As we here at BillionGraves.com launch our website and release its integrated iPhone app, I wanted to give you an insider look at what we do and why we do it.
As I delve into my family history, I celebrate every ancestor I find, and every record or scrap of information I can locate. But over and over, I run into roadblocks. Anyone who really digs for their family roots knows what that feels like. All these records and snippets of history I’m trying to find are out there, somewhere. But all too often I don’t know where to find it, or I can’t find it because I can’t travel to wherever my ancestors were born, lived, or died. But I realized something: every record is near somebody, even if that somebody isn’t me. As far as headstones and graves go, someone out there lives next to the cemetery I need. And who knows, maybe the cemetery they need to search through is the one in my home town.
So my friends and I started work on BillionGraves.com. In building the site and its iPhone app, we’ve created a framework that allows people all over the world to map out photos of all the headstones in their local cemeteries and upload them to the BillionGraves.com database. Once the photos are there, fellow family historians can transcribe the information from the headstones and make it easy to search, which puts unique headstone records only mouse-clicks away from anyone looking for their ancestors. By using the iPhone’s location services, we can ensure that even when descendants are half a world away, they can not only see their ancestors’ information, but they can also see the actual headstones and exactly where those headstones are. Previously undocumented records end up collected in an easy-to-access, free-to-use location, and family historians anywhere can use this framework to build on their existing research.
The trouble is that even though we’ve built this framework, it won’t amount to much unless we have help from all over the world. And by all over the world, I mean if we don’t have help from you. We have the audacious goal to accurately record at least a billion graves for our database, but that can’t happen unless you help us.
How You Can Help
If you have an iPhone, please download the BillionGraves.com app from the iTunes store (available for free from now until June 1 as a Memorial Day special, $1.99 after that). Take your iPhone with you to your local cemetery and start taking photos of the headstones there. You have unique access to those headstones. Share that access with the world.
Once the headstone images are uploaded to BillionGraves.com, everyone—even and especially those who can’t collect photos with an iPhone—can transcribe the previously exclusive records and make them searchable. By transcribing, you’ll make important records available to descendants everywhere.
Help everyone find their ancestors by participating in our grand goal to map out the world’s cemeteries. Together, we can record a billion graves and more so nobody is ever lost or forgotten.