Preserving the Memories of A Billion Graves

May 16, 2012  - by 

This is the time of year when people around the world are focusing their attention toward remembering and honoring their loved ones who have died. Many of us are making preparations to take the family to local cemeteries to visit the graves of beloved family members. This often includes cleaning up family burial plots and placing flowers on the graves of close family members. In addition to these activities, there is one more great activity that families can do that is in keeping with the spirit of this activity. As you visit the gravesites of your ancestors, why not bring your smart phone along and capture images of your loved one’s tombstones. Through the use of a smart phone App from, you can now preserve images of and information from these tombstones and make it possible for anyone around the world to see your ancestor’s gravesite through GPS navigation.

BillionGraves is a website that is dedicated to photographing and transcribing information from gravestones in cemeteries around the world. It has created a free downloadable App which enables anyone with an Apple iPhone or Google Android smartphone to use their phone to capture images of gravestones and upload those images to the BillionGraves website via the internet. These images are then transcribed by those who took the images or by others who want to help build this valuable database. This information is used to provide an extensive family history database for grave stone images from the world’s cemeteries. Soon, you will be able to view and search the index for free at

Through the use of GPS coordinates and satellite technology, BillionGraves makes it possible to locate any gravestone that has been photographed and indexed. With an Apple iPhone or Android smartphone in hand, finding a person’s gravestone is a breeze.  

So how do you get started?  Simply follow the steps below:

Go to and find the cemetery you want to visit.

  1. Using this site, see if your loved one’s tombstone has been photographed and indexed. If it hasn’t, go to Step 3.
  2. From the BillionGraves website, download the free App that will allow you to start capturing images.
  3. Using your iPhone or smartphone, take a picture of your ancestor’s tombstone. While you’re at it, it’s easy to capture a whole row or two of tombstones. In 10 minutes you can capture 20 to 30 tombstone images. Doing this will make it easier for others to find the graves of their ancestors.
  4. Using instructions from the BillionGraves website, upload the images to the website.
  5. When you get home, you can quickly go to the BillionGraves site and extract the information from the tombstone images, or you can leave it for someone else to extract.

All extracted information will be searchable through the BillionGraves’ website database, and will soon be accessible at .

That’s all there is to making sure that the images and identifying information of your ancestor’s gravesite is preserved and made available for others to find. Other family members who might be interested in visiting your ancestors can simply get the GPS coordinates from the website or from and quickly and easily find where the gravesite is located. No more lost gravesites. What better way to honor those who have died than to help bring their gravesite back to the remembrance of the living.

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  1. In the book of record Malachi chapter 4:5: GOD said i will send ELIJAH the prophet to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, may GOD turn their heart to us and and also help them with whatever is their need in the spiritual world amen……..

  2. My quick count of graves on findagrave shows about 37,000 in the United States. I’ve personally taken a third of that in just 3 weeks on billiongraves, and someone else has done over 56,000.

    I’ve looked at a few states I’m familiar with (Colorado and Vermont) and only a smattering of photos there. The concentration also seems on the famous. While that may be interesting, not something which helps me with my research (I’ve looked at findagraves in the past for relatives and always without luck).

    I’m not sure if outside the scope of findagraves, or somehow they never got the momentum in the community to do more. But appears to have the momentum. So while I appreciate the efforts folks have (and continue to) put on findagrave, at least the numbers tell me that we shouldn’t abandon billiongraves in favor of it.

  3. In looking at the comments, it appears one poster (a person who posted a comment) said they are unable to take pictures that would be of worth (to billiongraves website) because they have DSLR photo camera. A person later posted this comment:I understand that BillionGraves has the functionality to extract the GDS locator information from DSLR photos uploaded to the site, as well as the their smartphone app so that could come in handy. (If their comment is correct, perhaps it should say in the introduction of this website billiongraves, that such cameras are of use. ) That way, a person who is willing to help out but did not think their equipment was good enough, can know it is good enough.

  4. was begun as a family history website. It was begun as a way to find the graves of famous people. Even now (read the owners own words) genealogy is just a sideline. If you have used the site frequently you will probably notice that the data is not soundex searchable. Also, there are advertisements that you have to pay to have removed (not a big deal – something you have to consider) A major worry for me is “what happens to all our work if the owner of findagrave decides not to maintain the site any more?”

    I think that familysearch has the commitment to keep this important information safe and available – and they have a major advantage over fag: millions of LDS volunteers who will hear about this and go to work like you won’t believe.

    Besides, having another data base is no biggie in these days of computer searches. If it helps me find my “needles” in the great haystack of life, I’m all for it!

  5. I noticed the negative comments about billiongraves in comparison with findagrave. The reason I believe that billiongraves has MORE potential than findagrave is the separation of tasks. It enables one to take pictures (if that is what you like to do) without the obligation of researching and transcribing. I know of several individuals on findagrave that have taken a lot of photos, but are overburdened by the task of uploading all of them. Despite several attempts to get them to send a photo they do not.
    I don’t have an Iphone, but I have transcribed over 1,000 headstones in very little time.

  6. Would you explain why this site (BillionGraves) is here, when FindAGrave was already on the web and free access…this seems a duplicate of work. An honest response would be appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Juan — Several of the above comments have done an excellent job of identifying the benefits of Billion Graves. To those I add:
      1. Billion Graves clearly identifies which cemeteries and graves have been digitized. Bring up a map of any cemetery and the pins clearly mark the completed graves. See the world map which clearly identifies our world-wide progress:
      2. Billion Graves is fast and flexible — 5 graves per minute to photograph graves anywhere, anytime.
      3. Billion Graves is a FamilySearch affiliate. If something happens to Billion Graves, FamilySearch ensures that the information will live on. Billion Graves records are also searchable on FamilySearch.

  7. I used my Galaxy tab to capture and upload images to billiongraves when I was visiting my brother in Ohio. Everyone was taking a nap (family habit) & I headed up the street to the local cemetery. It was easy. I love the way it auto id’s the cemetery.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

  8. I find more records in Find-A-Grave than BillionGraves. BillionGraves is great for ancestry purposes, but if you are documenting a cemetery for historical purposes most phones GPS accuracy limitations are 1-3 meters (including Iphone and DSLR camera attachments). As most of us know 1 to 3 meters is at least 2-4 plots off. I have collected headstone points in GPS using a Trimble GeoXH with Tornado Antenna to get 3 inch accuracy and updloaded the coordinates to Find-A-Grave, which then will show up to any user. Now Find-A-Grave just needs a mapping applicaiton.

  9. I have never heard of before tonight. I will try and see if I can get it on my computer. I have used FindAGrave a lot, but have not found anything on my direct line surname that ties into my ancestors.

    I have found some people with my surname, so assume that they are somehow, a shirttail relative, but, I can’t tie them in for a surety.

    I will try the BillionGrave site and see whagt I come up with.

    I was in Louisiana, around Christmas 2011 and took some pictures of cemeteries there and I have them on my desktop computer, but, I don’t know how to get the photos onto a website, etc., because I am not a computer techie and I have not been able to find anyone willing to help me.

    I do not like being negative too much, so I will keep the rest of my comments to myself!


  10. How do the gps coordinates get put into the Billion Graves record. The website does not say how the coordinates get in there. Does someone at Billion Graves put it in?

  11. I have so often wanted to photograph the graves of strangers as I’ve wandered through some awesome and some very secluded grave yards across the USA, but my computer skills are just about enough to get me into trouble so I have been very hesitant to try and help but I think I might just give this one a chance and see how I do. Wish me luck.

    1. Hi, don’t let lack of photography experience intimidate you from trying. Practice makes perfect, the more photos you take, the more you learn on your own about what makes a good photo, how to frame the subject, etc….. If you plan to use a DSLR camera invest in a tripod (so that you can position the camera lower to the ground for proper framing and lens focusing), a lens hood to block excessive sunlight, a shutter release cable, a 16G SD card, and a foam rubber pad to put under your knees (like the ones they sell in the garden department at walmart) because it will be necessary to get on your knees frequently.

      I love walking thru cemeteries and taking photos. I find cemeteries very peaceful and relaxing. To recap,

  12. Hello, my name is Sonja, I live in the Tidewater area of southeastern Virginia. For years i have been a hobby photographer and have enjoyed going to cemeteries and photographing headstones, mausoleums, and monuments. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and i understand how important genealogy work is to many people to trace their roots as well as for doing temple work for the dead.

    I would like to know how I may go about uploading photos of graves that I have taken over the years to help others find their ancestors?

    I am not seeking financial compensation because photography for me is both a therapeutic and artistic outlet for me and I sincerely want to help people find the final resting places of their ancestors.

    Any information you can give me to share these photos online to help others would be greatly appreciated.

    Sonja Wright