Guest Blog Post BY PATRICK WILLIAMS:
When I was a young child, I learned about Genealogy from my Grandmother. My teachers and leaders at church would always talk about it. Growing up as a Mormon, it was talked about a lot in regards to Temple work and the action of “Redeeming the Dead”. As soon as they started talking about “Genealogy” I would automatically tune out!
So my fellow Genealogy nuts, lets talk about the 5 reasons why your Grandma-ma wants you to do Genealogy and why we will convince all the cool Hipsters to stop hanging out on Instagram, and start hanging out on BillionGraves instead!
#5- Genealogy work is just so boringggggggggg!
Oh contraire! This couldn’t be further from the truth. Do me a solid, and go ask your Grandparents, or your parents about how they met. Go ask them about their parents or their great grand parents. The stories that they will tell you about where you came from will not only blow your mind, but they will give you such a great appreaction for your heritage and your own very blood line.
When we read about the hardships, tragedies, and triumphs of our ancestors, it makes us realize how relatively easy we have it, and how fortunate we are. And it gives us a real sense of debt and gratitude.
#4 Why do the Genealogy agony?
Because it gives YOU a lever to pry simple questions about you out of your own parents. What do you and your parents have in common here? We now know that, if the family history is to be saved at all, this late, with the old folks passing on, the time is now or never, and we want to save what we can while we can.
If, years from now, someone in the next generation wants to REALLY dig into the family stuff, at least we must give him or her a good, solid, scaffolding from which to begin, preferably with lots of interesting family stories too.
# 3 where do I even start?
This can be the most difficult question, but with amazing resources such as BillionGraves it makes starting very easy. How easy is it you ask?? You can install the genealogy camera app on your iPhone, android or GPS-enabled phone to record grave marker locations worldwide! You can Transcribe & Search grave images for free on the Billiongraves.com website! That’s just as easy as posting a picture of your food from Café Rio you took the other day with the hashtag #soyummy!
What started out as a “simple” project has now become all consuming. One of the nicest things to happen from this research is how you can spend hours and hours talking to your parents about your “finds” as opposed to talking about their health. The bottom line is I now enjoy playing detective and sharing my finds with any and all relatives who care to have the information.
#2 I would rather text and take pictures on Instagram!
Ok all you “hipster” kids. Do me a favor, take out your phone and search for the #hashtag #graves on Instagram and or Facebook or Twitter. You will be amazed at all of the amazing photos and rich history of the Millions and Millions of gravestones that are being uploaded on a daily and hourly basis.
Just to give you an idea of how cool and fun this work is, Genealogy websites are receiving millions and millions of hits every single day!
#1 I don’t want to learn about my family!
Now, in my humble opinion, this is just plain dumb. After everything is said and done in this life, all we have is our family and maybe a few close friends.
How people went from one side of our country to the other with the slow moving vehicles–how they existed–what their trials, loves, and happiness’s were, etc.
So all my “Hipster” friends- it’s very simple and easy to get started. Pick up your iPhone and go to www.billiongraves.com and get started today!
What where are some challenges and questions you may have had when you first got started doing this work? Please leave your comments below! Let’s start a great conversation!
If you have any questions about starting your own project or feedback, contact them at email@example.com.
About the Author: Patrick Williams
Patrick Williams is an SEO Specialist and avid Blogger. When not slaving over google search results and building links to the god’s of the internet, Patrick is a single dad to an adorable little boy. He also coaches high school soccer, and is an avid sports fan. He also has many leather bound books, that smell of rich mahogany. He is also fluent in the Cambodian language.
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.
“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!