I’ve been uploading images of graves from my local veterans cemetery on FindAGrave.com and trying to add obituaries. The headstone isn’t the only thing that matters; celebrating the life of the person is equally, if not more, important. Unfortunately, many of the obituaries have been “archived” and when you click them, most direct you to a new search for the newspaper or to a site where you have to pay to view the obituary. I am miffed and mystified by this. Should people have to pay to view an obituary? Where does this leave genealogists? Should genealogists for groups that create listings of obituaries that people can search for free? I’m thinking I may do just that.
Category Archives: find a grave
Sadly, while photographing headstones for FindAGrave.com today, I came across quite a few gravesites that had markers made of paper or metal. They were clearly meant to be temporary, but one that is now rendered nearly unreadable is from November 2010, so it likely isn’t temporary. Unfortunately its waterproof cover is no longer waterproof and the paper with the deceased picture and dates is slowly wearing away due to weather. I wonder, will it be replaced with a headstone someday… before it is completely unreadable?
I wasn’t sure I understood people posting obituaries on Find A Grave … that is until recently.
As I discussed in last week’s post, I photograph headstones at local cemeteries (most recently at the Gloucester County veteran’s cemetery). When a person is not listed there, I create the memorial using information from the headstone that I’ve photographed. Then, as all good volunteers do, I search for the obituary on the New Jersey newspaper sites under obituaries to post with the stone.
Unfortunately, over time, the obituaries are archived. When that happens, when you do a search, most of the time you end up on a fee-based site where, if you pay, you can view the obituary. Now, I’m all for developing businesses and entrepreneurship, but I’m against paying a fee to view the obituary.
So, if you are a genealogist out there involved in services that post cemetery records, please do insert the obituary when available. People are more than the stone they leave behind, they had lives and loves and personalities, that only a good obituary can capture.
Now one might ask, why on earth do we do this? The first time you find the record of an ancestor’s burial, you will know the answer.
My genealogy activities lately have consisted of stolen moments on the internet between grading papers at night and, more frequently, a weekly visit to the local veterans cemetery photographing headstones on Saturdays. I have to steal these moments as well. If there are people there, I leave. If there is a service, I don’t even stop the car.
Even though my goal is to take volunteer pictures for Find A Grave, I feel like an interloper sometimes. When I see an elderly person, with head bent, standing before the grave of a loved one or friend, it nearly breaks my heart. I don’t want to invade those moments. I’ve had my share of loss and don’t want to disturb the mourning of others. So, sometimes I’m there and then, suddenly gone. Yesterday I was able to capture just over 60 stones, when two ladies came with flowers for their loved one. I put my camera in my pocket and walked away. I have no right to be there in a place so hallowed, while others remember what I cannot see in my mind’s eye – the face of the one they love.
I remember wandering through Ancestry and seeing the grave marker for one of my ancestors for the first time. When I traced the roots of the marker, I found it on Find A Grave. Someone had created a listing and posted the picture of the old stone on the site.
This occurred about the same time that I started to notice graveyards everywhere – most in placed that I never noticed before. As an amateur genealogist, I saw these now as not just curious roadside and churchyard places, but also as places that people could search for ancestors.
These stones are alternately called headstones, tombstones, grave markers, and memorials. I’m sure there are a few other names out there.
The net result was that I joined Find A Grave and began to photograph stones to help other genealogists find their ancestors. This was my way of giving back to others who had posted stones – my genealogy database now contains at least 20 stones of ancestors.
So, the last time I was on the site I clicked a local veteran’s cemetery and found that there were two requests for stone photos. I further noted that most of the service men and their spouses did not have photographs posted. So I began to photograph…