Website Review: Billion Graves 10

With a major amount of genealogists conducting research on the go, it was no surprise last year when we started to see mobile applications geared towards the cemetery hunter. We spend many hours searching for that one grave, taking photographs, transcribing the information, and uploading it all to various websites that are out there gathering this information. Seriously, there are many: Find-A-Grave, US GenWeb Tombstone Project, and many others. All of these sites are looking to preserve the past and help those in far-off places find the final resting place of a loved one.

Personally, I do not jump onto a mobile application band wagon immediately. I wait, giving these companies time to work out all of the kinks. No application is ever perfect, and it takes time to work through all the issues. Last fall, I decided it was time to start utilizing one of these apps and made the decision to download Billion Graves. It was probably the smartest decision I made for photographing graves.


The user can tweak the settings to how they would like to save all the photos that they take: to just the app or to the app and your device (smart phone or iPad). When I first used this, I saved to only the app and found out quickly that I needed to change this to save to my phone as well. I want to be able to keep the photos of my family's headstones with all of my genealogy photos and files, so I quickly adjusted this in the settings of my iPhone. Now, I have two photos automatically saved.


Would you know that this is a cemetery? ©Terri O'Connell 2012


Once I have completed taking my photos, I click upload and the photos are then shared with the website. Once live on the site, they are ready to be transcribed for the public to search. I like to go and transcribe my own photos just in case there is a note or something of importance I would like to add to the file. My favorite part of this site is that the application already knows what cemetery you are in and pins the photo to a Google photo map which is visible to anyone looking for that specific grave. Finally, someone hundreds of miles away can take a picture of an ancestor's grave and, when you finally get the chance to visit, you will know where to go to find said headstone. What a grand idea!


Would it be easier to find this headstone if you had the GPS coordinates? © Terri O'Connell 2012


When spring hit Chicago early, I was out and about with a relative. We went past a small cemetery that we have driven past many times in our life. Well, last fall I had learned that we had family there, and I had already been there and taken pictures of the family plots. I was so excited to share the new information with this family member to which they replied, "You should create an app that lets you take pictures of the stones and attaches them to a map for others to find!" I laughed and shared how Billion Graves works. It is great to hear the non-genealogist family member coming up with ideas to assist us (even if the idea has already been created.)


Since Billion Graves has hit the market, they have made some changes to it that I really wanted to share today. Depending on how many photos you upload or transcribe, the website will let you create a record watch for certain surnames. Now, not everyone can just sign in and ask for someone to look for what they need! You need to be an active member of the Billion Graves community to take advantage of this opportunity. If you do not want to be a supporter of Billion Graves by taking and transcribing photos, you can also purchase 10 record watches for $4.99/year.


Also, Billion Graves has contests for those that choose to partake of a bit of competition. (I love competition!) Please join the IDG team. You will find us listed as "The In-Depth Genealogist." They have already given away an iPad. What will be next?


About Terri O'Connell

Terri O’Connell is a professional genealogist in the Chicago area, focusing on Midwestern United States Genealogy, with a main focus in Illinois and a special interest in Irish research. She is also the owner of Cruise Planners – O’Connell Cruise and Travel (, a full service travel company. Their mission is to encompass the full family: vacations, reunions, and history travel. Terri is a travel enthusiast with a passion for genealogy and enjoys bringing the two together to assist her clients in their travel needs. You can find Terri online at, or you can find her at for all things genealogy. Terri is the Executive Director of The In-Depth Genealogist.

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