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!