Friday, June 13, 2014

Not Quite a Billion Graves

This week since the weather was just right for photographing headstones, I decided to check both Find A Grave and BillionGraves for local cemeteries that needed photos. I had both apps but hadn't used either of them yet. The cemetery in my town was mostly taken care of in Find A Grave, but much to my surprise, it wasn't even listed in BillionGraves. So I added it and then went out to take pictures. Even though Find A Grave had many headstone photos, I thought it was worth while to add them to the other site. You can never have too much redundancy in genealogy. You never know when a site will disappear with all that data.

In less than two hours, I managed to photograph 265 headstones using the BillionGraves app, and that was only the first row of graves in the cemetery. Obviously, it is going to take me quite a while to photograph the 6000+ graves there.

I wasn't the only weirdo walking through the cemetery taking pictures. A woman with her niece was also taking pictures for the photo requests on Find A Grave. She wasn't local but her niece was; and she was the only one in her family interested in genealogy, just like me in my family. We compared notes and shared tips with one another. Anytime you see someone walking with a camera from grave to grave in a cemetery it is likely a genealogist. We are the only ones who think cemeteries are a social meeting place.

When I'm taking the pictures, I can't help but think about the people named on the headstones. So many seem to be forgotten and the graves uncared for. I like to take a moment at each grave just to remember that each person beneath the headstone had a life story. Infant and children's graves always sadden me as I think about the families and how grief stricken they must have been at their loss. So many of the older stones were very legible but some newer ones were worn away with names unreadable. A visual lesson in the wear patterns of the different types of stones.

I found a headstone for a Civil War veteran from Company A, 183rd Pennsylvania volunteer infantry. I added the link to the information I found on his page in BillionGraves, hoping it will be useful for a fellow genealogist. One of the more unusual names I came across was Return H. Deming and his wife, Mary. A quick search for him on Ancestry.com, and I learned his wife's maiden name was Conover and that they both were from Ohio; they were living in Illinois in 1880 and had moved to Washington territory by 1887. Today's technology makes finding this information so much easier than when I first started researching.

The BillionGraves app was very easy to use. From the dashboard, just click "take photos" and start taking pictures. When you are done, at the click of a button, they will automatically upload to the site and be ready for transcribing. The biggest complaint I have with the app is the lack of editing tools. I had several photos which needed to be rotated. The BillionGraves site allows you to rotate them for viewing, but the rotation won't stay. This means everyone who views the photo will need to rotate it or I need to save it to my computer, edit it, and then upload it again to BillionGraves. Not something I want to do for a hundred or more photos. I'd rather spend the time transcribing them.

I don't know if I'll get photos for all 6000+ headstones taken and added to BillionGraves, but I hope the ones I do add will help someone find out more about their family history.

 

 

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