Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Billion Graves

My daughter, who is something of a fundi and enthusiast on Android smartphones, on hearing that I had recently acquired such a phone, and knowing my interest in genealogy, recommended the following "app":

Participate | Billion Graves:
The BillionGraves Project brings people together by making genealogy records available to the public.

Volunteers use smartphones to take GPS-encoded pictures of headstones in cemeteries, which are then uploaded to the Internet and transcribed for easy searching. The information on the headstones is then made available to the public.

BillionGraves software is free, easy to use, and available for desktop computers and smartphones.

There have been several other similar projects, including Find-a-Grave, and several others including a South African one, initiated by the late Peter Holden, and for which Martin Zoellner and I at one time tried to write some recording software. There is also a current project on Ancestry24.

The thing that sounds good to me about the BillionGraves project is that it uses the GPS facilities of cellphones to pinpoint the location of graves. That was something that caused the biggest difficulty when we were trying to develop software for recording monumental inscriptions - recording the locations of graves. It required describing a cemetery and its location, and if different people recorded information at different cemeteries one might end up with the same cemetery appearing several times in the database under different names.

Another thing I like about BillionGraves is that it has both a photo of the headstone, and an index of the names of people on it, making it searchable.

But I also have some doubts -- is there a way to avoid duplication? Some graves might be recorded several times, and others might be missed and not recorded at all.

I might try this out, but I'd also be interersted in having comments from people who have used BillionGraves and other grave recording software and projects, to learn which they find better and why.

See also Hayes & Greene family history: Find A Grave - Millions of Cemetery Records.


Anonymous said...

Nice article however after doing much research on the GPS code of individual graves, how many people are ever going to use it?
Personally for the few people that will use it it is waste of time and energy.
If more people helped photograph and tag images it would be more worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

A very wise fish once advised me that when you see the word FREE, stop before you nibble on the bait, because there usually is a hook in it somewhere. There is NEVER such thing as a free lunch.

Who is behind the bait and what are they going to do once you have nibbled at it?

No doubt they are going to sell the right to view the images we have freely supplied but is that all? What other collateral information will they be collecting and what are they going to do with that? Perhaps they will sell it to the highest bidder and next we are receiving spam messages, having our voicemail listened to, banking transactions intercepted and possibly even greater things than I could possibly imagine.

There are very few good guys left in the world except me and thee, and then I sometimes even wonder about thee!!

The idea is fantastic BUT .....??

Anonymous said...

I've been using BillionGraves for several months now and am loving it. I love it because it is really easy to use, all you have to do it take the picture and the phone will put the GPS location on for you and upload it to the web. It is one of the easiest apps that I have on my phone.

The app is free, and there is the option to make a purchase in the app to be able to search for records on your device, but if you don't want to pay a buck or two for that it is free to search for everything on the web. So it is completely free to do anything you want, but you can buy the convenience of searching on mobile if you desire.

I also read on their blog
that they are giving away the mobile records searching for free this month. It looks like they have lots of fun things that they do like organizing groups of people to go to the cemeteries and take pictures, contests to get people involved and other stuff.

Anonymous said...

I've been using it for about a month now, for transcribing since I don't have a smart enough phone to do the photo-taking.

So far, there is only a small amount of crossover between FindaGrave and BillionGraves. As BG gains more photos, I expect more crossover, but the crossover can be good. In both cases, I've seen better headstones on each site so if you can't read it on one, the other may have a better photo.



The company has some kind of relationship with Family Search, but what is unknown.

He offers some basic services for free, but offers a variety of premium upgrade options that are reasonably priced, and in some cases, fairly inexpensive.

The photos can be viewed free and I don't see that changing.

He also has a free Family History app. The basics are 1 GB or 100 Documents for free, with a tiered system from $19.99 - $59.99/year for up to 4,000 Documents or 20 GB.


Plenty of people will use it. The problem with many cemeteries is the ability to find a grave. FindaGrave is a great site, but most of the time there isn't plot information, and even when there is plot information, unless you have the cemetery layout, it's useless if the cemetery office is closed. Some cemeteries do have the plot information available online and the better ones have it where you can find the grave online. However, those are few and far between. In addition, by making the information available at Family Search (and probably Ancestry at some point), more people can use it.

I don't know about this company, but some companies offer free apps as a way of developing paid apps. They can say that X number of people use the free app and that is free advertising if it's a good product.