BillionGraves has two major components to it, which are the keys to its success.
Photographing headstones in cemeteries and all the headstones in each cemetery.
- Smartphones, such as the iPhone or Android phones.
- Tablet devices (two models of iPads, many Android tablets)
Transcribing photographed headstones:
- Crowdsourcing transcriptions done via the web
Gathering Headstone Images via Smartphone
What does a smartphone, iPad, or Android tablet have to do with getting a billion graves?
- Increased speed of photography - Many smart phones photograph images quickly and save images even faster than either a simple digital camera or a DSLR.
- The phone's GPS organizes everything - It will put the photos in the correct cemetery and will GPS tag every photo's location exactly. This feature is exciting for many reasons, such as keeping track of which headstones have been photographed already and helping descendents find the headstone should they want to visit in person. On Find A Grave you have to select which cemetery to upload your photos to after you took your camera home and transferred the photos to your computer.
- Instant uploading - If you have a good data plan, upload images while you are taking more pictures. The phone does it for you, just set it up under the settings tab of the app. If your data plan is an issue you can simply wait until you get to WiFi, start the process, and the phone does the rest. You can even save more time by having your phone auto-delete images that have been uploaded. Even if you do not have a data plan on your smartphone or tablet, you can still upload via Wifi, all the phone or tablet needs otherwise is to have a working, good GPS. This can be useful even if you are unable to connect to your data network, especially true if you are travelling outside your home country or region. For more information see 'A Worldwide Effort', below.
BillionGraves and Crowdsourcing
How will crowdsourcing help?
Crowdsourcing means that anyone can help with transcription. All you have to do is go to BillionGraves.com and click "Transcribe." The online transcribing form is easy to use. With Find A Grave you could transcribe them yourself or... that is basically the only option. If you are good at taking lots of pictures, but only transcribe a little at a time then this feature is for you. You can even choose to only transcribe or to only photograph graves. It is kind of like a FamilySearch Indexing for cemeteries and graves.
A Worldwide Volunteer Effort
As of May 2012, almost 90 percent of the data on the BillionGraves website is from the United States, with a few cemeteries in Western Europe, Australia, and a few other places also represented. However, if you are traveling and are not in the coverage area of your data plan, take the photographs at any cemetery that might be near where you are, and upload them later at any location where you can access a wifi network.
There are perhaps hundreds of thousands of cemeteries worldwide, and most have never been documented in any way before outside the records that are or were kept by those that run the cemetery. And sometimes no such records exist either or were lost or destroyed for some reason. Some do not appear even on Google Maps or any other mapping site, you may just run across them. Go ahead, take the pictures, upload them from a wifi location, and also the app allows you to add the cemetery, if it is not on the site, when you are actually in the cemetery, so when the upload is done, it will also upload the cemetery information and GPS coordinates as well that you gather along with the photos.
BillionGraves, a FamilySearch Affiliate
BillionGraves is an affiliate of FamilySearch and has been featured on the FamilySearch blog:
According to one post, Preserving the Memories of A Billion Graves: "All extracted information will be searchable through the BillionGraves’ website database, and will soon be accessible at FamilySearch.org." This was accomplished on 25 May 2012, and each record also has a link to the image as it is found on the BillionGraves website.
For More Information
To learn more about searching the BillionGraves database on FamilySearch.org go to
Billiongraves Index (FamilySearch Historical Records).
The Goal of BillionGraves
From the BillionGraves.com website:
We hope to provide an expansive family history database for records and images from the world’s cemeteries—but it’s not something we can do alone. We need you to help us by collecting images from your local cemeteries and transcribing the information those headstone images provide.
Help us make family history research more accessible to everyone. Take the BillionGraves.com iPhone/Android app with you when you go to the cemetery and contribute to the grave image database. Even if you don’t have the gadgets required to collect images for BillionGraves, you can still help build the database by transcribing the images so anyone, anywhere, can find ancestors’ graves with just a few clicks of the mouse.