- This photo is blurry or unreadable: For poorly taken photos that need to be redone.
- The headstone is unreadable: For headstones that are too hard to decipher.
- This isn’t a headstone!: Just in case something that isn’t a grave monument gets past our image checker.
- There’s no information to transcribe: For monuments or photos that don’t contain anything you can transcribe.
- Non-Latin characters (Arabic, Chinese, etc.): For monuments with non-Latin letters. In the future these will be supported, so we want to keep these stones separate for future transcribing.
- Other: Because we can’t think of everything.
Thank you to everyone who has already downloaded the Android app this weekend and started using it. You’ve given the swift-fingered transcribers a lot more to do.
Getting this out to you took us a little longer than we wanted it to, but that’s because Android devices vary so widely. We tested it on all the devices we could possibly get our hands on. The app only works with phones that have true GPS systems. At the bottom of this post is a list of the phones we know it will work on, as well as those we know it won’t. If your phone isn’t on either the Yes or No lists, we either weren’t able to test it or we couldn’t get a straight answer from the producers’ product help desk (phones we know of but aren’t sure about are in the Maybe list). If you download the app and you find that it doesn’t work on your phone, please contact our support team and tell us what went wrong, what type of phone you have, and what version of the Android OS your phone uses. Then we can either fix the problem with your phone or, if your phone does not use true GPS, add it to the appropriate list. Please also let us know if it does work if your phone isn’t already on the Yes list: we’d love to add it.
- Avoid casting partial shadows on the stone. The dark shadow against the light stone can make it unreadable.
- Clear everything that is covering the headstone information. Move flowers and such away from the stone. You can always put them back. Just in case grass clippings or dirt are on the stone, you may want to bring a soft brush of some sort to clean the stone. (Don’t scrub stones or use anything abrasive; you may damage the stone.)
- Include all the headstone’s information in the photo frame—even if the words seem to small on the preview. Remember, there is a zoom function on the website now, so even small words can be magnified. It’s more important to get all the information available.
- Try to take photos in the mornings or evenings. Direct sunlight can make collecting photos problematic. It’s not always feasible to avoid the sun, but if you have a choice, choose a time with more indirect sunlight.
The most important rule? Have some fun while you’re at it. I’ve never enjoyed visiting cemeteries as much as I do now that I can help others while I’m there. (That’s saying something, because I’ve always loved visiting cemeteries). Though I may say things like “we’re hard at work testing this” or something similar, that’s not entirely true. Testing is the best part, and we have fun doing it.
Yes, it works
HTC Sensation™ 4G.
Droid Incredible 2
G2 by HTC
HTC EVO™ 4G
Samsung Galaxy Indulge
Samsung Galaxy Prevail
Samsung Epic™ 4G
Anything but the Garminfone
No, it doesn’t work
When you visit a cemetery, you’re usually looking for or visiting someone specific. This someone is most likely near and dear to your heart, or at least marginally tied to your blood. It makes sense that you’d want that specific someone to be recorded so as not to be forgotten. But when you’re visiting a cemetery and you have the BillionGraves app along with you, don’t miss your opportunity to record all the people surrounding your specific someone. The app is quick and easy, so it shouldn’t slow you down much to collect photos of the headstones you pass on your way into or out of the cemetery. There are a few photos uploaded to the site that look awfully lonely—only one or two pins mark the only photos collected from a particular cemetery.
Next time, take some extra time and record the surrounding stones. You don’t need to map out the whole cemetery (heaven knows that some cemeteries are too big for hours of mapping out, no matter how fast the tool), but map out the chunk you have time for. Each one of those headstones belongs to a specific someone that another researcher or descendant has ties to. Help them find their connections.
Below are a few wonderful examples. The first is East Lawn Memorial Hills in Provo, Utah, USA. The clump of pins is only part of a cemetery, but it’s a grouping that took one person just over an hour to do. It would be easy to map out this chunk, leave, and come back to finish when you had more time to spare.
This next example is from Skållerud (Bränna) in Mellerud, Sweden. The individual working on this cemetery added it to our database and mapped out what appears to be the entire thing—250 photos. Two-hundred fifty photos is not an incomprehensible number when we’re talking about using the smartphone app, but it took this person special time and attention to map out this small cemetery in Sweden.
On a slightly smaller scale, here is another new contribution from Vaucluse, Australia. The person working on this cemetery added it to our database and mapped out a few rows of grave markers. It’s 122 photos, and it’s already an awesome start on South Head Cemetery. It’s a substantial number of stones, and it’ll be easy to come back and finish the rest later.
Thank you to everyone who records stones with the BillionGraves app, but a special thank you to those who take the extra time to record not only those people you’re looking for, but the ancestors of others who can use the work you’ve completed.Read More
Version 1.1 of the iPhone app was approved by Apple yesterday, and here’s what it has under the hood:
The camera will not take photos without an accurate GPS fix. This will ensure you have the most accurate GPS location possible for all your photos because you won’t be able to start collecting until your phone has a good fix.
More accurate GPS settings. Along with the prerequisite fix, we’ve tweaked a few things to create a more accurate GPS tag.
Cemetery map improvements. The map now uses the satellite view from Google maps, which means you can zoom in closer to the cemetery and see the actual terrain instead of streets. It also groups the marker pins better so you get the best information possible for the level of zoom you have. If you’re zoomed out too far to see the pins well, they’ll group together and a number will appear to show you how many pins are in the group.
Improved photos view. The process of viewing, editing, and uploading your photos is more streamlined.
If you already have the app on your phone, you can get the update by tapping on the App Store app and either uploading all the pending updates you have or selecting the BillionGraves app specifically.Read More
Today some of us went to out to test the Android app and some updates to the iPhone app (both are looking sharp, and it shouldn’t be too much longer before we can release them). On our lunch break we shuttled to the Orem Cemetery, scoped out a section that seemed reasonable, and each picked a row of headstones to start on.
|The crew lined up and ready to go.|
After someone finished a row, they’d leap-frog everyone else’s rows and start the next one. Since Android devices generally take photos even faster than iPhones, we were all moving along as a fast clip. Because of the position of the sun, we didn’t have to worry much about our shadows getting on the stones, there were no grass clippings obscuring the names and dates, and most of the Memorial Day flowers have been removed, so they weren’t blocking anything either.
We’ve realized that turning the Auto Upload setting off (you can do this in your Settings menu) extends the phone’s battery life. When the phone is constantly updating the GPS to ensure the most accurate coordinates the cell service will provide, it’s already working pretty hard. But with the Auto Upload off and our simple organization, we finished our section long, long before we needed to use the car chargers we brought with us. Fifteen minutes after we started, there were almost 550 new photos for BillionGraves.com, and we’d done more than the section we’d initially targeted.
|The western grouping of pins were what we captured today.|
|Jacob & Casey Moncur, two of the Android
developers, race to get the most photos.
Admittedly, there were a few of us who were racing to see who could get the most photos before we finished, so that added to our speed, but most of us were going at a casual pace through the headstone rows. We were going to take some time to demonstrate tips for taking fully legible photos, but the environment at Orem Cemetery was particularly cooperative today and we didn’t need to get too creative. But I’ll point out a few do’s and don’ts and then mention a few other things we’ve found helpful.
The first image below is a picture I took before I cleared the headstone. It may seem a little obvious that the important things on this stone aren’t being recorded by the picture. After all, half of one person’s name is covered by a flower pot. But when you’re moving along at a quick clip, sometimes you forget to treat each stone individually; you forget to make sure each one is legible. This has been the case with a few photos that have been uploaded to BillionGraves.com. The second photo shows the same headstone, but with the flowers moved off the stone and far enough away that the shadows won’t make it difficult for a transcriber to read.