Monday, August 19, 2013

10 helpful Find-A-Grave tips

I think this website is fantastic, and that whoever started it is a genius. A free website where people can create memorials to loved ones with photos and "flowers", and where people can request photos, is simply wonderful.

I have been a Find-A-Grave member for 3 years, and in that time I have created quite a few memorials and have had several kind people take photos of headstones for me. I, in turn, have also volunteered as a photo contributor.

I'd like to share a few tips and suggestions that I have personally found helpful for utilizing this website:

1. The website is designed to create memorials of people whose burial places are known. Please don't create a memorial if you don't know where the person is buried-- that defeats the purpose of the site.

2. When submitting a photo request, provide the location of the grave within the cemetery-- i.e., section and plot number, if possible. You don't have to give this information, but I've found that your odds of getting your request fulfilled improve greatly if you do; several requests I have submitted in the past when I didn't have a location resulted in would-be volunteers asking, "I'd love to get the picture for you, but do you know the section/plot number?"The easier you make it for the volunteers, the more likely they are to fulfill your request.

3. When someone fulfills a request for you, be sure to thank them.  After all, they went out of their way to do a kindness for you, someone they don't even know. This should be a no-brainer, but sadly rudeness knows no bounds.

4. Pay it forward by becoming a photo volunteer yourself;  you are under no obligation to fulfill requests in your area, so you fulfill the ones you want to with no commitment.

5. If you "claim" a request, make sure you are going to follow through soon-- because if not, you're keeping other volunteers from fulfilling the request.

6. If the cemetery has an office, stop and politely ask where the grave you're looking for is located. The staff will usually be happy to help you.

However, apparently some cemetery staff won't help you if they know you are doing this for Find-A-Grave. I don't know why they should care, but evidently this is a potential problem. So to be safe, avoid mention of Find-A-Grave and, if asked, just pretend to be a relative.

7. When at a cemetery to get photos, be careful. Cemeteries can have open graves, uneven ground, or other physical dangers-- not to mention that they are often secluded. The nature of cemeteries, plus this seclusion, can attract unsavory people. If you go "graving", I'd recommend bringing someone else along.

8. When getting photos, take into consideration angle, light, etc., and try to get the best possible quality. You would want a volunteer who's photographing your requested memorials to do the same, after all, right? Take several photos and upload the one or ones you think are the best.

9. There are many dedicated photo volunteers on Find-A-Grave who take it upon themselves to photograph tombstones of whole cemeteries or entire sections, without being specifically requested. They'll actually create the memorials as well. This is a nice thing to do, and people who do this have wonderful hearts.

That said... if you do this, I would strongly suggest only doing so for old graves-- i.e., graves old enough that the deceased don't have any relatives who personally knew them still living. There's just something unsettling -- and invasive-- about seeing a memorial to your mother and a photo of her grave posted online by a total stranger (yes, this happened to me, and although the member had kind motives, it was still like finding someone in your living room rearranging your furniture).

10. Photos taken by Find-A-Grave members are copyrighted and remain the property of the people who took the photos. Keep this in mind and don't repost them without giving credit.

Okay, if I missed anything, feel free to add to this list in a comment.