Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Searching for Persons and Cemeteries on BillionGraves

I have not explored the Billion Graves website at all over the past few years.  At this time, there are about 10 million gravesite photographs.  I want to look deeper at the site.  Most features on the site are free, but there is a subscription component, called BG Plus, also.

Billion Graves permits volunteer photographers to use the free Billion Graves mobile app for iOS and Android units to take a photograph of a gravesite or gravestone, and the app uploads the photograph, along with the GPS coordinate of the grave, to Billion Graves servers.  Once the photo is on the website, then volunteers can transcribe the photographs.  The transcription information, and the photograph and GPS location, are then available to search on the Billion Graves website and on the FamilySearch website (  FamilySearch updates the collection on a regular basis.

I explored finding cemetery maps and adding gravestone transcriptions in Billion Graves Cemetery Maps and Gravesite Transcriptions (posted 20 October 2014), and the BillionGraves mobile app in Technology Tuesday - Billion Graves Mobile App (posted 21 October 2014).  

In this post, I'm going to explore the Search function - for persons and cemeteries.

1)  Here is the top of the Billion Graves home page after I signed in with my credentials:

The "Search" button is on the top of the page, in the center, just to the right of the BillionGraves title.

2)  I clicked on "Search" and saw a search form - with the "Person Lookup" active.  There is also a "Cemetery Lookup" tab.

In the "Person Lookup" form, I entered the Last Name "seaver" to the search field to see what they have in the database:

Below the search form above, there are a number of helpful search tips.  There is an "Exact Search" check box and a "Phonetic" check box.

I clicked on the blue "Search" button and received 232 matches:

For each match, there is a thumbnail photo of the gravestone, the person's name (as a link) with birth and death years (if known), and the cemetery name, and the location.

I noticed that one the persons on the results list was "Seaver" in Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego.   Here is the information for this person:

The page above has a small photo of the gravestone, a map of the cemetery with a stickpin for the gravesite, and information (birth, marriage, death, cemetery) about the person below the photos.

If I had more information about this person, I could click on the blue "Edit" button (top right above the cemetery map photo) to add or modify information about this gravestone.

3)  I wanted to see how many entries that BillionGraves had in Massachusetts for the "seaver" last name, so I added information to the search fields:

The search results provided 11 entries for "seaver" in Massachusetts.

4)  The user can search for cemeteries in a specific country, state or county.  I clicked on the "Cemetery Lookup" tab and selected "United States," "Massachusetts," and "Worcester" from the dropdown menus:

After clicking the blue "Search" button, the list of 259 cemeteries in the BillionGraves system for Worcester County, Massachusetts appeared:

On the list above, the cemeteries are listed alphabetically, with the number of images available and the location of the cemetery.  The cemeteries with photo images are listed with dark blue links.

I scrolled down to find Evergreen Cemetery in Leominster, Massachusetts, clicked the link, and saw:

The satellite map of the cemetery (zoomable) and stickpins for the gravesites with photographs appeared, along with information for the cemetery (address, GPS coordinates), and the list of persons entered into the BillionGraves system.  There are tabs for "Records," "Photos," "Contributors," "Requests" and "Comments."

5)  The Search features are excellent, and work quickly.  This part of the website is easy to use.  A user can quickly determine if there is a BillionGraves entry for a target person.  If there is not, a "Request" for a photo can be submitted on the "Request" tab.

I will explore more features, including the BG Plus features, in future blog posts.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Toff said...

Findagrave I think might have more entries overall and for most cemeteries that overlap. One exception I found was Kenwood Cemetery in Albany. Very thoroughly photographed on BillionGraves, while only a small percentage was photographed on Findagrave.

Something else I noticed with BillionGraves was that the fact that pins are sometimes placed outside a cemetery. The pins go where the camera's GPS locates the camera, rather than where the headstone being photographed is. The great the distance of the photographer from the headstone, the further the pin is from the headstone if not also from the cemetery. The Van Schaick Burial Plot in Cohoes has one pin outside (and the pin for the cemetery itself), one in a questionable spot within the cemetery, but otherwise it might be roughly accurate. I guess caution needs to be taken by photographers to get as close to headstones as they possibly can for the greatest accuracy in mapping.

I'd love to try submitting to the site myself, but my camera doesn't have GPS.

oldwoodboats said...

The next logical step would seem to be to automate the reading, interpretation cataloging and indexing of gravestone photos.