Sunday, May 22, 2011

Are You Making Full Use of Find A Grave?

Mary Casey and
William D Kelly
Calvary Cemetery
Lincoln, Nebraska
Next to, the online resource I probably use the most is Are you sure that you are using FindAGrave to the fullest extent possible?


Every time I locate an obituary that includes the name of the cemetery where the deceased was buried, I check FindAGrave. Is there a memorial established for the person? If not, I create one based on the information in the obituary. I summarize any family history information from the obituary into the biography section.

Request a Photo

Once I've created a memorial, I click on the button, Request a Photo. This step generates an automated message to all FindAGrave photo volunteers who are willing to take a photo of the gravestone. I usually include a message that indicates my relationship to the person, if any. If I think that other family members might be buried nearby, I include the information I have and request the photo volunteer to look in the immediate vicinity to see if other family member graves are present.

This technique has been quite helpful and on several occasions, the photo volunteer has set up a memorial for the additional family member and added the photo(s) taken when at the grave site.

Review Memorials Regularly

Sometimes, I have forgotten to Request a Photo. The FindAGrave community is constantly adding information and photographs to the site. Today, I received an email notification that a volunteer had fulfilled my request for a gravestone photo. I started looking through the list of memorials I had entered and noticed that the headstone icon appeared on several of my memorials. As the cemeteries are across the country, I knew that I had not added the photographs.

What did I discover? I found that a volunteer had added a photograph of the headstone of my third great grandmother, Margaret Schultz Landon, in Union Cemetery, Liberty, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. What a discovery! The gravestone provided an additional source for her dates of birth and death. I always get excited when I find information on my direct lineage. And I had not requested this photo!

So I browsed through all of my memorials and discovered that several FindAGrave photo volunteers had added photographs of gravestones of family members!


FindAGrave also allows other people to add photographs to your memorials. If I happen to have a photograph of a person who already has a memorial on the site, I add it. So do other people. You will not receive automatic notification from FindAGrave when this occurs. So make a habit of browsing through your memorials - or the memorials created by other people who you have included in your virtual cemeteries. Information is constantly being added to the site, so you never know what kind of gems you will discover.

Virtual Cemeteries

If you have not been using the Virtual Cemetery feature on the site, you should. This is a way where you can organize memorials by family or by cemetery (or any other combination you may choose). This way, I can include memorials of my family members that have been created by other contributors. I can easily locate the memorial by going to the Virtual Cemetery based on Surnames.

Make a habit of checking in on your memorials on a regular basis. You never know what you're going to find - and it may provide the next clue that you needed for your research.

Giving Back to the Community

If you are able to take photographs of gravestones in your area, sign up to be a photo volunteer. This community spirit is what the FindAGrave site is based on. And always remember to post a thank-you message when a volunteer fulfills your photo request.


  1. Good article, and very useful to those who don't know about FindAGrave. One of my favorite sites too.

  2. I use FindAGrave often, too, and really like the "finality" of placing my ancestor at rest. It is also satisfying to link my ancestors together - makes me feel like they're together no matter where in the world they are.

    Just this past week, FindAGrave gave me the last piece of the puzzle as to what happened to my 3rd great grandfather. And the wonderful photo volunteer had the photo added within 24 hours!

    My only complaint - I live in a very remote area with few cemeteries nearby. There are a few photo volunteers and the others always get to the photo requests before I do :-)

  3. I recognize that cemetery! My Landons are buried there too! :)

  4. Thanks for the comments, ladies! Susan - I think our Landons are related!

  5. I think we determined that your ancestor was a brother to my revolutionary war patriot (and chosen as bodyguard for george washington) Laban Landon. My kin stayed in Pennsylvania for much longer. My great grandmother died and is buried in Union Cemetery in 1970 and my grandfather's siblings are there too..or at least some of them. Grandpa Landon left PA in 1936.

  6. I think it is a different book than what you sent me, but the FHL has a Landon reunion book in Pennsylvania from 1954 or so that goes further into living descendents then the book you sent me..wait I got that from a Landon Cuz I think I found on the Tri-Counties web-site YEARS ago. Not sure if they are still living.

  7. This is a great article and really outlines the benefits of using Find-A-Grave. It sparked me to go ahead and create the memorial for my grandmother that just passed away this Mother's Day. Then, I realized I need to add memorials for some of her other family members. I'll be busy today. :-)

  8. Great article. I'm a huge fan of findagrave and use it all the time. You never know who will be found next!

  9. A few weeks ago, the first time ever, I found the gravestone of an ancestor at Find-A-Grave. I generally felt like it was not a helpful site but I'll begin using it and especially try out the aspects you suggest. Thanks for this post.

  10. I love FindAGrave and contributing new memorials and photographing cemeteries is a great way to "pay it forward."

  11. Great article - thanks! I love Find A Grave, but you suggest ways for me to make better use of it than I do.

  12. Have you every tried using a standard people search engine? After using FindAGrave to locate deceased relatives, try using to get in touch with THEIR relatives who are still around. You never know- you could find distant living family members you didn't realize you had!

  13. Anonymous - I frequently use to bring families forward into the present. A lot of information can be found there.

  14. Probably a really stupid question but I cant seem to be able to find the 'Request a photo' button on the memorials on Find a grave, can you tell me where it is?

  15. Anon - on the memorial page, there are two buttons on the right hand column: Add a photo for this person and Request a Photo. If a photo of the gravestone is already on the memorial, the Request a Photo option does not appear.

  16. Susan, I can't seem to find it on any of the memorials I have created and even on memorials created by other members! *Confuzzled*

  17. Hello Susan, I too use Find a Grave alot. When the requests for photos comes to my email, I check out the other names in the cemeteries. The cemeteries are often ones I didn't even know about. Donna