No need to leave the house, just visit these virtual cemeteries for genealogy success. Sometimes, you will find more than the gravestone picture. See what you’ve been missing and troll the virtual cemeteries this Halloween. Here’s how!
Nothing is spookier than trolling a cemetery in the dead of night, fog rolling over the ground, and strange sounds seeming to follow your every step. But now, you can “visit” three popular virtual cemeteries online and look for clues for your family history without ever leaving home.
Virtual Cemeteries for Genealogy at FindAGrave.com
FindAGrave.com is an online site dedicated to publishing pictures of tombstones. Site users can search for free by deceased person’s name, cemetery name, and even location. You can filter your searches by birth date, death date, and specific location as well.
Registration is not needed for searching, however if you wish to contribute, you will need to create an account. This account is free of charge as well.
FindAGrave is not just a database of tombstones around the world – it is much, much more. It is not uncommon to find obituaries, pictures, and linked family data on an individual’s memorial page.
FindAGrave.com makes it easy to contact the person who originally uploaded the information or pictures. This is very helpful when citing your sources. If you look under the picture, there is a username given of the person who uploaded the photo. By clicking here, you will be directed to a contact page where you can send the person an email.
In the case of James Coddington, I found a picture that had been uploaded to his memorial page. I also was able to see a biographical sketch about his life. Often time, by contacting the contributor, you can find even more family information that they are willing to share.
Contributing to FindAGrave can be a little more involved than some people like. A contributor sets up a memorial page, uploads the tombstone information if known, and is responsible to transcribe the data from the tombstone picture…at least until just recently. When I popped over today, I noticed a new feature that allows the Findagrave community to help in the transcribing efforts. Check out all the new upcoming features at Findagrave by clicking here.
Virtual Cemeteries for Genealogy at BillionGraves.com
BillionGraves.com is similar to FindAGrave. BillionGraves works through a community approach which allows for many people to contribute to the effort. Some users like the idea of no one person “owning” a memorial page. If you want to add something or correct something, you can do so without obtaining permission from the person who originally uploaded the picture.
This site does not have as many graves as FindAGrave, but they are relatively “new” compared to the nearly 17 year old FindAGrave. In my own searches, I found very few of my ancestors were listed in their database. Perhaps in a few more years, the number of entries will grow.
One unique feature that BillionGraves offers is a GPS coordinate with the picture of the tombstone. Yet another unique feature is the ability to quickly upload the tombstone photo and GPS coordinate tag using the BillionGraves app on your smartphone. You can snap a photo with your phone and then it is near instantly uploaded to the transcription pool on the website. Contributors are not required to create memorial pages or even transcribe the information off the tombstone picture. Once the photo is in the transcription pool, any user can transcribe the information. It is kind of like a “snap now, site later” feature!
BillionGraves does require you to register with an email to search or contribute to their database. It is free to do so.
BillionGraves works closely with FamilySearch. Every tombstone image can be directly matched to an individual on your FamilySearch family tree which is also unique to BillionGraves.
Virtual Cemeteries for Genealogy at Deceasedonline.com
Deceasedonline.com is a database for the United Kingdom’s burials and cremations. You can search the registers at no charge. Search filters include country, region, county, burial authority, or crematorium. Like I said, you can search the register for free, however, if you register for an account and purchase vouchers, you gain access to much more. These things include viewing cremation and burial records, digital scans of cremation and burial registers, photographs of graves or memorials, cemetery maps, and listings of other occupants in the same grave. Vouchers are used to purchase the items you wish to see. Things such as register scans, register transcriptions, grave details, and other interments, run about 2.00 Euros. Maps and memorial images are individually priced according to size.
When you troll these virtual cemeteries this Halloween, remember that the tombstone is just one record created at the time of burial. Cemetery or burial records may contain even more genealogical data. Though burial records are not easily found online, once you know where your ancestor is buried, it’s a stroll through the park…or should I say CEMETERY!
 Thom Reed, “Wanted: FamilySearch Volunteers to Help BillionGraves Hasten the Work,” 22 Jan 2014, web article, FamilySearch Blog (https://familysearch.org/blog/en/wanted-familysearch-volunteers-billiongraves-hasten-work/: accessed 7 Oct 2015).