Many people have been asking us lately why they can’t submit photos taken with traditional cameras to the BillionGraves database. The BillionGraves database is unique in that it contains GPS information.
By adding GPS data to each headstone image, cemetery and location data is attached to the image. This means that when you are researching your ancestors, you’ll be able to search for the transcribed headstone, see an image of that headstone, find out where in the world that headstone is located, and learn more about the cemetery it was found in. This wealth of information will make a big difference in your research.
GPS Makes Visiting the Cemetery Easier
Along the same vein, the GPS data allows you to visit a cemetery in person and walk directly to the headstone you want to view in the cemetery. The free Mobile Records Search on your iPhone or Android device is handy for finding the headstone you’re looking for. So if it’s your first time in a particular cemetery, you’ll be able to find that headstone in no time. And if you’ve been to that cemetery dozens of times? No more counting trees, memorizing certain fence posts, or documenting the number of paces to find your loved one.
You Can Find Other Relatives Buried in the Same Cemetery
Another advantage of keeping the GPS information with the headstone images is that it allows you to see all other headstones located in that cemetery. How great is it that you can see direct neighbors of the headstone you’re researching? This is a huge help in making valuable family history connections. You’ll be able to find relatives you didn’t know existed.
Not all GPS’s are Created Equal
What about cameras with GPS data in them? We’ve looked into using those photos, and the GPS is neither accurate nor reliable enough to use in our database. With our phone app, we can verify that users are in a cemetery, and because of this, information about cemeteries and locations is standardized in our database. So, at this time, we aren’t accepting photos from cameras, even if they have GPS.
You Can Still Add Additional Photos to BillionGraves Records
What if you have a photo of a headstone for a record that already exists? You can add that photo to the record! From the History tab on any Records View, you can add both personal histories and any additional photos of the person or the headstone. These photos do not have to be GPS encoded, since they are tied to the BillionGraves record with the GPS encoded headstone photo. This is a great way to create a robust record for your ancestors.
Thanks for your participation in BillionGraves! If you have additional questions, contact support.
Android users: Check Google Play today for a new BillionGraves app update! This update fixes a bug that caused problems with uploading photos, so now the upload process will run more smoothly. There are also improvements to the camera’s functionality as well as to location services. Go get the app today from the Google Play store!
Our records continue to grow, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of our volunteers! We hope you’re having a great month capturing and transcribing images.
Have you gone out to the cemetery with a group yet? As you know, we highly recommend it. Not only does the picture-taking go faster, but it’s great to spend time with others in a worthy cause.
One BillionGraves user, Michael McCormick, headed up an event with his university church group. He tells us that at the end of each school year, the group likes to have some kind of gathering to celebrate. “Traditionally, we get together and have a BBQ,” he says. “Someone mentioned that we should do a service project as part of the closing social. A few people suggested ideas, and I suggested BillionGraves.”
So the group, excited for this unique service project, headed to the cemetery on April 9.
Wow! We’ve had record uploads every day so far in May! Keep up the good work—we’ll still need thousands more images, so let’s make the weekends our highest uploading days. Keep watching that Leaderboard to see how you’re doing—if you are among the top 25 transcribers OR picture takers on May 31, you get your choice of a free BillionGraves t-shirt or one free year of our great BillionGraves Plus Account.
It’s more fun to head to the cemetery with other people—plus, you can photograph an entire cemetery in just a few hours if you join forces!
Create a Facebook event to help you get the word out to your friends and family. You’ll be able to set up a meeting time and location for everyone to meet up and take pictures.
Facebook’s instructions on how to create an event:
- Go to the Events tab on the left side of your home page
- Click Create Event in the upper-right corner of the page
From here, you can customize the event, edit its privacy settings and invite guests. Please note that you must include an event name and time. For more information about Facebook events, click here.
Here is a template you can use to tell your friends and family about your event and answer some of the questions they may have:
Come join me at the cemetery to clean, photograph and document grave markers!
We will be photographing the headstones using the free BillionGraves iPhone and Android application.
What should I bring?
Bring your iPhone, Android phone or tablet (must have GPS), or your 3G iPad2 or 3G iPad3 (the 3G internet versions have GPS, the WiFi only do not have GPS), fully charged with the BillionGraves app already installed (download links are down below). Bring your car charger if you have one (GPS uses a lot of battery).
Register for an account and/or log in to the app before coming.
Do I need an iPhone or Android phone?
No. Many times the vital information on the grave markers are covered with grass clippings, leaves, flowers, pinwheels, or other decorations. We could use help clearing the markers of these items, so a photograph can be taken, then put the decorations back as they were.
If you do not have a device to take pictures with:
- Bring a soft broom or car snow brush to clean off grass and leaves.
- Bring a pair of gloves just in case a headstone has mud covering parts of it and needs the mud/dirt cleared off by hand.
- Bring a blanket to cast a shadow on gravestones that are facing the sun. The picture taker’s shadow and the reflection of the sunlight can make it difficult to read the vital information on the headstone.
- Bring your children. This is an excellent opportunity to help your children develop an appreciation for family history.
- You can also borrow a device from a willing friend or family member.
Can I use my digital camera?
Not to take pictures of the headstones, but you can bring one to document our activity and your family’s participation in this great work. There are other grave-finding websites that accept photos taken without GPS coordinates, but BillionGraves is the only service that has that important information.
More about BillionGraves
The BillionGraves apps are easy to use and free to install on your iOS and Android devices. The app geotags each picture you take with the exact GPS coordinates of the gravestone, making it a valuable resource for genealogy and family history enthusiasts searching for their ancestors. After taking the photos, you will upload the pictures to the BillionGraves.com website where thousands of volunteers are transcribing the images almost as quickly as they are added. Transcribing is also free. Once the records are transcribed, they are available to be searched, for free of course, by anybody who visits the BillionGraves.com website. Users can also find the exact, physical locations of their ancestors’ final resting places, and the app will actually direct them to their locations.
We hope to see as many people as possible attend. With enough participants, we can easily photograph the entire cemetery. Thank you!
Million More in May kicks off today! We have 31 days left to add one million new records to the BillionGraves database.
We’ve been encouraged in our efforts by a post from Shelley Crawford on her blog, Twigs of Yore. She’s let us share her recent experience using BillionGraves with you.
During school holidays recently, Shelley took her son with her to the cemetery to try to find some kind of activity he would be interested in. Using an iPhone and an Android tablet, the pair collected 70 photos in their short visit at the cemetery. And the kicker? Her son is six years old! Shelley comments on her son’s experience:
He did great! He seemed to enjoy the activity – wanted to stay longer and take more pictures but we were out of time. He’ll deny later that he enjoyed it or said any of that… but he did. It was only a short trip. It had taken us a while to leave the house (someone didn’t like any of his socks…) and I hadn’t planned to stay for long anyway, not knowing how the outing would turn out.
So there you have it, proof that BillionGraves is so easy to use, a six-year-old could do it.
We are certainly impressed with the six-year-old’s efforts, but we had no doubt that BillionGraves could be used easily by both children and adults! Thanks, Shelley, for sharing your experience and allowing us to share it with others! Go check out her genealogy blog to see what other tips she has to share.
So now you should have no excuse to download the app (if you don’t already have it) and head out to your local cemetery to start contributing to Million More in May! If you want a refresher on using the app or the transcribing process, visit our User Guide and Frequently Asked Questions.