Find My Ancestor Blog
14Jan/113

Snow, Snow, Go Away – I Want to Go Outside and Play

I have never been a fan of the winter with all the snow and cold. By the time Christmas is over I am ready for spring and summer to come! I have been staring at cemetery gravestones all morning long and it is really making we wish I could go out and take photos, but I definitely don't want to do it in the snow. Am I alone in this or do some of you out there feel the same way? I know to the non-genealogist I might sound crazy, but for some reason I have an urge to go out and play among all the headstones right now!

I have also been thinking about the various websites available for volunteers and researchers to find photos of headstones, submit information/memorials and gather information on their ancestors. The two that come to my mind are FindAGrave.com and NamesInStone.com. I have used both of these services, which are free, and find them to be quite useful. Find A Grave has been around for quite a while and has over 56 million grave records - that is a lot! Every single memorial and gravestone photo on Find A Grave is created and submitted by volunteers. For those who have never used Find A Grave before, the process is very simple. First, search the database to see if your ancestor already has a memorial. There have been many times I have searched the database not expecting to find my ancestor, but alas, there they are. Most of the time when I find ancestors on the website they have been contributed by someone who isn't even a relative. Many have gone through obituary records, vital records and many other types of records and have just started adding individuals from these collections. So, before you go and create a memorial make sure it hasn't already been done. There are quite a few duplicate memorials I have come across in the past because of this. If you didn't find a memorial for you ancestor, then go ahead and create one. Simply follow the easy steps on the Create a Memorial Link located on the side of the screen. Once you have created the memorial, or if you found a memorial previously created you can see whether or not there is a headstone photo already submitted. Obviously if you just create a memorial there won't be one available. One of the things I like best about Find A Grave is that you can get headstone photos for people who live thousands of miles away without you having to spend all the time and money traveling to take it yourself. Simply request a headstone picture by clicking on the request link in the person's memorial and hopefully within a few days to a month a volunteer in the area will fulfill your request. One thing to remember is that these are volunteers who are taking these pictures so you can't expect a response immediately. There are headstones I have had requested for over a year now and they still haven't been fulfilled. Just be grateful for the ones you do get because after all it is very nice of these people to take the photos free of charge. Names in Stone is another great website that hasn't been around as long as Find a Grave, but I can see some promising things happening there. One of the features that sets Names in Stone apart from Find a Grave is the fact that you can see on a map where your ancestor is buried in the cemetery as well as others who are around them. This can be a great help in finding other ancestors who you may not have know were buried there. Over the past year there has been quite the increase in the number of cemeteries added to the database and new ones added all the time. Names in Stone is always looking for new contributors to help build this mapping database. If you are unfamiliar with either of these websites, I highly suggest you check both of them out.

9Apr/101

Graveyard Preparedness – Part 5

This is part of a series on being prepared when visiting cemeteries in your genealogy research.

Now that you have done your research, charged your camera, and collected your tools, you are ready to visit the cemetery.

Whether you are visiting the cemetery for your ancestor, or for someone else through Find A Grave, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, or any other volunteer effort, be sure to share with others the photos you have taken and information you have found.

If the person does not yet have a memorial on Find A Grave, create one and add the headstone picture with information about the person. Also add the information on Names In Stone. You never know who else might me searching for the same person and by creating and adding to memorials on websites like these you will help others fulfill their genealogical research. I have had many people help me in taking photographs of my ancestor's headstones that I am not able to visit myself. I am very grateful for those who take their time in helping me, so I give back by helping others when I can.

There is one more thing that I suggest you do if at all possible. Before you leave your house, check on Find A Grave to see if there are any photo requests in the cemetery you are visiting, especially if there are little or no volunteers in the area. You can help others who may not have specifically asked you to help them. This is a great way to help others.

Graveyard Preparedness Checklist
  • Charge camera battery
  • Make sure there is enough room on the camera's memory card
  • Research location of grave
  • Find a map of the cemetery to pinpoint the location
  • Put together a Graveyard Prep Kit and take it with
  • Create or add to an existing memorial on Find A Grave and Names In Stone
  • If at all possible, check Find A Grave before you leave your house to find any other requests in that cemetery. Help pass along the same kindness others show to you.

8Apr/100

Graveyard Preparedness – Part 4

This is part of a series on being prepared when visiting cemeteries in your genealogy research.

So you have your camera charged, the location of the grave, and maps to help you on your way, but before you head out let me recommend a few more "tools" to help you be a little bit more prepared.
Do you remember how I told you the headstone was covered in dried mud? It was such a pain to get it clean, especially because I didn't really have much to clean it off with. And I don't want to be ruining any more of my mechanical pencils trying to dig the mud out of the engravings.

When I returned the next day to the cemetery I took with me a few things that really helped to clean it off. I am even creating a little "Graveyard Prep Kit" that I may just keep in the trunk of my car so I can always be prepared to take photos when needed or requested. The kit is very simple and won't cost a lot of money to put together. Included in the kit is:
  • A little hand broom and dust pan
  • A couple of different sized art brushes
  • A pair of scissors to cut way any over-grown grass or weeds surrounding the headstone
  • A bottle or two of water to clean and wipe down the headstone
  • A couple of rags to wipe it down
  • A pointed object such as a screwdriver to get dirt, rocks, and other objects out of the engravings(of course being careful not to damage or scratch the headstone)
  • A toothbrush to help clean and free the headstone from debris.
This kit is just an idea of things to bring with you when visiting cemeteries. Please let me know any other ideas you may do for cleaning headstones. It can be very frustrating to get to a cemetery, especially if you had to travel far, and find that the headstone is covered with dirt and debris and is illegible. Having the right tools can make the trip easier and at the same time you will be doing a good deed by helping someone's headstone shine.

Graveyard Preparedness Checklist
  • Charge camera battery
  • Make sure there is enough room on the camera's memory card
  • Research location of grave
  • Find a map of the cemetery to pinpoint the location
  • Put together a Graveyard Prep Kit and take it with

7Apr/100

Graveyard Preparedness – Part 3

This is part of a series on being prepared when visiting cemeteries in your genealogy research.

I don't know about you, but I can get pretty lost in cemeteries. When I find the location of someone in a cemetery like for instance my 3rd great-grandfather, Mathew Ivory, who is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Beaver, Utah and it gives his location as A_237_3, I have no clue WHERE in the cemetery that is.

You don't want to spend all afternoon searching around the cemetery for that location, so plan ahead and find a map of the cemetery. Some cemeteries have great websites you can find information such as address, telephone number, maps, history, and more. For instance, the Murray City Cemetery in Murray, Utah has a great site with all sorts of information. Some of the information I can find on this site includes:
This site gives you access to two maps - the cemetery blocks as well as the individual lots. Now of course there are many cemeteries out there that are too large to include all the lots, but having a map of the blocks is great to get a general idea of that place. There have been many times I have tried to search for a map online and have had no success. But every time I have called the cemetery and asked if they had a map they could either email to me for fax to me they have been more than willing to send me one. If I didn't have one of these maps, I would definitely be lost in any cemetery I visit.

This also brings me back to my earlier post about Names In Stone. My favorite feature about that site is the fact that they have maps for all the cemeteries in their database(as far as I know). Having this database of maps is a great help because so many cemeteries do not have online maps you can look at without contacting the cemetery.

Graveyard Preparedness Checklist
  • Charge camera battery
  • Make sure there is enough room on the camera's memory card
  • Research location of grave
  • Find a map of the cemetery to pinpoint the location