Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Looking for a Billion Graves

Find A Grave boasts over 64 million grave records.  I use it all the time as one source for birth and death dates.  I’ve used it to connect with a distant cousin.  I’ve even helped out someone I don’t know who lives half-way across the US by taking a few gravesite photographs at their request.  There's something very personal about Find A Grave – people create “memorials” for relatives who have passed on, and leave virtual flowers.

However, there is a new website in town for recording and researching graves sites:  Billion Graves.   I’d like to compare the two sites.

Find A Grave
Billion Graves
Mission / Purpose
Primarily, to provide a graves registration website.
Secondarily, to provide a site for memorials and remembrances.

Third, to provide a genealogical resource.
To provide an expansive family history database for records and images from the world’s cemeteries.
1995, first focused on the graves of famous people
Number of gravesites
Over 64 million
Process / Participation
Contributors add biographical information for a memorial.  Optionally, the creator or others can follow-up with photographs.
Contributors take photographs with cell phones, automatically uploading to the site.
Contributors also transcribe uploaded photographs.
What makes it unique
Strong emphasis on famous people.
Easy to add biographical information over and above what is on the grave marker.
Satellite images of cemeteries are available.Photos are geo-coded and can be located on a map or satellite image.

Ease of use
Easy to register a grave.
Only one photo can be uploaded at a time. 
Common-sized photographs must be manually made smaller before uploading.
Uploading a photograph via cell phone app (Android or iPhone) is easy.
Transcribing is as easy as the clarity of the photographs.

Search by any combination of facts:  name, cemetery location (country, state, county), year of birth, year of death.  Search by name within cemetery.  Several other searches.
Search by cemetery OR person’s name.  No combination searches.

One of the most helpful features is the geo-coded map.  A pin is shown on a satellite image showing exactly where the photograph was taken.  This is the feature that will make Billion Graves stand out.  At right are the markers for the photographs or graves that I took on July 3.

All in all, I think that Billion Graves has promise – but the website needs more work.  Here are some things that I would like to see the owners of Billion Graves address:
  • Session timeout is too short.  It should give me the opportunity to save my user id and password for a longer period of time.  It’s not my bank account after all.
  • The website needs the ability to search by person name AND location and by person name WITHIN a cemetery.
  • The link to view a single grave on the map was not working when I last checked.

I wish Billion Graves the best of luck.  I’m all for anything that gives me even more ways to locate my ancestors.

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