Not very many people can say they visited a cemetery for their wedding anniversary, but Colette Hokanson can. In fact, last year’s anniversary was her first time taking pictures for BillionGraves; she and her husband downloaded it before dinner and then visited the their local cemetery afterwards.
They enjoyed it so much, they visited 3 more cemeteries that very weekend.
Colette was hooked on BillionGraves. She continued taking pictures for BillionGraves throughout the next year with her family on Saturday mornings and occasionally on family trips. Each time she passes a cemetery, she begs her family to let her stop so they can take pictures.
One day, a friend asked Colette if she had any suggestions for an upcoming “Day of Service” their church had planned. Colette told her about BillionGraves and her friend loved the idea. They set it up so each congregation would be in charge of taking photos at different cemeteries throughout Oregon and northern California.
They held their “Day of Service” on September 14th, 2013 and had over 327 volunteers from 7 congregations participated in photographing 8 cemeteries. Together, they ended up taking over 17,000 photographs and were featured in an article in their local paper the next morning.
“The thing that was really cool was just to see all the people that all of a sudden got turned onto finding out more about their family.” Colette said. “It’s interesting how when you’re out there taking pictures. It turns your heart, you [think] ‘Wow, these were real people. I want to learn more about my family; where are they buried?'”
But that wasn’t only great thing that happened that day.
Colette’s congregation was assigned to the Central Point Cemetery because she knew she had a great-uncle (John Daley) buried there and she wanted to find where he was at. She instructed everyone to keep an eye out for any headstones with the name “Daley.” Coincidentally enough, her husband found her uncle’s headstone surrounded by some of his family members.
However, after they had finished taking photographs, one of Colette’s friends—Kristina—said she found two babies’ headstones in the corner of the cemetery with the last name of Daley: Daisy Bell Daley and Victor Hugo Daley. Colette hurried home to research if they were related and sure enough, Daisy was a grandchild to Colette’s great-uncle John.
Colette was amazed. “I would not have found her if we wouldn’t have done this,” she said, “because she was born [and died] in between censuses.”
But the miracles didn’t stop there!
Colette went home and did more research on that side of the family and found out that she had even more relatives than she knew about buried in her area. As she discovered more grandkids of her great-uncle John, she looked up where they were buried and found that one of them was on BillionGraves.
“I thought ‘Oh my gosh, someone took their picture!'” Colette recounted, “And I looked and it was me! I took the picture last year when I first got that app and I had no idea that I was taking a picture of one of my family members. It took me taking a picture in another cemetery (of Daisy Bell) to go and continue to search… It [was] just so, so amazing, so fantastic!”
Not only was she able to find her own relatives through the pictures she took, but she also helped a friend find his relatives too. As she was helping him find out more information about his grandparents, she suggested they look on BillionGraves to see what they could find. When they did, they found out that his grandparents were buried nearby AND that her husband had taken that picture.
“It was just a little miracle to think that about 7 months before we had taken pictures in a cemetery and it turned out to be the grandparents of a friend of ours.” She said. “I thought ‘how coincidental.’ If you want miracles, go take pictures for BillionGraves! Download the app so you can have miracles in your own life.”
Her advice to anyone is to “Always keep BillionGraves in mind” when you’re traveling anywhere. “Make time on family vacations or on a Saturday to take a few pictures. Make time to stop and take your kids—my kids love it! If we don’t stop and take pictures of these cemeteries, we don’t know how much longer some of these headstones will last…”
“Just do it—even if it’s only a few headstones.” She said. “You never know what impact it will have on someone’s life.”
What: BillionGraves is excited to be working with the VA to document military headstones in our Country’s National Cemeteries. To jump-start this project we will be coming to the Denver area to photograph the entire Fort Logan National Cemetery in Colorado.
Who: Anyone who is excited about genealogy and photographing cemeteries is welcome to come take pictures with us! We are also reaching out to Genealogy Societies throughout Colorado for support as well.
When: On October 18th, and 19th starting at 9 am. *Note: the dates have changed since the first email we sent out!* Our goal is to document the entire cemetery in just 2 short days!
Where: Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado. We will meet each morning at the northeast entrance of the cemetery (called the “Funeral entrance” with the main building there). Call Hudson at 801-671-8177 if you can’t find us.
Why: BillionGraves is a headstone database company that uses the latest technology to capture and preserve the genealogical records found in cemeteries around the world. Through the FREE BillionGraves website and mobile application, users worldwide can take pictures (complete with GPS locations) and transcribe those images, creating an invaluable collection of priceless records for genealogists and family historians to connect with their ancestors.
With more than 5.5 million headstone records created by over 52,000 volunteers in just two short years, BillionGraves is the trusted resource for accurate and reliable GPS headstone and burial record data on the web with users in more than 212 different countries. Over 10 thousand records are added each day to the BillionGraves network and 3 thousand new registered users join every month.
How: All you need to bring is any of your friends and family with a Smartphone and a water bottle and we’ll take care of the rest! We will provide lunch, snacks, and some fun BillionGraves “swag”. To get a jump start on the project, please download the FREE BillionGraves app from the Android or iTunes store and register for a free account before you come.
As we are working closely with the Fort Logan Cemetery, please RSVP to Hgunn@billiongraves.com with the following information:
1. Contact information
2. T-shirt size
3. The number of people coming
4. What day(s) you are available to help!
This will allow the cemetery to prepare for our arrival and so we have enough food for everyone! Come be a part of this exciting new project! Feel free to tell and bring your friends, the more the merrier! See you in Colorado!
In case you haven’t heard already, we are photographing the entire Fort Logan Cemetery in Denver, Colorado THIS Friday and Saturday! Bring a phone, charger, jacket, water bottle, and don’t forget to RSVP to email@example.com no later than Wednesday (October 14).
You can find out more details here and let us know if you have any questions! We hope to see you there!
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!