Participating in cemetery crowdsourcing may seem overwhelming; there are millions of graves and only one you. However, with everyone taking part in a small way, a major work can be accomplished.

In last week’s article, we explored the basics of cemetery crowdsourcing. This week we’ll discuss how the tasks can be divided so you can get involved—tracking and transcribing.

Tracking

Websites such as FindAGrave.com and BillionGraves.com have thousands of users around the world who are searching for the headstones of deceased relatives—which is where volunteers can help.

For either website, volunteers can look up nearby cemeteries and see who is requesting a picture of a headstone. After tracking down the headstone and taking a picture of the grave, volunteers can upload the picture as well as exact coordinates of the headstone, making it easier for others to find. Both FindAGrave.com and BillionGraves.com offer mobile apps that make the tracking experience easier. You can download the FindAGrave app for iOS here and for Android here. The BillionGraves app can be downloaded for iOS here and for Android here.

You don’t have to do this service alone. Consider involving the following to participate in documenting cemeteries:

  • Scout troops
  • Friends
  • Religious groups
  • School groups
  • Family groups
  • Neighborhoods
  • Cultural associations

With permission of cemetery caretakers, volunteers can go from headstone to headstone and upload each picture to the internet, being conscious of ethics and privacy.

“Not everyone wants their loved ones memorialized on the internet,” said Michael Cassara in his presentation at RootsTech 2016. “If I found an infant who died in 1910, that’s very different than an infant who died last year.”

There may be times when you require help searching for your own ancestors’ burial plots. As you request help from others to find a grave for you, make the job easier by determining what you already know.

“If I knew that my uncle died in Nebraska, I would try to narrow down which county, which city. Where did he die? What was his religion?” says Cassara. “Do we know that someone is buried elsewhere? What are the clues we have to finding his place of burial?”

The more information you know about the headstone’s location, the easier it will be for a volunteer to help track it.

Transcribing

In a task similar to FamilySearch indexing, transcribers take the pictures that trackers upload to the online database, and type or transcribe the names.

“There are armies of volunteers, some of whom are homebound, some of whom are not,” says Cassara. “Whatever the case may be, they have decided that maybe they don’t like getting into the field as much or aren’t able to at this time. But they can sit at their computer and type in names as they come up.”

He continues, “I’ve had it happen where I go into a cemetery and take pictures for an afternoon. I go have some lunch, and by the time I get home, some of the pictures I’ve taken have already been transcribed.”

The importance of transcribers cannot be overstated. Cassara points out, “We’re going to get to a point where there are going to be more pictures to transcribe than people to transcribe them, just as we have with FamilySearch indexing.”

Other languages also need to be transcribed. Cassara says if you’re talented in another language, you’d be a “terrific volunteer.”

Regardless of your talents, cemetery crowdsourcing has a greater impact when more people get involved. Every headstone you’re able to track or transcribe contributes to making the task more manageable and to helping people all around the world find their ancestors. As Cassara puts it, “Things are changing—in many ways—for the better.”

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