“How?” You might ask. I was determined to find that out as I met up with them on a sunny, summer day at the Salt Lake City, Utah Cemetery.
While Kristiana snapped some pictures of her great-great-Grandfather—George King—and his family members nearby, her four sons skipped off to explore that section of the cemetery.
George King was a “Woodman of the World” and made it from Maine to Utah while working on the Union Pacific railroad. So we met and talked near his headstone as Kristiana snapped a few pictures for BillionGraves.
Pretty soon, 10-year-old Cameron came back from wandering and proudly announced that he had found the headstone of a pilot. His excitement was contagious, so both eight-year-old Dallin and I followed him over to see his great find. Sure enough, Cameron had found a headstone of a B24 pilot who had served in World War II.
“I’m the military genius of the family,” he told me.
“But both of us are interested in Star Wars” Dallin interjected.
I was pretty surprised about Cameron’s enthusiasm, but then he explained to me that on his mother’s side, his great-grandfather McCurdy was stationed in London during World War II and had a brother named Bill who was a B17 gunner and was lost in action.
I was blown away, these boys—all under the age of 12—could talk about their family history so easily!
Once we returned to the section where Kristiana was taking pictures, I just had to ask how she did it. How did she manage to get 4 boys all under the age of 12 to love genealogy?
“It’s just in our blood,” she said.
However, with a little more probing, Kristiana told me how when she was Cameron’s age, she would haul her dad’s big legal-sized book of remembrance to the kitchen table and hand-copy family tree charts and group records for her own book. She loved that she shared a name with her 4th-great-grandmother.
Kristiana carried that passion with her throughout her life, even when her oldest son, Alex, was very small. Her husband worked odd hours so on mornings he was home, he would take care of Alex for a little while and would drop Kristiana off at the Family History Library. When the boys would come pick her up, she would always tell them of her latest findings during her time there.
She felt like she needed to keep working on her family history even though life got even more crazy as her family grew and she began homeschooling them. It just became natural for her to bring up family history as she continued to work on it.
“I think we just talk about it a lot,” she explained. “We just talk about people, we make it sound fun and we decorate with family history items; we have old pictures on the walls. We’ve got a watercolor of St. Paul’s church in Halifax, Nova Scotia where their 4th great-grandfather was married when he came from England.”
In addition to being surrounded by family decorations, Kristiana finds ways to tie in family stories into what the boys are learning while she homeschools them.
“It makes it so much more real,” she said “because we’re talking about the Mayflower and I [say something] like ‘Oh and you had an ancestor—Miles Standish—[who was on the Mayflower]. That’s your grandfather 11-generations back!”
When they learned about World War II, the family interviewed their grandparents about what it was like to live during that time. “I’ve got video of [my two grandfathers] talking about their experiences, and we talked to my Grandma about living through rationing in World War II. She hated it because they rationed shoes and she loved shoes.”
Needless to say, history is their family’s favorite subject. “It’s hard to separate family history from world history and American history. I’ve really been able to show that as we’ve studied history.”
What do the boys say about it? “It’s like a puzzle—something to solve. And we love puzzles!”
Kristiana believes in a principle she read in an article in the New York Times that said when children know their family’s stories and where they came from, they are more resilient and can handle trials better. Kristiana found this to be true as her four handicapped siblings passed away over a period of seven years.
Kristiana’s mother said that one way she was able to deal with it was because she read her grandma’s life history in which her grandmother wrote about her mother losing 4 children of her own.
“My mother said ‘Knowing that my great-grandma went through that, maybe I can too.’ And it strengthened her to know that,” Kristiana explained. If there’s one thing that Kristiana wants in life, it’s that her children will be able find strength to brave hardships in life through knowing their family’s stories.
Although Kristiana’s stage of life isn’t typically the time of life that most people associate with genealogy, she says that “as we are in the process of raising children, our lives have been enriched to find out our heritage now.”
Through sharing her love of genealogy with her children through simple, every-day interactions, she has been able to successfully help her children realize that they belong to and are part of something bigger than themselves. They love doing their family history and they know that Genealogy is definitely not just for Grandmas!
To find out more about Kristiana’s genealogy projects, visit her Samuel Goodwin Family Genealogy blog. Do you agree with Kristiana? Comment below and let us know what you think!
In transcribing images for BillionGraves as well as other genealogical records, I have been extremely frustrated in trying to decipher blurry, obscured, or faded records. I feel personally responsible when I can’t correctly transcribe an image because I know that means it won’t be accessible for anyone to search for later on. And that’s the whole goal of our project, right?
So I’ve compiled 7 ways you—as as a photographer of these valuable, fading records—can improve every image you take and therefore make both transcribers and genealogists love you forever (and I mean forever)!
1. Frame your photo well.
The headstone you are photographing should fill up as much of the frame as possible without cutting off any of the headstone.
2. Take pictures at the right angle.
The more straight-on your picture is, the better. Taking pictures from any angle besides straight on can distort the words on the headstone and make it nearly impossible to transcribe. For upright monuments, bend down to get a better angle for the picture.
3. Link images correctly.
Some headstones are either too large or are actually made up of two connected headstones. If this is the case, take a picture of the WHOLE headstone first, then take close ups on the different sections of the stone.
MAKE SURE the little chain link in the bottom left corner of your screen is highlighted in blue before taking the close ups!
4. Avoid taking blurry images.
Allow your camera to focus before clicking the green picture button. It’s very tempting to rush through the picture taking process in order to capture more images, but make sure you’re not forfeiting your images because you’re going too fast.
5. Clear off any debris before you take the picture.
Make sure you set aside any decorations and remove any of the debris/growth that is covering up any part of the headstone (you might want to take some grass clippers with you).
And don’t forget to move your feet out of the picture!
6. Make sure the lighting is right.
The best time to take pictures is when the sky is slightly overcast. Different times of the day are better for taking pictures of certain kinds of headstones. In any case, pay attention to how light or dark your picture is. Schedule your trips to the cemetery when the lighting is right and beware of shadows—including your own!
Helpful hint: Consider taking an umbrella, flashlight, mirror, or grab the sunshade from your car to either block out the harsh sunlight or to reflect some light on the back side of headstones that are in the shadows.
7. View your images before you leave the cemetery.
Don’t forget to make sure they turned out okay! This is the equivalent of checking your answers before you turn in your test: go back and review your photos so every record on BillionGraves will get an A for Accuracy!
What things have you found make the best pictures? Anything I missed? I’d love to hear from both photographers AND transcribers!
To take photos for BillionGraves, all you really need is you phone, right? True, but you won’t regret having a few extra items with you to make your trip to the cemetery as smooth as silk. We’ve compiled a list of suggestions for you to pack in a light backpack or bag. As long as you have your BillionGraves backpack, you’ll never have to leave the cemetery!
What to pack in your BillionGraves backpack (besides your phone, of course):
- Water for drinking
- Water for wetting down old stones for readability
- A hat
- Phone charger for your car (and be sure your phone is fully charged, too!)
- Work gloves for cleaning off headstones
- Small pad and pen, in case you want to note a hard-to-read stone and write down the transcription
- Broom and dustpan set for cleaning off headstones
- A sheet or umbrella to create shade over headstones
Any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments!
We’re halfway through the month! Right now, we have over 100,000 images that need to be transcribed. Because many headstones have multiple individuals’ records on them, those 100,000 images could translate to 150,000 or 200,000 new records for our database. Transcribing these records will bring us so much closer to our goal!
Thanks for all the transcriptions you’ve done so far. For all you super-transcribers, check out our transcribing shortcuts to help you get through even more records faster.
Many people are interested in completing transcriptions for the photos they upload—did you know you can do that? Here’s how:
From your dashboard on BillionGraves.com, click on Images Uploaded. Click on one of the albums containing your photos (these are usually grouped by date). Then click on a photo you want to transcribe. Clicking next at the top of the page will take you to the next image in that album, so you can easily continue to transcribe all of the photos in your album. For a more detailed description, read our blog post on the subject.
What if a headstone was transcribed incorrectly? That’s OK. You can edit transcriptions and make improvements to them. From any headstone’s Record View, there is a blue button that says Edit on the right next to the name on the record. If you click Edit, you can make any changes you’d like to the record.
We are so grateful for everyone’s volunteer efforts here at BillionGraves. Keep up the good work! Just under two weeks left to reach our goal of 1,000,000 new records!
Remember, to reach our goal of 1,000,000 new records this month, we just need two thousand users to take 500 pictures each.