Thursday, April 21, 2016

Dear Randy: How Do You Source Find A Grave Memorials?

On my post Nobody's Perfect! Correcting My Own Tree Error (posted 7 March 2016), reader Debbie asked this about Find A Grave sources::

"I’ve entered the grave stone pictures I’ve taken into my software (and on-line trees) with the cemetery as the source, following the EE format. But should I also enter the memorials I’ve created on Find-a-Grave into my tree, or just keep a separate list? Somewhere in the back of my head I think at least the Find-a-Grave memorial number should be somewhere in my tree, even if I’m the creator. 

"How do you handle the memorials/pictures you have added?"

My response to Debbie was:

"It's a good question. Evidence Explained says to source the record that you see. If you went to the cemetery and took photos of a gravestone, then cite the cemetery and credit yourself with the photo. If you use Find A Grave, then cite the Find A Grave website as the source. I include the cemetery name, the town/city name and state, the name of the deceased, and the memorial number. Other researchers add the creator of the memorial and the photographer for the images on the memorial. I usually don't do the latter. It's my choice - the goal is to enable other researchers to be able to find the source again."

I realize that I didn't answer all of Debbie's questions, so I'm adding it here:

I have added both my own cemetery photograph with a source citation and the Find A Grave memorial that I have created for the person with another source citation for the Find A Grave memorial. I do that because the readers/viewers of my tree may not be able to access the cemetery, but would appreciate seeing the Find A Grave memorial.

Another reason for adding the memorial number is that it should be relatively permanent - someone may change the name of the deceased person.  You can search for a memorial number on Find A Grave.

I know readers will ask, so here is my usual source citation for a Find A Grave memorial (since I have about 20,000 of them) - using the "Cemetery Records, Compiled (online databases)" source template in RootsMagic 7:

Jim Tipton, indexed database, Find A Grave ( : accessed 12 October 2012), Westlawn Cemetery, Westford, Mass., Zechariah Hildreth memorial #37561817 with gravestone photograph.

How do you write a source citation for a Find A Grave memorial?  Please tell me in Comments.


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Cousin Russ said...


Here is a Memorial that I created:

Russ Worthington, "Find-A-Grave", database, Find A Grave ( : accessed 07 October 2011) Ann Harrison Howard (1834-1919) - Find A Grave Memorial# 78788742.

here is one that someone else created:

Ray Tracer, "Find-A-Grave", database, Find-A-Grave (; accessed 17 Sep 2012) John Carroll (1790-1867) - Find A Grave Memorial# 29278083.

I will NOT post, in my Online Tree any images without permission.

However, in my database I do have them cited and have the images.

The image, in my database has a citation of:

Carolyn Y Lowe Shifflett, "Find A Grave", database, Find A Grave ( : accessed 09 April 2012) Mary L Hart Housekeeper (1920 - 1988) - Find A Grave Memorial# 42017449.

My own images I will post in my Online Tree. It would be included with the citation above.

On more fine point for me, that wasn't brought up. That is What about an Index record. I keep them and record them. I deal with the Index from Ancestry at a different time, in most cases, from when I deal with the Find A Grave website., "Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current", database, ( : accessed 15 November 2014) A[braham] Palmer Worrell (1840-1866).

My Question to you is, do WE need to have "Jim Tipton" in that citation. There is no doubt that we all have benefited from what he began. I would venture to say that many users of the website don't even know who he is. I, for one, am grateful that he did create this awesome database.

But, the reason that Find A Grave is FREE on Ancestry, is the work that the volunteers have done, adding the content. In each of my citations, I acknowledge who created the Memorial, as that is the work that I am citing.

I may be totally wrong here, which is why I really like this blog post, it's question, and the answers that will appear in comments.

Thank you,


Randy Seaver said...

Russ and all,

I use Jim Tipton as the creator of the website because he was. The first field on the master source template is "creator." Ancestry is not the creator, but is the current owner. If Ancestry eventually brings Find A Grave memorials into the Ancestry domain, I will change the URL when it happens.

If I leave Jim Tipton out of the Master Source and leave the "Creator" field empty, then all I get for the Master Source is a comma for the start of it.

The person who created a specific memorial is not the creator of all memorials on Find A Grave. I probably should add the Owner of the specific memorial to my source citation, but it's too much work to go back and do it for all 20,000 citations I have now.

Cousin Russ said...



So, basically, we are dealing with our software.

Inside of mine, the creator of the Memorial, is listed as a compiler. You don't see that in my Reference Notes. I use the Template feature which does have some issues at times.

I am not asked for the Creator of the website, so I don't have to deal with that issue either.

There is, however, an issue that I raised on the Evidence Explained Forum about this whole Website issue. You just reminded be of another flavor of the issue. It Find A Grave it's own website or is it an Ancestry Property.

I keep, and all separate. I think falls into that same category.

My citations for the Find A Grave Index Reference Notes, different from when I pull information from the Find A Grave website. I do that mostly because I will do a bunch of Find A Grave Index records, then go after the Find A grave website, because I know it will take me longer to deal with those records.

Thanks for the conversation.


Unknown said...

Thank you Randy + Russ,

I will go back and add citations for the Find-A-Grave memorials I’ve created.

Adding my 2 cents to the conversation above; when I started cleaning up my source citations a few years ago, I couldn’t figure out how to get the “FamilyTreeMaker” master source template to do what I wanted it to do. So I created my own free form templates. My citations look like this:

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 16 April 2015), François Santerre, memorial no. 154056183, created and photos by Debbie Pelletier; St. Joseph Cemetery, Kingston, Massachusetts.

Thank you again,

Anonymous said...

Just came across you blog today and it was very interesting. I started out my day googling help on doing sources especially for FindaGrave. I will definitely be back again to browse further.