If you are new to Ancestry.com or if you have been a member for years, you will no doubt have come across the FindAGrave website in your searches.
FindAGrave.com was created in 1995 by Jim Tipton of Salt Lake City, Utah, to support his hobby of visiting celebrity gravesites. It later expanded to include non-celebrity graves, so that people could honor their deceased loved ones and friends. In 2013, Tipton sold FindAGrave to Ancestry, which had the website redesigned. In 2017, FindAGrave contained 165 million burial records and 75 million photos.
There is no cost to become a member of FindAGrave. Members are volunteers who take photographs of headstones, create memorials online, and add content such as birth and death dates for the deceased. They can also add biographical information and the cemetery and plot numbers.
I have been a member since 2010. Currently, I have 46 memorials that I manage. A few are in England, but the majority are in the United States. If you have some extra time and enjoy photography, you may be interested in becoming a member. Photographs will ensure the names and dates on the headstones are always available, as the natural erosion will eventually obliterate all writing on the stones.
When you are on Ancestry and choose the FindAGrave tab, you will be taken directly to their website. Here you can view the memorial and add essential information to your Ancestry profile page. Many of these will contain birth and death dates, burial locations, and even copies of obituaries.
You will also note that some have “links” to other headstones of family members, such as parents, husband, wife, and children. They do not have to be buried in the same cemetery, as long as they have a “memorial number” to link to the other family member.
The FindAGrave website does have its downside. I have found that headstones can have errors on them. There have been a few times I have discovered stones with incorrect dates or misspelled names. I can see this happening, especially when one is in the grieving process. The person probably could not afford to purchase another stone to replace the misspelled one.
If you find a headstone with incorrect information, there are a couple of options at your disposal. You can contact the member who is managing the memorial to verify or correct the error. The manager can also contact a member, who is closest to the cemetery, to obtain the correct information from the church or funeral home. It just depends on who owns or is maintaining the cemetery.
FindAGrave’s success has exploded in the United States, with over 3 million visitors to their website in November 2017. Other countries, including Canada and the UK, have nowhere near that number of visitors.
I do not know if it is a religious taboo or a financial issue with getting photographs in other countries. If you have an idea on why FindAGrave is not getting as much attention in these other places, please leave me a comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts on this question.