FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Find-a-grave Comes of Age

When I started posting tombstone photos and histories on the Find-a-grave website over nine years ago, the site content was still fairly small.  On rare occasion, I’d find a photo of the marker of an extended family member, but that was enough to encourage me to continue posting.

Find-a-grave_logoEventually, I posted a request for the photo of my 4th great grandfathers tombstone in Massachusetts and a wonderful volunteer quickly responded and posted it on the Find-a-grave site.  I couldn’t travel there and felt the same way as the people who had thanked me for posting tombstone photos from my part of the world.

Four or five hours on a Saturday morning photo shoot usually produces 300 – 400 photos to post on the site.  It takes me far longer to rotate, tweak, resize and crop the images than taking the photos, but that is ok because I usually find that at least some of the photos are of the markers of my own extended family.  If I could post the photos quickly, I probably wouldn’t read the names so closely or allow them to ‘ring the bell’ in my memory that causes me to search my databases for a possible family tie.

Sometimes, a search of the site turned up a marker for a family member that I’d had a difficult time finding.  Even though the tombstone information usually included only their name, birth and death years, the information still provided a death date and location that I could use to help in my ancestral quest.

I often commented that I wished there was a way to link the memorials together as families because not only could my links help other people searching for families members memorials that I’d created but links created by others would certainly be of equal value in my own ancestral quest.

Then one day earlier this year, my wish was granted by the kind folks at find-a-grave.  Users had seen the site slow down over the years and at times it was neigh unto impossible to keep a working connection long enough to post a string of new records.  We received a note asking us to be patient because the system was being ‘worked on’.

Worked on it was, because late one night the site failed while I was posting.  When I tried it again an hour later, it was up and running and the search speed was terrific.  The migration to new servers was completed.  Not long thereafter users noted some new changes on each memorial.  We could LINK Records!

Find-a-grave Family LinksSince then, I’ve seen a substantial increase of messages regarding records I’ve posted on the site.  The notes asking me to link records that I’ve created to the records of their parents, siblings, children.  With them, I spend time creating the links for families that are posted.

We are also posting a lot of individual photos, histories, family photos and other information that are turning the site into a wonderful genealogical resource.  Several weeks ago, I found the full descendancy of one of my ‘lost’ great granduncles that a distant cousin had posted.  They did a masterful job by including numerous death certificates, documented histories and comments that allowed me to track and verify the information independently.

I’ve since found that it wasn’t a one-off experience.  Other difficult-to-find lines are starting to surface.  Click, click, click and I’m climbing the tree back to our common ancestors.  Nice!

Mentioning my photo forays and postings to cousins in England, I soon received emails from them with photos of the tombstones that they passed everyday on their morning walks.  Their notes asked if I’d post them so the families of the deceased might have the images available to find in their own quests.   Nice twice.  I couldn’t visit England to take the photos and truth is … even if I did visit, I’d be too busy finding my own ancestral records and homes to take time out to take photos of tombstones in locations I had no reason to visit.

If you haven’t visited Find-a-grave for a while, visit today.  Check to see if some of your own ‘lost’ relatives have been found and linked by a kind unknown cousin.

If you don’t already have an account, sign up and join in the fun.  It’s free!  Pay-it-forward by taking tombstone photos in your area and posting them on the site.   Payment will return to you.  Possibly in unlikely ways but always with a lot of interest.


15 October 2009 - Posted by | Genealogy | , , ,


  1. Excellent post about one of my favorite sites! When I first started out at Find A Grave, I think they had 9 million memorials posted; today they have 37 million!

    Comment by Miriam Robbins Midkiff | 16 October 2009 | Reply

  2. Excellent post, Lee! I’ve been a member of Find A Grave for over 5 years, and my husband has been a member for almost as long. Photographing cemeteries is a family affair for us, as my daughter took her first “graving” trip when she was only 2 months old, and still in a baby carrier! The local cemetery caretakers have watched her grow and are always very helpful and sweet to us.

    There are lots of other, valuable sites which offer photos and info about headstones, but I almost wish there weren’t. I’d love to have everything centralized at Find A Grave so I wouldn’t have to search in so many places!

    You can find me at Find A Grave as EMarie!


    Comment by Elizabeth O'Neal | 16 October 2009 | Reply

  3. I’m another big fan and long-time member of Find A Grave. Thanks for spreading the word on this great site.

    Comment by Kathryn Doyle | 24 October 2009 | Reply

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