Cemetery Crowdsourcing: A Guide to What It Is and Its Benefits

June 22, 2016  - by 
Cemetery Crowdsourcing: A Guide to What It Is and Its Benefits

By Miryelle Resek

Finding an excuse to stroll quietly through cemeteries, observing the final resting place of people once vibrant with life, and enjoying the silence of dew drops drying off of memorial stones just got easier.

Rather than simply passing by undocumented burial sites, genealogist Michael Cassara, in his presentation at RootsTech 2016, explained a proactive approach to leisure graveyard walks—cemetery crowdsourcing.

What Is Cemetery Crowdsourcing?

Cassara explained that crowdsourcing means “to obtain information or input to a particular task by enlisting the services of a number of people either paid or unpaid.”

Or, as defined by Merriam-Webster, crowdsourcing is “the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community.”

With this general definition, cemetery crowdsourcing would mean enlisting—and giving—help to document headstones online across the world.

Screenshot of FamilySearch Home Page
What Are the Benefits of Cemetery Crowdsourcing?

Cemetery stones offer many kinds of information, such as:

  • Names
  • Dates
  • Relationships
  • Pictures
  • And so on

Unfortunately, not everyone can travel to the gravesite that has the information they need.

This is why cemetery crowdsourcing is so vital. Says Cassara, “If I have an uncle who died in Nebraska, and I’m in New York, [I] can dispatch someone to do a lookup [for me] and take a photograph . . . of that grave.”

With one request—and one volunteer—you can continue researching your family tree, all thanks to crowdsourcing the task.

With an overwhelming number of deceased ancestors, one person going to each cemetery in the world and documenting every grave would be impossible, which is why more of us should get involved.

Crowdsourcing makes documenting cemeteries more manageable by having many individuals do what feels most comfortable for them—be it visiting nearby cemeteries and recording gravesite locations or transcribing uploaded headstone photos so that other people waiting to see a name can read the information.

Have you ever taken advantage of cemetery crowdsourcing? Tweet us @RootsTechConf.

Part two discusses two ways you can get involved with cemetery crowdsourcing.


You may also like:

Four Tips for Sleuthing in Cemeteries for Your Ancestors

Preserving the Memories of A Billion Graves

Honor Your Ancestors by Visiting Their Graves—in Person or Online









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  1. I have dozens of pictures of headstones. The problem is now what do I do with them. I’m no geek so the instructions need to be simple. I would love to help with this cause. Next month I am taking a cemetery trip to the middle section of the US. How do I know what tombstones to photograph?

    1. Stay tuned to the next two article coming in the series over the next week or two. They will help guide you through the process.

    2. Are you familiar with Find A Grave? The site is free to all, and you can create an account to add your photos. Volunteers have worked for years to document cemeteries by creating memorials for family members, and other deceased persons, throughout the world. Each memorial includes, minimally, the data included in each headstone: names, dates, military affiliation, and more. When they have a photo, that is posted as well, but many memorials still need photos. You could begin by checking the cemeteries you have visited, looking up the names of the deceased from your photos, and posting them if none is already posted.

    3. You can go to the website findagrave.com
      and find out who needs a photo of a headstone. You can also ask for someone to photograph one that you need.

  2. I really appreciate the work people have done to add cemetery and headstone photos and info to FindaGrave.com Especially when they include what amounts to a “FamilyGroup Sheet” and other notes.

  3. Great job for sharing this guide. We are a monument company that truly cares about making each of the headstones we create special, unique, and well suited to our dearly departed and their family situation.
    – Nick G., Columbus Headstones