Thursday, September 20, 2012

Using MyHeritage Record Matches to Find Find-A-Grave Entries

Over the past year or so, I've been "mining" the Find-A-Grave website for burial records of persons in my database, especially for my Seaver one-name study.  On some of the memorials on Find-A-Grave, there are birth dates, birth and death places, short biographies, transcribed obituaries and family tributes.

That search process has been rewarding, especially with the ability to search a specific cemetery for a surname.  But it is tedious, and I am only through about 1,200 of the 1,700 entries for the Seaver surname, let alone all of my other surnames.  I have despaired of ever finishing going through my 41,000 persons in my database to find all of the Find-A-Grave entries.  I'm not sure that looking for every one will be time effective.

The MyHeritage Record Matching technology will be very helpful in this regard - it told me that I have 1,322 matches in my MyHeritage family tree on Find-A-Grave, and it is happy to list them for me!  Here is one of the pages from the Record Match list of Find-A-Grave matches:

Look in the upper right-hand corner of the page above - MyHeritage provides a selection of Sort options - by Confidence (the Star system ranking), by Status (Confirmed, Rejected, Not Stated), by first Name, and by Last Name.  If I choose to sort by Last Name, then I can easily go through my RootsMagic family tree database person-by-person and add content from the Find-A-Grave site.

Here is a screen shot for the Seaver surname:

As you can see, information about the person in my MyHeritage family tree is on the left and the Record Match information is on the right.  My information for Adello Harden Seaver does not have a death date, but the Find-A-Grave site does, with the cemetery information and a photograph of the gravestone to boot!  If I click on the blue "Review Match" link for Adello H. Seaver, I can see his information on MyHeritage derived from the Find-A-Grave match:

I can click on the "Source" link on the screen above that says "View full record on Find-A-Grave website" and see the specific memorial page:

Using this information, I can add a death date and burial site to my database for Adello Harden Seaver, plus a source citation for the information.  I will use the Find-A-Grave memorial in my citation, since the MyHeritage Record Match is a finding aid.

I will click on the "Confirm" button on the MyHeritage Record Match list so that I don't see the entry on the Record Match list again.  If I search by "Status" later - the "Not Stated" status items are at the top of the list, and the "Rejected" and "Confirmed" are at the bottom of the list.

I went through my list of 1,322 Record Matches looking for my family members that I know are on  Find-A-Grave.  What I found, by looking at the Match lists, was that married females are listed in the "Last Name" Sort by their maiden name.  Here is an example for Lucretia Townsend Smith (wife of Isaac Seaver):

I think that this will really shorten up my search time in Find-A-Grave for persons in my database.  I can use the MyHeritage Record Matches to find missing information about persons in my tree.  However, I need to be consistent in noting "Confirm" or "Rejected" when I do this in MyHeritage so that only the "Not Stated" matches are at the top of the list when I review these matches.

Interestingly, I found that the "One Star" matches have the most useful information for me, so I can select only those by clicking on the "Filtering Options" link at the top left of the page (under the number of matches line).  Then I can sort by Surname and do the data entry one category at a time.

A caution:  Not every bit of information on the Find-A-Grave memorial pages are accurate, since they are dependent upon the information that the informant provided about the deceased person to the gravestone maker, or  on the human transcription of a gravestone, information from a town record, or from a newspaper article for Find-A-Grave.  It is not uncommon for information on Find-A-Grave to have a date wrong (relative to a vital record) or for a Find-A-Grave volunteer to get a relationship wrong.

Therefore, the discerning user needs to consider the Find-A-Grave information as a derivative source and finding aid, and try to find more authoritative records for the event and relationships.  A photograph of the gravestone helps verify the transcription of the gravestone, but even that can be wrong.

That said, Find-A-Grave, and sites like it, are wonderful resource for genealogists, especially for 20th century research.  Knowing the death date and burial location helps to narrow down a search for a death record or a newspaper obituary that might describe a person's life.

I like the MyHeritage Record Matching technology - it is a step forward in helping researchers with online family trees find online records that can add content to their database in the quest for finding our elusive ancestors.

Disclosure:  I have a complimentary subscription to both and courtesy of MyHeritage, for which I am grateful.  However, this does not influence my objective opinions in reviews of these websites and their products.

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Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


Jacqi Stevens said...

Good point, Randy, about your caution not to take everything listed at Find A Grave as verified fact. It's great collateral confirmation, or can lead you in a direction you hadn't considered before--but it can't be the primary and only resource.

And even the old concept "set in stone" can be wobbly. I'm thinking of a "STEAVENS" monument for a relative in a cemetery in Indiana: oops. What do you do when the engraver delivers the stone with a "typo"?

It happens!

Beth Benko said...

Like you, I often use Find A Grave as a finding aid for more authoritative sources. The family trees now give hints (shaky green leaves)for "matching" Find A Grave entries.