Since our launch last week we’ve received feedback that some feel we’re duplicating the efforts of Find a Grave, or that we should be collaborating with them. However, we feel that the way things have evolved is a good one: the mission of Find a Grave and the mission of BillionGraves.com are different, so it makes sense that we ended up being separate.
When our team first decided we wanted to work on a project to make gathering cemetery information more efficient and accessible, we attempted to contact Find a Grave to create a partnership: we’d provide a mobile app and they’d provide the website it integrated with. We never did hear back from the folks at Find a Grave, but that’s completely understandable. It makes a lot of sense. Our goals are different than their goals.
Find a Grave creates a sort of online memorial for deceased persons. Genealogical information can be gleaned from these memorials, but that isn’t the primary purpose (Find a Grave lists “grave registration” as its primary purpose; genealogical information is a tertiary purpose). At BillionGraves.com, we wanted to build a fast, easy way to accurately collect and search the genealogical information on headstones. This goal materialized more and more during our years of development, and it meant we needed a fairly complex website structure to support a mobile app. Find a Grave does what it does wonderfully, and it would have been a shame to make its primary purpose harder to achieve with the restructuring it would have taken to integrate the app we envisioned.
At BillionGraves.com we also wanted to make it very simple to capture complete cemeteries full of records that may not exist in any other place. Many people who research family history have heard of the valuable information a researcher can find by stumbling upon a small family cemetery that isn’t on any map or in any database. The mobile BillionGraves app makes it easy to add those sorts of cemeteries to our database and map out all the headstones in them instead of just a select few. Then these previously undocumented and inaccessible sorts of records are easy to find, easy to search, and thus, easy to add to your research and share with others.
Another tool that is already available online is Names In Stone. The site is dedicated to carefully mapping out cemeteries. Names In Stone has worked well with the resources it has; BillionGraves.com can take it one step further. Names In Stone relies on hand-recorded data that is then added to the site. We’ve taken a similar process and automated it using the iPhone app and our servers to map out the cemetery as you’re collecting photos and then making the transcription of those photos quick and simple (it’s fairly easy to collect one photo every 15 seconds or so—much faster than a by-hand system). Interment.net is also a great resource, but also requires a more complicated recording and transcription process.
All the grave-recording services have their own value, and we hope you stay connected to them. Especially while the BillionGraves.com database is in its infancy, these sites will help you further your research. However, we’ll continue to provide our services because hard-working researchers deserve to have tools that fit their needs. These other tools fill some needs, but not others. BillionGraves.com fills the gap.