For the new year we wanted to do something special this week and highlight a guest blogger on BillionGraves today; Jason W. Crews from TheTexasGenealogist.com. `
Jason is a passionate genealogist, born and raised in Grand Prairie Texas. A new volunteer to BillionGraves this last month, he has already spent countless hours volunteering and helping others create projects and help others in their quests to find their families. We are happy to have Jason writing for us today! Take it away Jason!
BillionGraves is the fastest, easiest, and most efficient way to gather headstone data in the world. A single volunteer can collect over 500 images in a just one hour, a well-organized group can photograph an entire cemetery in a single afternoon. The volunteers doing the legwork are the heart of the project!
To spearhead the project, select a project coordinator. It’s important to find a local cemetery that has not already been photographed in order to avoid duplication. To do this, quickly look up the cemetery on BillionGraves Cemetery Search to see if it has already been documented. If you are new to BillionGraves yourself, before you take a large group to the cemetery you should go out and take a few pictures in order to be better able to answer questions. Make sure that all of your volunteer photographers have the BillionGraves app loaded on their iPhone or Android smartphone BEFORE you go to the cemetery.
During the project the project coordinator should NOT take pictures. He/She should organize the group and be available to answer questions and direct the group. Teach your volunteer photographers how to take pictures, link successive images, and upload images.
Volunteers without smartphones can help by clearing grass, flowers or debris off each headstone before each picture is taken. This job is an important one; taking pictures goes much more quickly if the headstones are ready with all the information visible.
Things to remember when planning a project:
- Avoid casting a shadow. When a shadow only covers part of the stone, it can make the part in the shade difficult to read in a photo.
- Avoid the sun if you can. It’s not always possible, but if you can, take photos in indirect light early morning, late evening, or overcast days work best.
- Include all important information in the photo frame. Make sure names, dates, etc. are all included.
- Link together images of each side of the headstone that has information.
- Most importantly, HAVE FUN!!
If you have any questions about starting your own project or feedback, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month, our wonderful photographers and transcribers will be dueling it out! We are going to see which group will take more pictures or transcribe more records respectively. You get to decide which team to help; so which side will you choose?
Here’s how it works:
On the leaderboard this month, you’ll find a counter that will tell you where each side (photographers or trancribers) stands. EVERY PERSON who takes a picture or transcribes one will get to contribute to whichever side they want. So it’s up to you—which side do you want to help win? Can’t decide? You could help both!
You could win!
EVERYONE who makes it on the leaderboard this month will win a prize! The top 50 contributors of the winning side (photographers or transcribers) will get a BillionGraves stressball—perfect for working out those sore fingers from transcribing or taking pictures!
But we are also offering a second-place prize too! The other side’s top 50 contributors will still get an official BillionGraves vinyl sticker! They’re perfect to for decorating your smartphone, tablet or even the bumper of your car!
So keep an eye on the leaderboard this month to make sure you’re in one of the top 50 lists and to see how your team is measuring up!
-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 and/or transcribed no later than midnight (GMT) on September 30.
Since the BillionGraves Index is now available on FamilySearch.org, a large group from FamilySearch employees decided to learn more about what BillionGraves is all about. So they headed to the Murray Cemetery in Utah to give the app a try.
Some people took pictures, and some people contributed by cleaning off headstones ahead of the picture-takers. This job is an important one: taking pictures goes much more quickly if the headstones are ready with all the information visible.
Dan Shellman, one of the participants, shared a bit about the great experience he had. “The activity that we held in which we took pictures of grave stones to be uploaded to BillionGraves was a great one. As I was taking pictures, it was humbling to see the names of families and wonder at the lives they must have lead. It felt great to know that the information about these families could be used to help others better understand their family history.”
120 different contributors—88 of them first time picture-takers—participated, and about 12,000 new images were added to the Murray Cemetery in one day.
The group even started transcribing the images together after the event.
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.
BillionGraves is all about making family history research accessible. The driving force behind it is the idea that a volunteer force records headstones around the world and compiles the transcribed data in one place on BillionGraves.com. The database is free to search on the web, and it is now free to search from your iPhone or Android phone as well!
Why you should visit your local cemetery
Think of the BillionGraves effort as a wall waiting to be painted. If the painter puts smatterings of paint haphazardly across the wall, he’ll probably miss spots and leave an uneven layer of color. Yes, the wall will be painted, and yes, he can fill in the gaps, but if he had been methodical about painting the wall, he would be certain he covered the entire wall, and his cleanup work later would be reduced. There are clear benefits of being methodical about the picture-taking process with BillionGraves, too. Since we have volunteers working around the world, we can all finish painting the wall in record time. If you paint in your corner of the world, and she paints in hers, and so on, we’ll be certain we are covering the world’s cemeteries and collecting all the data we can to help people research their families from the comfort of their homes.
We can reach our goal of collecting one billion graves with the efforts of our volunteers. We appreciate your efforts, and we encourage you to continue to gather records from your local cemeteries. While it is exciting and moving to visit cemeteries where your relatives are buried, it is also vital to capture the data waiting for you in your local cemetery. Think of my mom. She lives in Florida, but all of her relatives are buried in the West, either in Colorado, Utah, or Idaho. She is waiting for the research from all of those cemeteries to be collected so she has access to her relatives’ information. While she waits, she has the opportunity to visit her local cemeteries in Florida, record the headstones in those cemeteries, and supply the data other families are waiting for in Maine, Kansas, Venezuela, or any other place around the world.
Get the youth involved
Getting your children or grandchildren involved will also speed up the process. Kids have natural technological abilities that we adults didn’t grow up learning. They can be a force for good as you visit cemeteries in your area. Let them provide service for their community, and let them learn at a young age the respect and appreciation for those who have gone before them that you have.
We can’t say this enough—we appreciate every effort from every volunteer. Let’s keep telling our friends about BillionGraves, visiting our local cemeteries, and transcribing the wealth of data that is flooding into our database.