03 August 2011

BillionGraves.com vs. FindAGrave.com and Other Headstone Databases

BillionGraves.com, along with their geo-tagging smartphone app, is a promising start up.
FindAGrave.com is a mature giant.
Interment.net is a valiant pioneer.
US GenWeb Archives Tombstone Project shows the strength of a passionate community.


US GenWeb Archives Tombstone Project shows the strength of a passionate community.
The project varies greatly from one state to the next and from one county to the next because each such jurisdiction is designed to be run by a different volunteer. Photographs are generally submitted to the volunteer in charge of that jurisdiction who uploads and transcribes them. This puts an undue burden on each area's volunteer. When smaller amounts of photographs were coming in this burden felt manageable. Since the Tombstone Project began in 1997, the number of people submitting tombstone photos to the internet has increased sharply. Submitting them to someone else to do the transcription and uploading is especially desirable if you happen to have photographed an entire cemetery. In 2009, I photographed ten cemeteries for the US GenWeb Archive. After the county volunteer processed those first ten cemeteries, and I realized the burden it placed on her, I looked elsewhere for my future cemetery photography efforts.

Interment.net is a valiant pioneer.
Also begun in 1997, Interment.net appears to be the first website run by a small group of individuals--2 people in this case--accepting tombstone data for open publishing online. Though the website claims initial popularity and is still available to this day, one major drawback of Interment.net is its failure to host headstone photographs. Nevertheless, because it is a separately generated and maintained database it may still be worth checking. While it was an important pioneer in its day, I choose not to invest my volunteer efforts into this database.

FindAGrave.com is a mature giant.
Since 2000, when today's Find A Grave website went online, the site has become home to over 65 million individual grave records. FindAGrave.com has many perks which helped lead to its position as the most well known online headstone host. Find A Grave's most notable unique feature is the ability to request a photograph of a specific grave marker. Since 2005 I have been a member of Find A Grave, but it was not until this year (2011) that I took it as a serious volunteer opportunity. In a matter of a few months I uploaded over 500 photos and added more than 300 individual records. I made sure there were records for all my direct ancestors whose place of burial I could determine, and I added many of the records from the ten cemeteries I photographed for US GenWeb Archive. On Find A Grave you can add records without photographs, you can add as many records or photographs as your heart desires without waiting for someone else to upload your work. You can link individuals in family relationships, organize individuals into files called "virtual cemeteries," request edits on records managed by other individuals, etc. You are in control.

BillionGraves.com, along with their geo-tagging smartphone app, is a promising start up.
There are two major things, in my estimation, that set BillionGraves apart from Find A Grave. First, pictures are geo-coded for you and, second, you can either photograph or transcribe (you don't have to do both). This cuts down the volunteer time required from those who want to help. BillionGraves.com relies heavily on crowd-sourcing. The cool thing is you can easily make a big difference in just a few minutes with almost no preparation. If you happen to be traveling and feel like taking a refreshing walk outside, pull out your smartphone, and within minutes you can upload several photos of headstones directly to the site. You don't have to file them into the correct cemetery unless you found a cemetery that hasn't been added to the database yet, in which case you can easily add the name. GPS tagging does the organizational work for you. Don't worry about transcription. You can always do that on a rainy day. I just came up for an upgrade on my cell phone plan and the single biggest reason I decided to get a smartphone was so that I can use the geo-tagging feature of BillionGraves.com's new Android app.

1 comment:

  1. I have worked in FindAGrave and Billion Graves and have a "worker bees" perspective. My first cemetery in FindAGrave was local to my home where with my digital camera I systematically photographed each section, noting Family Stones and surrounding foot stones then spent the winter transcribing each photo to create a memorial. It became a true labor of love as families were found and available for their family to touch their ancesters last resting place. My goal was to photograph each stone as if they were my family. Contrasting Billion Graves where others photograph and I transcribed what they digitally recorded. The problem with that process is that photographs were done for speed and not always able to read. It it was required of the photographer to review their work before submitting it would eliminate blurry, unreadable photographs and overgrown stones unable to read. Of the two, I like FindAGrave the best. They are sensitive memorials created housing cherished links to the past as well as photos.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comments.