cemetery has still been open for additional burials since that time, have a “treasure hunt” to find gravestones with death dates after 2015.

You could even award a small prize to the family member who takes the most photos of these more recent burials.

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Look for Gaps in the Maps

Sometimes at first glance, it may appear that a cemetery has already been completed photographed when you look at a BillionGraves satellite map image like this one and see lots of orange dots. Click here to see it in greater detail: Mount Olivet Cemetery, Salt Lake City, Utah.

The orange dots indicate GPS coordinates that are marking gravestones that have already been photographed with the BillionGraves app.

But look more carefully, see all the open spaces in between the orange dots? (Zoom in as needed.) Those are gravestones that still need to have photographs taken!

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How to Involve Young Children

Your youngest children can be involved too!

Send little ones (or those without smartphones) ahead of the older photographers with a small brush or cloth to wipe dirt and grass clippings off the gravestones.

Or give them a small spray bottle of water to spritz the stones so that they are easier to read in a photograph.

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Make a Game Out of It

Divide your family or children into two teams. Whichever team takes the most gravestone photos by the end of the event wins. (The BillionGraves app will automatically keep track of the number of photos taken. You will be able to see the number when you upload your pictures.)

Then have the losers prepare dinner for the winners the following night. Or the losers sing a song or do a dance for the winners.

Stay Safe!

Please be safe while volunteering in your area. Follow the guidelines issued by your local government and heed the advice of other credible sources regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

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Quarantined Indoors?

What if the coronavirus closures are much more serious for your family? What if you have been exposed to someone who had the coronavirus, but you are waiting out the two-week quarantine to see if you develop symptoms? There is still a way you can help with this work even if you have to stay indoors.

Transcriptions! All those gravestone images have names and dates on them that need to be recorded.

Click HERE to read a BillionGraves HelpDesk article about how to transcribe records. Even older children can get quite good at transcribing with a little guidance.

(But if you have a choice between taking photos and transcribing, we need photos more than transcriptions!)

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Click HERE to read more ideas for kids in BillionGraves blog post 10 Ways to Get Children Excited about Family History.


We hope that these ideas will be a blessing to those of you affected by coronavirus closures. And thanks so much to you – and your children – for helping others to find their ancestors!

Wishing You and Your Family Health and Happiness!

Cathy Wallace and the BillionGraves Team