walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Fascinated by Graveyards?

Sometime last year (or perhaps earlier), I stumbled across http://www.findagrave.com, which is a crowdsourcing site to collect burial places. The idea is to connect photos, GPS locations, information about the cemetery, a transcription of the stone(s), genealogical information and pointers to other entries of relatives. In practice, virtually all of this might be missing, and it's not obvious to me what support FindaGrave supplies for collecting the information (as opposed to supplying forms for entering information). There is some capacity to add information to existing memorials, which are owned by particular users accounts and which can be transferred.

Needless to say, what this all adds up to is a community project, and I think we all have a sense of how this can turn unpleasant. In case your imagination is failing you:


I use FindaGrave the way I use a lot of genealogical resources: I mine them for ideas. But just because someone carved it in granite doesn't make it so. This is how I got onto the John Veeder Plantz lied about his age kick. (And no, it wasn't a badly transcribed or difficult to read stone, either. Clear as could be.)

R. and I got to talking about whether either or both of us were interested in any graveyard visiting. We like them -- that's not the issue -- but it's more an ambiance thing than a fossil filing cabinet (so to speak). I have recently identified some cemeteries that I might be interested in taking photos/GPS/transcribing in for my own use, but I thought that before attempting this, I'd like to investigate what good "infrastructure" for such a project would be. I had in mind things like reflective screens to improve lighting conditions, which is a major complaint I have about headstone photos, and something to make it easy to manage the information.

I've also been attempting to surf through the genealogical blogging community, with intermittent success. Communities collectively know things and I'm trying to learn from this one. Today, I stumbled across a blog mentioning BillionGraves.


BillionGraves initially looked like a FindaGrave knockoff, but it isn't. It's a slickly produced set of software (website + iOS + Android apps) and backing databases put together by a Utah (surprise) corporation called AppTime, which apparently felt my concern about project infrastructure was worth pursuing (whatever they might think of photo quality issues). As you might expect, Dick Eastman covered the iPhone app release back in May:


And the comments thread does a nice job of covering the possible concerns (ownership, overlap with FindaGrave, Mormon post-mortem baptism, etc.), and (at the time I read it) ended with a pointer to this response from BillionGraves:


For my part, I'm finding this thing almost overwhelmingly tempting. There are several graveyards within an easy walk of where I live that have not yet had anything uploaded. Might make for a nice project to go with getting a tiny amount of additional exercise. Since (to the best of my knowledge) I have zero connection to anyone buried in these places, if I lose access to the work I do, at least it's not personal. And this paragraph from the BillionGraves blog suggests our values are tightly aligned:

"When our team first decided we wanted to work on a project to make gathering cemetery information more efficient and accessible, we attempted to contact Find a Grave to create a partnership: we’d provide a mobile app and they’d provide the website it integrated with. We never did hear back from the folks at Find a Grave"

Please, please, please, make it easy for me. Easy to contribute. Easy to consume. Feel free to charge me, especially after a vast volume of information has created an insuperable barrier to entry for competitors (don't be ridiculous, but I don't mind paying for _two_ ancestry.com subscriptions for my husband and me, so he can work on Drouin and I can use the search feature -- there's an unbelievable amount of information buried in that site. I have a high bar for ridiculous. Digital storage and access costs money and so do the people to manage it all.).

I also wholeheartedly approve of their outreach to FindaGrave, and their shout-outs in the blog to Names in Stone and Interment.net.

And now, before I return to reading about George Gilder's puppyhood and the 1964 Goldwater campaign or, say, trawling for fourth cousins in the Mohawk Valley, I'm going to go order some capacitative gloves.
Tags: genealogy

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