Cemeteries Death + the Web

Crowd-sourcing Genealogy at Find a Grave

Tracking Down Relatives, Visiting Graves Virtually
Lauren Silverman, NPR (March 15, 2010)

NPR has a nice short piece on Find A Grave, a one-man operation founded in 1995 fueled by an interest in famous persons’ graves that has become a full-on crowd-sourced enterprise for finding anybody’s headstone worldwide, famous or not. People can request photos of graves in faraway places and volunteers in the area will hunt it down, snap a shot and upload it to the site.

Lauren Silverman goes to Arlington National Cemetery with one such volunteer, Anne Cady, on behalf of Teddi Smith in Florida, who is looking for her cousin Jesse Veitch, a WWI veteran.

“There’s actually an emotional attachment that you get when you actually see the picture of the grave marker,” Smith says. “You can put that in your family tree, and they are no longer just a name and some dates.”


10 replies on “Crowd-sourcing Genealogy at Find a Grave”

Great story about the good side of Find A Grave. Unfortunately, there are so many problems with what Find A Grave is doing. I work at a small non-profit organization that has been collecting cemetery data for our county for the past 20+ years. Now we find that the information that we published and copyrighted into books is being added to the Find A Grave website without our consent. If what Find A Grave did was help people connect with family members and make requests for volunteers to take a photograph of particular grave markers we would be willing to recommend the site. However, just allowing data (and other peoples data for that matter) without pictures is not what the site is or should be about.

OMG…and here I thought I was the only one having a problem! I haven’t been on the site all that long, but I have been very active. I had over 300 memorials added, including a lot of the alumni from my high school, as I also run an alumni site for the school. I had linked a lot of the deceased classmates to memorials I had created on FindAGrave.

And btw, I hate the initials ***…I think it’s very offensive. When I brought it up in the forums, I was bombarded with hate posts.

So now, I created a memorial for actor Steve Landesberg, who passed away the other day. A female came along (katzizkidz) who posted a photo of the actor on my memorial. Ok…fine. It was a terrible photo of him, but there was nothing I could do about that. The next morning I get up and she’s removed the photo and created her own memorial for the actor. A third memorial was created later in the day.

Now it’s my understanding that the administrators loathe duplicate memorials. The rules state that you’re supposed to do a search before adding a memorial and if one exists, you’re to work with the creator of that memorial and not create a new one. So I contact this woman who proceeds to belittle me and tell me that it’s up to the mods to make the decision. I sent her the rules, but she didn’t care. So I reported her to the admins.

Next thing I know, there’s only one memorial for the actor and they’ve given the credit to the woman who created the dupe memorial!

I then received a very obnoxious email from Robert Edwards (bobnoxious) stating that she was fully in her right to create the memorial, but offered no explanation as to why and never addressed the fact that she broke the rules.

So, I write back and ask him about it. I also state that I think the rules seem to be arbitrary, that we’re dealing with archiving memorials and not nominations for the nobel peace prize.

He then writes back telling me I’ve been banned from the site! So I go in and look and sure enough, I can’t access anything. So I look up my family memorials that I had added….they’re all gone! The over 300 memorials I had added (that are linked to on my alumni site) are GONE! They deleted them all!

I’ve sat here every morning for the last two months entering obituaries from the papers. I’ve driven to several different cemeteries and taken volunteer photos for people who have requested photos of their family’s headstones.

And now all my work, all that time I spent is down the drain.

I think it’s a GREAT site and a great service for genealogists. But if this is how the owner and administrators think it’s appropriate to behave, they need to be taken down.

@ash: If only people would read FAQ’s before diving into a site like this. It don’t matter that your memorial had more info or that you paid for it. It’s still one memorial per person. It’s hard enough to get volunteers but if people like you keep deleting originals so your name can be on it it’ll be impossible. I’m surprised you weren’t immediately banned.

So it’s been merged. It should say created by the original volunteer & managed by your father. So then you can edit it however you feel (except delete it). That’s what management is all about. Add the correct full name, dates, locations, bio, links, etc. It is your uncle’s memorial after all. Why would you leave it sitting there stating you all didn’t authorize that memorial? That’s a lil disrespectful to your uncle & also any relatives searching.

It also makes it seem like you’ve still got a duplicate floating around…which they will find eventually. It also makes it seem like you may just delete the original again.

If you read the FAQ’s it says it’s not a genealogy site. You can add a bunch of info & you can link them. If people are willing to edit & link then once it’s done it’s done & there’s no real reason to transfer them around from person to person. People deleting originals is one of the reasons people don’t like to transfer. I’m afraid between the complaining & the deleting they may drop this family thing entirely. You won’t even be able to get your own parents or kids.

My family has a website and I made a multi-page memorial for my father there after he died. Someone copied the main page plus my father’s photograph to FindAGrave. The part of the page for people who knew my dad to contact our family, well that part wasn’t copied over. No one notified me of the copying even though the contact info is right there on the page.

My objections:
1. When people Google my father they should see a listing of our family page, not the copycat page at Findagrave.
2. When Dad’s friends want to reach us they should be able to find the contact info with his memorial.
3. Copy/pasting this kind of material is actually a violation of USA and international copyright laws.
4. Findagrave is such a hideous-looking money machine! Look at the homepage! This site is about running banner ads. They have a little apologetic blurb about it but we all know you can sign up for text ads that match your content. You don’t HAVE to run obnoxious ads on a site. Clearly the site’s purpose is to copy data from other places and then try to make money off of that.
5. Dad was cremated, there’s no grave that anyone is trying to “find”; obviously Findagrave expanded their site to nongrave searches just so they could copy more stuff, get more visitors, and therefore get more banner views and make more money.

I wrote to Findagrave and told them to delete my father’s material and they did. But I’m still angry. Disrespectful graverobbers.

I urge everyone to contact & file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Also keep posting FAG horror stories online. This site is run by a bunch of unfair admins that only care about # of memorials added like it means anything. Jim Tipton makes lots of money off of his admin cronies copying other people’s work. They put up memorials of people still liviing in additional to young children recently deceased. Their parents don’t even get a chance to mourn before their young child’s memorial is oline for the whole world to stare at and keep opening the gaping wounds of mourning. Do not think you are doing a service to these people by voluntarily putting up info becuase the minute the admins have it in for you they will delete all your hard work without warning. Usually without just cause. If run properly the site would be great. Unfortunately its run by Jim Tipton.

In response to Kathy about the “copyright” of the information in the cemetery book. Facts such as dates of birth and death and where someone is buried are not copyrightable. Your group may have been utilizing the information and making money for your non-profit organization, but that does not preclude other people from using these facts for a site like Find A Grave, especially since the volunteers are not making money off your work. If your data is strictly “facts” such as these, you have no copyright on those facts.

What a bunch of whiners! Drivel is what this is. F.A.G. is about documenting graves. As a genealogist and member I have been just appalled at the dirty, rotten, low down, disgusting vile behavior of so called adults over virtual memorials! Name calling, freaking out because you cannot control every single member of your family. And how and why would you contact the better business bureau? Did you purchase anything? No. You may have “sponsored” a page but no one makes you pull out your credit card.

Some of you need to get a grip on reality. SMH…