Not very many people can say they visited a cemetery for their wedding anniversary, but Colette Hokanson can. In fact, last year’s anniversary was her first time taking pictures for BillionGraves; she and her husband downloaded it before dinner and then visited the their local cemetery afterwards.
They enjoyed it so much, they visited 3 more cemeteries that very weekend.
Colette was hooked on BillionGraves. She continued taking pictures for BillionGraves throughout the next year with her family on Saturday mornings and occasionally on family trips. Each time she passes a cemetery, she begs her family to let her stop so they can take pictures.
One day, a friend asked Colette if she had any suggestions for an upcoming “Day of Service” their church had planned. Colette told her about BillionGraves and her friend loved the idea. They set it up so each congregation would be in charge of taking photos at different cemeteries throughout Oregon and northern California.
They held their “Day of Service” on September 14th, 2013 and had over 327 volunteers from 7 congregations participated in photographing 8 cemeteries. Together, they ended up taking over 17,000 photographs and were featured in an article in their local paper the next morning.
“The thing that was really cool was just to see all the people that all of a sudden got turned onto finding out more about their family.” Colette said. “It’s interesting how when you’re out there taking pictures. It turns your heart, you [think] ‘Wow, these were real people. I want to learn more about my family; where are they buried?'”
But that wasn’t only great thing that happened that day.
Colette’s congregation was assigned to the Central Point Cemetery because she knew she had a great-uncle (John Daley) buried there and she wanted to find where he was at. She instructed everyone to keep an eye out for any headstones with the name “Daley.” Coincidentally enough, her husband found her uncle’s headstone surrounded by some of his family members.
However, after they had finished taking photographs, one of Colette’s friends—Kristina—said she found two babies’ headstones in the corner of the cemetery with the last name of Daley: Daisy Bell Daley and Victor Hugo Daley. Colette hurried home to research if they were related and sure enough, Daisy was a grandchild to Colette’s great-uncle John.
Colette was amazed. “I would not have found her if we wouldn’t have done this,” she said, “because she was born [and died] in between censuses.”
But the miracles didn’t stop there!
Colette went home and did more research on that side of the family and found out that she had even more relatives than she knew about buried in her area. As she discovered more grandkids of her great-uncle John, she looked up where they were buried and found that one of them was on BillionGraves.
“I thought ‘Oh my gosh, someone took their picture!'” Colette recounted, “And I looked and it was me! I took the picture last year when I first got that app and I had no idea that I was taking a picture of one of my family members. It took me taking a picture in another cemetery (of Daisy Bell) to go and continue to search… It [was] just so, so amazing, so fantastic!”
Not only was she able to find her own relatives through the pictures she took, but she also helped a friend find his relatives too. As she was helping him find out more information about his grandparents, she suggested they look on BillionGraves to see what they could find. When they did, they found out that his grandparents were buried nearby AND that her husband had taken that picture.
“It was just a little miracle to think that about 7 months before we had taken pictures in a cemetery and it turned out to be the grandparents of a friend of ours.” She said. “I thought ‘how coincidental.’ If you want miracles, go take pictures for BillionGraves! Download the app so you can have miracles in your own life.”
Her advice to anyone is to “Always keep BillionGraves in mind” when you’re traveling anywhere. “Make time on family vacations or on a Saturday to take a few pictures. Make time to stop and take your kids—my kids love it! If we don’t stop and take pictures of these cemeteries, we don’t know how much longer some of these headstones will last…”
“Just do it—even if it’s only a few headstones.” She said. “You never know what impact it will have on someone’s life.”
In an effort to provide better content and to make records found on headstones more readily available to genealogists around the world, we are happy to announce that we have partnered with MyHeritage!
This partnership will expand the reach of BillionGraves records to more than 75 million registered users on MyHeritage—an enormous international network of trees and historical records for discovering family history.
MyHeritage is an amazing company backed by amazing technology and a database filled with several billion records! These world-wide record collections include:
- 1.5 billion exclusive family tree records
- Birth, marriage and death records
- Millions of Newspapers, back to 1739
- Vital records from 16 countries
- Military and immigration records
- Census records back to 1790
- And now more than 5.5 million headstone records from BillionGraves.
In addressing this great news, Hudson Gunn—President of BillionGraves—said, “Since day one, our goal has been to document these headstones and make them available to everyone in the world; and today we take a giant step forward in achieving that goal. Partnering with MyHeritage is an important milestone in the exponential growth of BillionGraves, solidifying our position internationally as a key resource to families looking for accurate vital records.”
Russ Wilding, Chief Content Officer at MyHeritage said “We’re excited to partner with BillionGraves and Tributes.com to deliver such fascinating and meaningful content to our users. This is the type of information that adds color to our family histories and helps even experienced family historians break through brick walls in their research.”
A Special Offer for You!
We have teamed up with MyHeritage to give the friends and family of BillionGraves exclusive special 50% discount on MyHeritage’s annual PremiumPlus + Data membership! This combination of a PremiumPlus account, which provides space for an unlimited family tree, along with the Data Membership which gives unlimited access to billions of historical records, plus the automatic matching technologies which are included in this package is something you can’t find anywhere else!
- Click NOW to claim this limited time offer from MyHeritage! **Offer expired**
- When you purchase this special MyHeritage offer, a large portion of the proceeds will be given back to BillionGraves; these proceeds will be used to continue and improve our service.
This is the first time we have ever promoted a product like this to our users and we wouldn’t be promoting a product or company that we didn’t trust and believe in ourselves. With that said, we couldn’t be happier to partner with such a great company that shares our desires and commitments to enriching and connecting families around the world through this information.
Thank you again for your countless hours contributing to BillionGraves; we are extremely grateful! We look forward to this new partnership with MyHeritage and the exciting new features and advancements coming to BillionGraves in the upcoming months!
This is a promotional offering sponsored by MyHeritage and is NOT required to make contributions to or gain access to the BillionGraves website. BillionGraves is and will always continue to be a free resource to you and the world. When you purchase this special MyHeritage offer, a large portion of the proceeds will be given back to BillionGraves. These proceeds will be used to continue and improve our service and maintain BillionGraves as a FREE resource.
A big thank you to everyone who went out to military cemeteries throughout the country this last weekend and photographed veterans’ headstones. We had a very impressive amount of military images uploaded! We were so thrilled that so many of you took the time and effort give back to our veterans in such a unique way!
Here are our top three uploaders of military records for this weekend:
- JoshDaughetee with 12,014 images
- denis_ashton with 1,668 images
- medfordagent with 1,531 images
Watch your email inboxes to see how to claim your Amazon gift card!
Thanks again everyone for a very special weekend! We know your contributions are making a big difference to all those veterans’ family and friends!
We want to encourage all of you to head out to any military cemeteries near you and start documenting these headstones, especially this weekend! So, we are giving away $25 Amazon gift cards to the top three people who upload the most images from a U.S. Military cemetery this weekend!
Don’t know where the nearest military cemetery is? Find out here.
Let’s do something to let our military veterans know how much we appreciate everything they have done—even if it’s as simple as photographing their headstone.
-Make sure you have permission and are welcome to take pictures in the military cemetery before doing so. We recommend talking to the cemetery caretaker/sexton before taking pictures in ANY cemetery. Remember, private cemeteries require permission of the owner before taking any pictures.
-Winners will be announced at the end of the weekend (November 12) on the BillionGraves blog.
-Promotion is open to all to participate for free. Registration is required.
-More than one individual may contribute to a single account, however, the limit is one prize redemption per BillionGraves account.
-Items will ship in 2-3 weeks after contest closes for winners in the U.S.
-Recipients will be required to provide a mailing address for physical items and their choice of which gift card. Please make sure your email is up to date on your BillionGraves account. We will be emailing that address if you are one of our lucky winners!
-All images must be uploaded no later than midnight (GMT) on Monday, November 11.
Our developers have been hard at work making some updates to the website. Here are a few of the changes they’ve made and what they mean:
Updates to the military transcription process: Our developers have added a few things to the military info on the transcribe page. They have also made it possible to edit the military info on an individual record page! Note: you need to be logged in to be able to edit a record.
Link to transcribe directly from cemetery page: Have you ever wondered how the progress is coming on a cemetery you are transcribing? Now you’ll be able to see on the individual cemetery page how many images still need to be transcribed! Just look for the yellow bar underneath the map of the cemetery!
Other small bug fixes: In other words, just cleaning some house.
Questions about these new updates? Comment below and let us know what you think!