6 Things You Need to Know About FindAGrave

FindAGrave Introduction

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy for more info.

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.

Comments? Questions?

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 )

Search 164.6 million cemetery records at by entering a surname and clicking search:


18 thoughts on “6 Things You Need to Know About FindAGrave

  1. Liz Gauffreau says:

    When I got started with genealogy last year, I read some negative comments about people upset with FindAGrave users who troll obituaries and post a “memorial” before the person’s loved ones can post a genuine tribute. I guess my question after reading your post is whether the intent of the memorials option is to provide factual information rather than personal tributes?

    • Laura Nelson says:

      The impression I got was that it was two-fold. To provide factual information (like birth date/death date) first and foremost and then personal tributes (i.e. the flowers option). Ideally, it is relatives who are creating memorials (for non-celebrities). But since FindAGrave is a free, mostly volunteer-run site, like you said, there are people who do troll obits and create memorials for people they aren’t related to. In those cases, FindAGrave does have recourse for their members under their ‘Transferring Memorials’ FAQs. FindAGrave’s policy is now: if you are a direct relative within 4 generations (so your great-grandparents to your great-grandchildren) and the current memorial manager is NOT a direct relative within 4 generations, they are required to transfer the memorial. If they don’t, then a person can contact FindAGrave for help.

      • Liz Gauffreau says:

        Thank you for the additional information; it’s reassuring. I will probably ask to have management of my father’s memorial, which a stranger copied and pasted from a local obituary, transferred to me.

      • Janet Hostetler says:

        What do you do if parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, other relatives are posted on Find A Grave, by people that go out to cemeteries to take pictures. These people do not want to transfer family to you?

        • Brenda Lyle says:

          My question is why do they give preference to volunteers who just collect memorials instead of transferring family members whenever possible. My brother-in-law had passed away last year of pancreatic cancer. When I requested the transfer of his memorial, they flatly refused saying the volunteer who created his memorial was related to him thru the Hawpe family (of Augusta Co, VA). Being his sister-in-law and having known him since I was a teen, I expected him to be transferred. This volunteer is no more related to him than a stranger you pass by on the street. I said as much on the Ancestry site. It’s insulting and grossly unfair.

          • Liz Gauffreau says:

            I’m so sorry to hear that’s happened to you, Brenda. It makes a painful situation even more difficult to bear. Please accept my condolences on the death of your brother-in-law.

  2. Beverly says:

    This is a wonderful, informative, easy to use, we’ll laid out site. I do have a small problem. I’ve requested several pictures. Waiting a long time but have not received them as yet. One request was with Jean Kerr. I’m now seeing where she has sadly passed away. Now I can’t re-request the pictures because they’re still pending/stuck in the request loop. Where can I seek help in this? Thank you

    • Laura Nelson says:

      FindAGrave is a mostly volunteer site. Unfortunately this means that sometimes photo requests take a while. (I have a few ancestors whose gravestones I’ve requested a few years ago and I haven’t received them yet.) Sometimes this is because there aren’t enough volunteers in an area or the volunteers couldn’t find the person’s gravestone(s). My best recommendation would be to either continue waiting, or if you wish to re-request pictures, try contacting FindAGrave’s support team and see if they can help you.

    • Laura Nelson says:

      I’ve noticed that to be somewhat the case in the past. (It can be done, but it is difficult unless you are managing the memorial.) That said, I think with Ancestry taking more control of the website and standardizing some things, like rules about managing memorials and trying to make things more user-friendly, that fixing errors on a memorial will get easier.

    • Janet Hostetler says:

      I have trying to get information off of my grandparents memorial. I don’t know who posted grandma relatives. But they have her sister wrong. Sent emails and correct memorial relative, still haven’t heard back.

  3. Debi Matlack says:

    I use Find A Grave extensively to corroborate and confirm other information. Since, like Ancestry, it is user-driven, sometimes people that have made memorials get information wrong, or the information on the headstone can be inaccurate. I usually have no trouble whatsoever when I suggest changes to a memorial, and I usually include a link to the documentation supporting the new information. I recently had a member deny my information because she already had the document I sent her, and FAG wasn’t meant to be used for genealogy! I told her it may not have started that way, but it certainly is now. I have added memorials for cemeteries near me, and those I get to visit when I see family for the holidays. The majority of the people I’ve dealt with are very nice and accommodating, but as always, there are a few that are determined to be a pain in the butt, for whatever reason.

  4. Brenda K Lyle says:

    I have another issue with Find A Grave that has bothered me. I suggested an edit for a relative’s memorial, and tried to explain the reason for the suggestion. The volunteer who manages the memorial has their messages disabled but contacted me on my F.A.G page. She clearly did not understand what I was saying. She suggested that my information was incorrect. She wouldn’t correct it so I just gave up on it. Why bother disabling messages?

  5. Susan says:

    I guess I really don’t understand this issue of who “owns” the memorial (grave record). What difference does it make as long as the information is correct? I have used FAG extensively in my genealogical research and I have added photos of graves (mostly related to me or my husband).

  6. Frank Drenik says:

    Re: BIO’S to ADD
    If a contributor of Find A Grave is no longer maintaining memorials for my family members and it cannot be updated, what can I do?

    Thank You,

    • Laura Nelson says:

      Depending on how close of a relation you are to the individual, you can request to become the new manager. FindAGrave states 4 generations (so great grandparents to great grandchildren, as well siblings and spouse of the person requesting). Here is the link to more information: https://www.findagrave.com/list-faqs?faqkeyword=transfer

      If you are unable to transfer a memorial to yourself, I would say, contact FindAGrave and see if you can create a new memorial. While this would initially cause a duplicate, you could then report a duplicate memorial. HOWEVER, I would recommend this as a last resort option, if you can neither transfer the original memorial or otherwise figure out an alternative solution with FindAGrave.

  7. Cathy Hines-Boulton says:

    I am thinking of joining Find A Grave in order to correct and add to information for my relatives. There seems to be a lot of “legalese” involved in joining. At this time I am only interested in Find A Grave, and am concerned that joining will somehow involve or obligate me to Ancestry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *