Monday, April 16, 2012

BillionGraves Brings Cemeteries to You

Many people are helping to index the 1940 U.S. Census. This group effort is helping to provide valuable information to many people all across the United States and the world. What happens after the whole census is indexed? What to do next? One suggestion: join

BillionGraves is a fascinating site. It seeks to build a database of headstone images from across the world that genealogists can access and use as part of their research. There are two ways to contribute to the BillionGraves project, capturing images and transcribing images. 

Capturing Images
BillionGraves has created a free app for both iPhones and Android phones. Using the app on your device, simply take photos of headstones in cemeteries. The GPS location of the phone is attached to the photo. When the photos are uploaded to the BillionGraves site they are pinpointed on a map so they can be easily found by others.

Transcribing Images
Once all of these images are uploaded from the phone to they need to be transcribed. This is where the skills developed indexing the census come in to play. It's very easy to enter the information for each headstone. You start by entering basic information, Given Names, Family Names, Birth, and Death. You can also enter an Epitaph as well as other information regarding the headstone. Once you save the information you can simply click Next and receive another headstone image to transcribe.

You can upgrade the basic account with either the "Notifications Package" or the "BillionGraves Plus Account." The notifications package gives you the ability to set "record watches" where you can receive email notifications based on certain search criteria you set. The Plus account gives you more record watches, virtual walkthroughs of cemeteries, and the ability to search records on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device.

If you are the competitive type you can try to get on the top 25 leaderboard. There are two leaderboards, one for top image uploaders and one for top transcribers. Get to work. You'll need at least 500 uploads or transcriptions to get onto the board.

If you've finished indexing the census or just want to take a break and do something else, head over to and help transcribe some headstones. Now that the weather is turning nice, grab your iPhone or Android phone, take a walk through your local cemetery and snap some photos and upload them to the site.

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