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Welcome back to Tenacious Genealogy! This is a short post, but in the spirit of Halloween and all things spooky, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite free genealogy websites – FindAGrave.
1) FindAGrave was started as a labor of love
FindAGrave is a free website started in 1995 by Salt Lake City citizen and taphophile, Jim Tipton. Initially, a collection of grave sites of celebrities, over the years, it grew to include the graves of non-famous people. As such, it has become a handy resource for genealogists and family historians around the world.
2) It is now owned and run by Ancestry.com
In 2013, Tipton sold the site to Ancestry.com. Since then, Ancestry has slowly improved the site (which still has a 1990s graphics vibe to it) and is (currently) in the beta stages of redesigning the website. Update: As of November 2017, the
As of September 2017, there were over 164 million grave records/memorials. This number continues to grow as the site flourishes. In March of 2017, a beta website for FindAGrave’s redesign was launched. While it is an incomplete and temporary database, it was great for poking around and seeing what FindAGrave was going to look like. Update: As of November 2017, the redesign is live and all the data from the old site is connected to it. If you still want to see information in the old design, there is a link at the top that allows you to do so currently.
3) It is (almost) entirely volunteer-based
One of the first things to know about FindAGrave is that is almost entirely volunteer based. By this I mean, people will post memorials to their ancestors or memorials to people in nearby cemeteries for the sake of making those graves accessible. People can also request photographs of their ancestors’ tombstones or grave sites. This has made the website a boon to genealogists, especially those who don’t live near where their ancestors died or are unable to travel to those sites. For example, I have a lot of ancestors buried in the Great Lakes area (Wisconsin, Michigan, etc) and in New England – but living on the West Coast makes it difficult for me to track them or their burial spots down. However, through FindAGrave, I’ve been able to request pictures of some of my ancestors’ gravestones, which have helped me in my genealogical journey.
4) FindAGrave doesn’t require you to join, but you still should
Anyone can search FindAGrave without becoming a member. That said, I highly recommend joining. It is free and you get to interact more on the website, including talking with other genealogists and taphophiles in the forums, transcribing photos that you’ve uploaded, and add or edit records.
As it is, joining is extremely easy. All you need (as seen below) is an email. You then choose a username (Public Name) and password and you are ready to go! You can also volunteer to take photos of nearby cemeteries. If you choose to do that, all you need to add is your zip code, so FindAGrave knows roughly what cemeteries and graveyards you’d be able (or willing) to visit.
5) You can transcribe information from pictures of gravestones uploaded to the website
This is a beta service that allows you to upload and transcribe gravestones on FindAGrave. Are you a weekend taphophile who loves visiting cemeteries? Have you found the gravestones of ancestors who aren’t in FindAGrave but who you want to add? Then the new Transcribe Graves option is for you! The general gist of this option is that it allows you to upload photos in batches, transcribe the information on the gravestones and add that information to FindAGrave’s database.
As it is currently in beta, you will have to enable the option on a daily basis (or just the days that you are using the Transcribe option), but it will allow you seven (7) days to transcribe your batch of photos before opening that option to the rest of the community. It is a fairly straightforward process, but FindAGrave has FAQs on it as well.
6) You can create ‘virtual cemeteries’ on FindAGrave
Once you’ve joined, you can create ‘virtual cemeteries’ for your relatives who are listed on FindAGrave. You can make as many as you want and these ‘virtual cemeteries’ can be public or private. For example, I have a ‘virtual cemetery’ for all the people in my father’s line who have passed away. So if you want to keep track of where family members or certain ancestral lines are buried, this is a handy tool. You can also use it to keep track of relatives who have memorials on FindAGrave and whose graves or tombstones you are still looking for.
Overall, FindAGrave is an excellent source for finding ancestors, (possibly) breaking through brick walls, and connecting/helping other genealogists. It’s also a great way to help other family historians piece together information about their families (especially if you take photos at local cemeteries and transcribe them or fulfill photo requests). The best part about it, in my opinion though, is the fact that it is so simple to use, making it perfect for beginner genealogists and taphophiles.
Have any questions or comments about FindAGrave and what it offers? Let me know in the comment section! And if you like what you’ve been seeing here on Tenacious Genealogy – please subscribe to our email list. Not only will you stay up to date with the latest blog posts, but you’ll also get access to freebies such as ’10 Tips for Starting Your Genealogy’ and other fun ‘subscriber only’ items!
(If you want to try finding your ancestors on FindAGrave, type in their last name into the search box down below ⇓)