How to add a cemetery to BillionGraves from the website:
1. Make sure someone has not already added the cemetery to the database. You can do this by searching for that cemetery (using location in the search will be very helpful) on the search page. This will ensure there are no duplicate cemeteries.
2. Click on the “Tools” tab and click “Add Cemetery.”
5. Verify the cemetery location on a map. From here, you will be able to drag around the pin to place it right where the cemetery is on the map.
How to add a cemetery from your phone:
1. Tap on the “Cemeteries” button. Make sure you have logged into your account through the app already (you should only need to do this once).
3. Fill in the information for the cemetery and tap “Save.” Again, you can either add the location by street address, or just tap the “Use My Location” button if you are currently standing in the cemetery.
How to Edit a Cemetery:
1. Click on the blue “Edit” link underneath the address on the cemetery page. This will pop up a window you can edit the cemetery information in.
Keep in mind that whatever cemetery you add or edit will always be submitted to the BillionGraves team for further review and to ensure accuracy.
Have you ever stopped to take a look at what you find on headstones besides names and dates?
Cemeteries are filled with symbolism that you may not even realize at first glance. As I payed close attention to the symbols on the headstones around me during my last visit to the cemetery, I was fascinated by what I found. These simple symbols are very thought provoking and gave me a deeper understanding of the people who are buried there.
You never know why people choose to put certain symbols on their headstone, but here are some symbols you might find on a headstone and a few ideas of what they might mean:
Hands: These are very common on headstones. Clasped hands (like the ones found in this picture) may mean a farewell, a welcoming into the heavenly world, a symbol of marriage. In this stone, one sleeve appears more feminine and the other masculine which is most likely a symbol of marriage.
Star: Could represent spiritual light, divine guidance or birth/rebirth. In Judaism, the star of David represents divine protection. In Christianity, it sometimes represents “light shining in darkness” or good overpowering evil.
So next time you’re in the cemetery, take a look at the symbols around you. They just might give you some interesting insight into the people who are buried there.
What neat cemetery symbols have you come across? Comment below or send me a picture! I’d love to see what you’ve found!
The summer months are coming to a close here at BillionGraves and that means it’s time for one last summer competition! Let the image rush begin!
The goal this month is to get as many images as possible while the weather’s still good and before school starts up again. So get the whole family out this month and take pictures while you still can!
How to Win:
All you have to do to win one of our great prizes (see below) is to be in the top 15 on the leaderboard by August 31 at midnight (GMT)!
The top 3 uploaders will receive a “BillionGraves Top Contributor” fanny pack complete with waterbottle holder, 8 card holder, 2 pen loops, and a key clip inside. It’s the perfect pack to take with you to the cemetery!
-Make sure you have permission and are welcome to take pictures in your local cemetery before doing so. Remember, private cemeteries require permission of the owner before taking any pictures.
-Winners will be announced at the end of the month 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 6-8 weeks after contest closes for winners in the U.S. Please allow 8-12 for winners outside the U.S.
-Recipients will be required to provide a mailing address for physical items.
-All images must be uploaded no later than midnight (GMT) on August 31.
Enjoy your time visiting a new (or familiar) cemetery, take lots of pictures, and HAVE FUN BillionGraves-ing!
Norma Storrs Keating—a professional genealogist for over 20 years—was stumped. She was working on a project for a client named Emmett (name has been changed), but could find no trace of his maternal grandmother.
Emmett has been estranged from his mother for a few years, his father passed away when he was only 10 years old, and his grandfather passed away right before they started the project. Therefore, Norma had no way of getting information from any living relatives.
Through some digging, Norma found out that the lady who lived with Emmett’s family when he was little was not his grandmother like he had thought all these years—it was actually his great-grandmother! It appeared that Emmett’s grandmother had left somehow—whether that was by death or divorce, she didn’t know. No one knew what her name was, where or when she has born, or when she died. She was a mystery!
Norma had hit a pretty substantial brick wall.
So she decided to start finding all the information she could about Emmett’s great-grandmother who died when Emmett was about eight years old. Her family had come from Europe in the early 1900s to Utah where most of them were buried. Norma was able to find their headstones in Utah, their obituaries, and tied them all together but was still lacking any information about Emmett’s grandmother.
Then one day Emmett’s wife called Norma and said, “You’ve got to go to this website and look at this. I think I found her!”
Sure enough, Norma went to BillionGraves where she found that a woman they didn’t know had been buried the middle of a cemetery plot that was occupied by relatives of Emmett’s great-grandmother. The name seemed like it could be her and the death date was just a few days after Emmett’s mother was born.
Based on the evidence pieced together from her headstone and obituary, Norma discovered that Emmett’s grandmother had died 4-5 days after giving birth to Emmett’s mother. That was why she had been raised by her grandmother. And, because of her unexpected death, Emmett’s grandma was buried in the family plot with her husband’s relatives instead of hers.
“I can’t tell you how excited we were!” Norma said.
But that wasn’t all. Because Norma finally had her name and birth dates, she was able to find valuable information from obituaries and other records that helped them trace the family back 4-5 generations to West Virginia. It turned out those relatives were instrumental in settling West Virginia in the 1700s before they migrated to Utah.
“So it totally opened that whole thing up, it was just amazing,” Norma told me. “We had a huge breakthrough just because of BillionGraves!”
This find was especially meaningful to Emmett because he found out that he shared a name with his grandmother. Emmett was his grandmother’s maiden name.
This meant so much to Emmett who hadn’t had a lot of family connections throughout his life. “It gave him a sense of family that he didn’t have before.” Norma said. “It’s opened up a whole new vista for him…and it’s given him a real good sense of who he is.”
The records found on BillionGraves are unique because they are mapped out according to GPS location and can be viewed as if you are standing right there in the cemetery. Without it, Norma would have had to wait until the next time she was in Utah to walk through the cemetery without any guarantee of even finding the right block.
“We never would have found his grandmother’s grave if BillionGraves hadn’t presented the cemetery the way they do,” Norma said, “where we can look at who’s buried around an individual in a visual way.”
Norma uses a couple other headstone databases to search for her clients’ relatives and “all of them approach it from a different view.” She pointed out. “But in this case, [the GPS coordinates on BillionGraves] made a huge, huge difference.”
Photographing images of headstones in your local cemetery with BillionGraves helps people around the world find where their relatives are buried. Due to weathering, natural disasters and sometimes even neglect, these valuable records are slowly disappearing. But by photographing these headstones NOW, you will halt that process by preserving these family records FOREVER. This literal rock-solid evidence of where and when people lived is priceless to people searching to discover who their ancestors were and where they came from.
Here’s how to get started:
1. Find a cemetery near you that needs to be photographed.
- Search for a specific cemetery near you or
- Check the cemetery map (zoom into your location).
- Make sure you make note of any sections of the cemetery that have already been photographed based on if there are any pins on the cemetery page.
- Contact the cemetery sexton/caretaker/owner and tell them what you plan to do. Working with them can be very helpful to you as you are taking pictures. Not to mention it will be very helpful in their own efforts in the preservation and upkeep of their cemetery!
2. Organize your group
- Go out and take a few pictures BEFORE the day of your service project so you will be able to help the others in your group.
- Have everyone in your group install the app BEFORE going to the cemetery. Cemeteries are notorious for poor internet/data coverage.
- If you would like to keep track of all the headstones that were captured with your project, create a BillionGraves login for the group.
Have everyone download the app first, and then give them the credentials for the group login. Having them log in with those credentials before they get to the cemetery will save you time as well. (note: having multiple people log in to one account may impact eligibility for the current month’s promotions and/or contests)
3. Take Pictures!
- As the leader of the group, don’t take pictures the day of the project. Instead, be available to answer questions and direct people where to photograph next (be a leader).
- Before sending people off to take pictures, make sure you meet together as a group where you review how to take pictures, link successive images, and how to upload them afterwards. For more information on what they need to know, read our picture-taking tutorial or watch this video:
- If not everyone in your group has a device to take pictures with, assign them to a person with a camera. They can help picture-takers by clearing off headstones (brushing away leaves, trimming grass, adjusting decorations etc.) so the picture is unobstructed.
Again, be sure you check with the cemetery sexton/caretaker/owner BEFORE anyone in your group does this.
4. Optional: Arrange for your group to transcribe your pictures together.
- If you really want to go the extra mile, arrange a time (possibly later on that same day) to get some computers/laptops/tablets to transcribe the images you just took. Here’s how:
5. Have fun!
You will find that completing a whole cemetery as a group is a very rewarding experience. It is a great way to both give back to your community and preserve valuable records!
1. BillionGraves DOES qualify as an Eagle Project.
- On page 4 of the Eagle workbook under the Restrictions section and 3rd bullet point it says: “Some aspect of a business operation provided as a community service may also be considered—for example, a park open to the public that happens to be owned by a business.” While BillionGraves isn’t a park it is a FREE service to the community that benefits thousands of people researching their family history, and cemetery sextons who spend too much time helping people find graves instead of taking care of the cemetery.
2. You will need to decide on a beneficiary for your project. These can be any of the following:
- Cemetery Sexton
- City Council member or employee in charge of the cemetery
- BillionGraves (For beneficiary signatures you should send your Eagle workbook in pdf format to email@example.com)
3. If you have any questions or concerns, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for donating your time and efforts to preserve these records found in cemeteries. You just never know what a picture of a headstone might mean to someone. As one Eagle Scout in Texas found out, there is power in a picture and you just might provide the missing link between a father and son. Read their story here.
If you have any questions or concerns about your project (or if you are a cemetery sexton, caretaker, owner, or ecclesiastical leader and have questions about an upcoming project) please contact email@example.com.
We look forward to working with you on this great venture!