Taking Pictures for Find-a-Grave

This Saturday I headed up with the fam to Bangor for a church service project. On the agenda? Heading over to a large cemetery to take pictures of graves for the Find-a-Grave website. If you haven’t encountered it before, it’s a site that aims to have pictures of all graves in all cemeteries. When you’re doing family history research, you can then go to the site to see pictures of your relative’s graves.

On the surface, I know this can seem a little trite. Why would you care what a long lost relative’s headstone looks like. All I can say is that, having done a fair bit of family history research myself, there really is something impactful in the experience. Not only that, but often you can get important information off headstones. Yes, you can find the same information on death and birth and marriage records, but sometimes you don’t have access to those. Find-a-Grave, thus, becomes an important avenue to explore.

Naturally, any undertaking that large takes a lot of effort. The cemetery we went to in Bangor has less than a fifth of the graves photographed. Even then, I found multiple graves that didn’t even have entries on the site, so I created new ones for them. So there’s plenty of work to be done, and I found the service project pretty easy to organize and execute. I’d recommend it for other groups.

A few things I learned through actually doing the work:

  • Taking pictures of the graves and uploading them from your smart phone seems like it should be straightforward. It would have been, had upload speeds complied with our task. Instead, it took something like five or ten minutes to upload each photo. That was . . . less than helpful. If I were to do this again, I would just take the pictures with my phone’s camera and then upload them once I was at a place with a better internet connection. If you live in a more urban area, this might not be an issue.
  • This was a very kid-friendly activity. My kids all enjoyed the process of getting outside and exploring a cemetery. That said, we were also in a very picturesque cemetery. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so enjoyable had it been a standard cemetery with rows and rows of identical graves.
  • Having a scraper with you to clear the graves off is very useful, particularly in older cemeteries. As we tried to transcribe the inscriptions on the older stones, it occurred to me that having paper with me to do a rubbing would have been helpful as well. Some of those dates just couldn’t be made out at all.
  • This was a good way to get kids interested in family history, as well. DC came to me the next day and wanted to see what research had already been done in our family. We had a good time looking at familysearch,org for a half hour or so.
  • In the course of an hour and a half, I think we uploaded something like fifteen photos. If I hadn’t insisted on trying to get them to actually upload, I think we could have done many more. (Hence the recommendation.)
  • We finished with having cake together with the rest of our group. Promising cake to kids at the end of the activity is definitely a great way to keep them motivated, and I would suggest others follow suit.
  • We contacted our cemetery ahead of time to get maps of the plots and to ensure we wouldn’t be disturbing any burial ceremonies. I would suggest others do the same. Some parts of the cemetery were unmapped. More adventure, but almost impossible to find any specific graves.

All in all, a good activity and a fun outing. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.


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