Nicolas and Liam Birch
We completed our project 23 July, 2013. We visited cemeteries in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming (Single Adult group helped out there), others helped us in Nebraska, Texas, Virginia, Arizona and some friends tried in Germany as well.
Our Uncle and Aunt went to Virginia and took Patrick Henry’s grave site (Give me Liberty or Give me Death!!!) and also took Ralph Waldo Emerson’s mothers grave site and Pocahontas’ grave. We also had a single adult group help us in Wyoming! That was awesome! There was 12 or 15 of them helping us.
We went to Plain City Cemetery the weekend before Memorial Day, and several people were there cleaning the graves, we told them what we were doing, and they told us “Congratulations,” “Bless you!” and “You are doing a wonderful thing, thank you!”
Thanks again for this great and rewarding experience!
My name is Jefferson Knight, and I performed my Eagle Project in both the Chinn Cemetery, located in Copper Canyon, Texas, and the Old Alton Cemetery, located in Denton, Texas. To give you an idea of where this is, it is about 40 minutes away from Dallas. My project was officially signed off by Billion Graves on August 21st, 2013.
During the summer of 2012, I wanted to begin on my Eagle Project, as I was a life scout. My mom showed me Billion Graves, and how the website stated this was a great Eagle Project. I never got to actually working on my Eagle Project that summer, and when summer or 2013 came around, I knew this would have to be the summer I complete my Eagle Project, especially since high school was starting next year, and I wouldn’t have any time to complete it during the school year. I thought up many ideas that sounded interesting, but in the end I decided, “Why did I abandon the Billion Graves idea in the first place?!” It was a unique, interesting, and worthwhile Eagle Project that I was interested in. So I began to make plans to perform that Eagle Project.
Upon completing the proposal, all those who needed to sign off on my idea, found it unique and approved. After much planning on my behalf, I split up the project into two phases: a picture taking and uploading phase, as well as a transcribing phase. I recruited a good number of volunteers from my church, and set the dates to perform the project.
Many volunteers found the project interesting as it wasn’t too physically taxing, and also helped serve people for genealogical purposes, which my church very much supports. Both cemeteries had a rich history, and volunteers were able to see that, as they found valuable, and interesting information on the gravestones. For someone who is in the same position as I was, looking for an interesting, worthwhile Eagle Project, I would recommend this kind of project, as it will be very worthwhile (compared to mowing a lawn or something), and is very repeatable! Just find some cemeteries that have not yet been photographed and transcribed near you!
I did my project at the Lyman, Wyoming Cemetery on July 25-26, 2013 with the help of 25 of my family members. I planned my project at that time because we were having a family reunion in Lyman that weekend. It was great to have so much help in photographing all of the remaining headstones in the cemetery.
After I got home, I transcribed dozens of remaining records which took until August 14th (I didn’t work on it every day).
A cool experience from this project was being able to be back in Lyman, Wyoming where my grandmother was raised (she came from a family of 17 children) and to be able to photograph some of their graves.
My name is Thomas Peck, and I did an eagle project for BillionGraves on Saturday, June 15. For my project I had everyone involved meet at a local church. From there we split into two groups: one went to the graveyard with smartphones while the other stayed at the church with laptops and transcribed the images.
One of my brilliant ideas was to get sticky notes and mark the gravestones that had after taking the pictures. The only problem with this was that sticky notes do not stick well to hundred year old headstones. Another brilliant idea was to get some paper and write down the transcription of the gravestone then take a picture of the transcription and link it with the gravestones picture. This was quite effective because it is much simpler to read something on a paper then off a photograph of an ancient gravestone.
One thing I had a problem with was not giving enough instructions. If I did it again I would spend more time giving instructions on how to take pictures.
My name is James Smith and I am currently in Troop 711 in Rockledge, FL. The bulk of my project was completed here in the Florida Memorial Gardens cemetery, but other helpers in Colorado took pictures at one or two cemeteries in Colorado Springs. I completed my project on August 3.
My goal was to get 10,000 pictures and in the end we got over 12,000. This was my second attempt at an eagle project as my other quite literally burned to the ground. I was going to clear brush in Waldo Canyon near Colorado Springs for fire mitigation purposes, but the fire beat me to it by about a week.
My advice is to pick a day with good weather. The first day we took pictures, the sun was out, so we had to worry about shadows and it was quite hot. However, the second day it was overcast and we went really quickly.
This was a great project because it can affect so many people for generations.
Nathaniel E. Brandon
I did my project at The Memorial Gardens of the Wasatch, in Ogden, UT
I completed my project on July 20, 2013
This is a fun project, takes lots of time to put together. It is fun once you’re at the cemetery and actively engaged. It is also a very educational experience. A must do for genealogists! It’s a very family friendly project. You learn a lot about people.
These scouts have done some amazing things by serving the families of loved ones buried in these cemeteries! We are so proud of all of you! Congratulations!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org)
3. If you have any questions or concerns, contact email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to working with you on this great venture!
Connor Murphy (of Houston, Texas) didn’t know he was going to provide the missing link between a father and son when he organized over 30 volunteers to photograph the Calvary Hills Cemetery for his Eagle Scout project. His main goal was to “get all the information from the cemetery out,” Connor told me, “so that if anybody needed it, it could be accessed.”
Josh never knew his father; in fact, he was told that his father was murdered. And that’s about all he knew until a few weeks ago.
Actually, he’s only been able to piece together just a few bits of information throughout the years. No one on Josh’s mother’s side of the family would ever talk about his father, and he never knew any of his father’s family because of it.
Josh was born in Michigan, so he knew his parents were together there for at least some amount of time. His mother did say that his father was a “migrant worker” and that meant his father and family moved around a lot. He was told his father worked on farms and other places in Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, and even helped moved the Texas pipeline at one point.
When he was only 8 years old, his mom told Josh that his dad had been murdered. What the circumstances were of that murder, his mother wouldn’t say.
“I don’t even know if that was true,” Josh admitted, “because of the fact that she always tries to hide information from me about my father’s family and about him. She didn’t like telling me that.”
Josh wasn’t sure what to think until a few years later (at age 16) when he was spending time with his grandmother. She was drunk and accidentally let it slip that his father had, in fact, passed away. This wasn’t the first time Josh heard this, but somehow this time, was different. He was older this time and was able to fully grasp what that meant: he would never know his father.
Shortly after that, Josh moved out and has lived on his own all around the United States (and even in Mexico for a little while) until two months ago when he got married and moved to South Dakota. He has two stepsons with his first child—a baby girl—on the way.
In fact, he was about ready to just give up. But then one day, “for some reason I told myself to try looking again,” Josh said. So he Googled his father’s name and one image taken during Connor’s Eagle project popped up. The name and dates matched what Josh was looking for. He had found his father!
“It meant the world to me when I saw the headstone and realized that it was my dad,” Josh said. “I’m not one to cry, [but] my eyes watered up knowing it was something that I thought I’d never find. It just touched my heart and I would like to thank [Connor], who made it possible.”
When Connor found out what his Eagle project had done for Josh, he said, “Wow, maybe I was meant to do that cemetery.” His original plan was to photograph a cemetery that was closer to where he lived, but it fell through so he chose Calvary Hills.
Perhaps it was meant to be.
Now, thanks to Connor, Josh has a starting point in finding his lost father’s family. He plans to take a trip to Texas as soon as he can. He wants to find out anything he can about his father’s life and see if he can find any living relatives.
“I want them to know they have family too!” Josh says. “Whether it’s a great-niece, or a grandkid, they have them. We’re out here!”
Josh will continue his search for his paternal family, but would love any help he can get. When Josh contacted the funeral director in Texas, she was unable to give Josh any help because it’s been so long since his father’s death. So if you are related or know of anyone who could be related to Bret Alan VanDreumel, please comment below or contact Josh at email@example.com.
You just never know how powerful a picture can be or what it might mean for someone. For Josh, it means that he can start getting to know the father he never had.
This weekend, a few of us here at BillionGraves were able to participate in an Eagle Scout Project hosted at a local cemetery.
The project was a huge success. Each volunteer had a great time providing service to their community. With everyone involved, the whole cemetery was recorded in less than an hour. Kind of inspires you to get a team going in your area, doesn’t it. (It should!)
This beautifully manicured cemetery was easy to navigate, and the volunteers worked diligently to collect headstone images.
The group was sure dedicated to their smartphones. It’s fun to come across unique headstones like these while taking pictures.
This young man put together a team of volunteers and organized an event all on his own, and the team knocked out an entire cemetery in a day. Like I said, you should feel inspired!
Recruit your friends and family and get your community involved in recording family history for others around the world. Teams can help each member feel motivated, share the burden of recording an entire cemetery, and make an afternoon at the cemetery more fun. Organize an event to record a cemetery together. You can refer your friends to our site to help them get registered and oriented.
We have an Eagle Scout reference packet as well as other reference guides on our site. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have with regards to Eagle Scout Projects or organizing events—we would love to help you out.