After a long winter in the U.S., it’s finally warming up! Just last week I did my first BillionGraves cemetery field trip of the season. So I’m pleased to see that they’re offering a BillionGraves challenge to those who take pictures or index:
“It can’t be any better than doing your favorite thing- taking pictures of headstones and transcribing them, AND winning prizes! So take advantage of the rising temperatures to capture some headstone images at your local cemetery or get your transcribing game on.”
We’ve blogged about BillionGraves before: it’s a leading site for capturing cemetery headstones around the world. Their free app (for iPhone and Android) makes it easy to find a cemetery near you (wherever you are) that needs imaging; use your smart phone to take geo-tagged tombstone photos; transcribe any images you care to; and upload them to their site. (I always upload when I return home so my phone will upload images using my home’s wi-fi instead of charging me data.) But you can also participate in the challenge by indexing records already on their site, if cemetery visits aren’t your thing.
Got kids who are out of school and looking for something to do? Take them with you to image headstones. My kids don’t necessarily prefer this to going to the pool, but they’re game sometimes, especially if a stop at an ice cream stand is part of the deal. Here’s Lisa Louise Cooke’s interview with BillionGraves staffer and tips for getting started:
Using BillionGraves for genealogy research has never been easier.
BillionGraves aims to document and preserve the world’s cemeteries. They provide a platform for volunteers around the world (and their smartphones!) to capture headstone images and their GPS locations. The images are transcribed and the index is searchable on the BillionGraves website and other leading genealogy sites.
Learn more on using BillionGraves for genealogy, what it offers now and its hopes for the future in this video interview by Lisa Louise Cooke with Hudson Gunn. Then keep reading below to learn a few more tips from us here at Genealogy Gems on using Billiongraves for genealogy.
Ready to learn more about using BillionGraves for genealogy?
Tyne Cot Cemetery. Photo by Sgt Jez Doak, RAF/MOD, via Wikimedia Commons. Click on image to visit that page.
You’ve probably searched for gravestone images at sites like BillionGraves and Find A Grave. What if you come up dry? Ask their volunteers to snap a photo for you. Here’s how to do it:
Make a BillionGraves Photo Request
“The Photo Request tool is a great new feature on BillionGraves,” says a recent BillionGraves blog post. “It has been optimized and revamped to help the hundreds of thousands of users and requests we have at BillionGraves! The user is looking for a particular headstone [at a specific cemetery] and is requesting that another BillionGraves volunteer that lives nearby, go find the headstone and take a photo of it for them.”
You have to log in to the site to use the Photo Request tool (creating your free login is easy). Under the Tools tab, click on My Requests. The screen will look like what’s shown here. Then click on “Add Request” and follow the prompts. BillionGraves users near you will be notified and invited to help you out.
Make a Find A Grave Photo Request
According to the Find A Grave FAQ area, it looks like you can only request headstone photos for their existing memorial pages, many of which don’t currently have photos. (Idea: create a memorial page yourself if you don’t see one.) “If you would like to request a headstone photo of a memorial, just go to the memorial on Find A Grave. Click on the ‘Request A Photo’ button. This will bring up a new screen allowing you to add any notes that may help the photo volunteer locate the grave location within the cemetery….Then click the ‘Submit Photo Request’ button. Your request will be emailed to the 10 photo volunteers who live closest to the cemetery.” Read more details about this process here.
Did you know you can use Google Earth to locate cemeteries?Click hereto learn how. Use this feature to search for burial grounds near where your ancestors died–and maybe you’ll find them buried there!
The “Merry Cemetery” Sapanta, Romania. Image credit: “Merry Cemetery – Sapanta – Romania 01”, by Adam Jones (Adam63). Wikimedia Commons image at- http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Merry_Cemetery_-_Sapanta_-_Romania_01.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Merry_Cemetery_-_Sapanta_-_Romania_01.jpg.
A gravestone creator in a small town in Romania took his mission seriously to memorialize the dead. But he did in, er, “living color,” so to speak. With plenty of colorful images and even dirty little secrets and gossip carved onto tombstones of the local residents at the “Merry Cemetery.”
As reported in the New York Daily News, the woodcarver responsible for over 1000 gravestones in the “Merry Cemetery” would wander through town, taking notes on people’s quirks and secrets. Some flaws–drinking and carousing among them–are memorialized colorfully on their tombstones. On other stones, you’ll find his sad laments for the untimely passing of a child or the death of an adult by a sad accident.
“There’s no point in hiding secrets in this small town in Maramures, so people’s lives are captured honestly in their epitaphs,” reports the article.
The woodcarver was Stan Ion Patras, who lived from 1908-1977. Conscious of the legacy he was leaving–and perhaps anxious to tell his own story rather than have someone else do it–Patras carved his own tombstone before he passed away. He trained his replacement, who continues to add to the brightly colored crosses.
Here’s another detail I thought was neat: Patras’ folk art was highly symbolic. According to a New York Times article on the cemetery, “The portrait of the deceased is central, surrounded by geometric designs in symbolic colors: yellow for fertility, red for passion, green for life, black for untimely death. The color scheme is keyed to the subject’s life — if, for example, the deceased had many children, yellow carries the design. Some crosses are crowned with white doves representing the soul; a black bird implies a tragic or suspicious end. The background is always blue, the color of hope and freedom.”
What’s the most fascinating cemetery you’ve ever visited? What’s the most memorable epitaph you’ve ever found? Share it on our Genealogy Gems Facebook page!