Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Find-A-Grave growing rapidly

When I tried to enter my great grandparents into Find-A-Grave, I couldn't do so because the town where they died was not listed. I sent an e-mail asking that the town and its municipal cemetery (Queenstown, Eastern Cape) be added, and it was within a couple of hours.

Then I added my great grandparents, William Matthew Growdon and Elizabeth Growdon. He was number 111610917, and she was 11181795, which means that 122 other entries had been made in the five minutes or so it took to enter her information.

Obviously the bigger such a database is, the more useful it is to researchers, and the more useful people find it, the faster it will grow. I recently found a great deal of useful family history information because someone had taken the trouble to record the gravestone inscriptions and cemetery registers at Omaruru in Namibia, which is a long way from where I live. So Find-A-Grave is growing fast, and becoming more useful to researchers every day.

About 25 years ago the Genealogical Society of South Africa embarked on a cemetery documentation project, where members tried to record inscriptions from gravestones in as many cemeteries as possible. Some of these may still be found on NAAIRS, the computer index to the South African archives. The Worldwide Web did not exist then, and sites like Find-A-Grave are doing it in a slightly different way, and, with new technology they also make it possible to display photos of the monumental inscriptions.

We took photos of the Queenstown graves when we were passing through, so we only had time to record those of our own family. But we noticed that many graves in the cemetery had been vandalised, and that seems to be a widespread problem, so documenting them where possible is quite important.

So I'd like to encourage everyone to enter details of graves they know about in Find-A-Grave and similar sites, and, where possible, to join together with others in trying to make a complete record of local cemeteries before they are vandalised. And if anyone reading this lives near Queenstown, get busy! There are a lot more graves to record.

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