A grave is the final resting place of your ancestor or loved one. But sometimes making a trip to see it can be impossible. Billion graves aims to fix this. But they not only fix having access to the grave through photo’s, they also are preserving the grave that may not always exist. I don’t know how it works in the United States, but in Australia, graves can be reclaimed. This means that after a certain time a cemetery can take down a headstone and bury someone else in the same grave. In my family, it wasn’t even just old graves that were reclaimed, the whole cemetery was. Balmain cemetery was knocked down and made way for a park. (Some of the headstones were shaped down for the paving and walls too.) So I am very happy that websites like Billion graves exist.
Billion graves was named through their goal to preserve at least one billion graves. The website is free to use and although it is predominately US based, the range of Australian records is slowly increasing. They have recently celebrated reaching 17 million records. Billion graves works through volunteers. Anyone can go out to their local cemetery and take a photo. Then they upload it to the website and the information is typed in so people can search for it. There is a cute little video on their website that explains how the process all works.
It’s best to sign up first. It is free and they don’t share the information with any other companies. (I get emails from them probably on a weekly basis but you are free to unsubscribe if it’s too annoying.) The search bar is located on the front page and you can search for a person or a cemetery from there. Any information about the person comes up with a picture of the headstone. The great thing about taking photos from a phone with GPS location is the ease of being able to find the grave. In the getting started section they have a short video showing how to work the billion graves app on your phone when you go out to the cemetery. When you see how easy it is, you will wish all your ancestors were on the billion graves website.
Billion graves is launching a number of premium services that you have to pay for, so read through what you are requesting. For example, if you don’t find a person, billion graves is now offering a premium service, where you put in the details of the person and if they find that person or it gets added they let you know. Which is a great if you are sick of typing in your family details on a regular basis hoping that they will come up.
As with any website there can be problems with the quality of the photos and the information that has been added can be of poor quality. The website also has a community tab at the top. This is where questions and answers for all kinds of topics, generally to do with how to use the website are. The store only has shirts and hats with billion graves logo on it. But the blog is really interesting, and the getting started section is great with their short videos.
At the end of the day I do like going out to a cemetery myself and have an earlier article about that in my blog. But websites like billion graves are certainly opening up the world for those that can’t get there. I see all the requests of people wanting photos of their ancestors graves in Toowong cemetery and if I lived round the corner like I did at University I would be happy to open up another piece of the puzzle for those searching. Have a look, even if you can’t find what your looking for, you may be able to help another person in our family history community.
Please feel free to share this article because – understanding the past can bless the present.