Grave Collectors: It’s a Numbers Game

Grave Collectors: It’s a Numbers Game on Find A Grave. Have you come across people who do not want to correct information or they do not want to transfer the memorial so that you can correct the errors?

My Story

The past few weeks I have seen a few blog posts in regards to Find A Grave and issues with some of the volunteers. To be honest, I was never a big fan of Find A Grave. To me the website is clunky and is not always the easiest to work with. In the past I have had issues with photo size and uploading to the website. Which is one of the reasons I rarely use it. For me, it was more of a request page before I got involved with the Facebook genealogy community, and definitely before the days of Billion Graves (which is the website I prefer). That being said, as many of you already know Ancestry is linking to Find A Grave memorials now. That makes it hard for me to ignore the website.

A few weeks ago, I was given a hint on Ancestry that led me to Find A Grave. It was for my great-grandmother Rose (Springer) O’Connell-McAvoy. I know where she is buried and I already have pictures of her grave and the other family members at St. Joseph Cemetery in River Grove, IL. I clicked on the leaf anyway to see her memorial, more out of curiosity than anything else.

Her memorial was fine and I was shocked to see that it was linked to her second husband and one child. The reason I was shocked was because the memorial had it all SO. WRONG.

The person who created the memorials, assumed information based on Rose’s burial. She had my grandfather listed (and attached to Rose) as unknown O’Connell. Unknown O’Connell’s memorial stated that his wife was Jeanette Barr. Yeah, not so much. They were divorced 30 something years before his death. It also stated that his obituary showed his burial was private and they assumed he was in the same cemetery as Rose. So, they had an obit. They found a marriage record, his second marriage to be exact and yet they could not list his name. He was unknown. I do not understand that. Basic research was done, correct records were found. Yet, a bit of googling and you could have found more information because I have blogged about him many times. His burial photo’s are on the web. As is information on his three marriages. But that is just the beginning.

When I clicked the link from Rose to Frank McAvoy (Rose’s second husband). It basically stated that he too was buried in the same cemetery. Yeah, not so much. He is a mile or so away. How do I know. I have been there. I have taken pictures and I. HAVE. BLOGGED. ABOUT. IT. Yep, I blogged about his obituary, his burial photos too. Again, googling his name would have helped.

If you are looking into someone, why not use google and see what you can find. You did basic research, a minute to google would be helpful and maybe you would not embarrass yourself with the shotty information you are putting on the web that will spread forever unless someone puts a stop to it.

What did I do?

Well, I went to the creators profile and read that they did not want private messages. They wanted you to leave a comment open to the public. My first comment was nice. I left a link to my grandfathers cemetery pictures which would give them where he was buried and his name. Which they found unimportant.

Next, I turned to Facebook because I knew that other friends had issues there as well. The advice I was given was to ask for the memorials to be turned over to me. Since they were my direct line, Find A Grave would make sure they changed the management of the memorials over to me. So, I sent the request to the person who created the memorials.

Well, I waited a few days and did not get a reply. So, I then turned to the people behind Find A Grave to see if they would be of some assistance. I was specific with my information and why I was requesting the transfer of management. I received a reply within a few hours. I was impressed with the turn around time. I know they have a lot going on behind the scenes and to get back so quick was appreciated.

Yet, the reply told me to wait two weeks for a reply from the memorial creator. That they had also reached out to the person and we need to give them time to handle the request. So, I marked the two weeks on my calendar with when the time would be up.

And Then

The two weeks passed and nothing happened. I know you are shocked, I was too. I turned back to Find A Grave via email. Making sure I replied to them with their original email to me. I let them know the two weeks were up and nothing had happened and I heard from no one.

They quickly replied (again) and changed management of the three memorials to me.

Some Thoughts

I know not everyone has had a good experience with Find A Grave. However, I felt that whoever is working the backside of the website is attentive and helpful. Even if I had to wait two weeks to get things taken care of. I feel two weeks was too long to wait, but that is because bad information on my ancestors stayed on the internet that long. To me its unacceptable to let that information remain out there. All I really wanted out of this was to get the information corrected. I did not care about the management of the memorials. In the end, that was what I had to care about in order to get the information corrected.

For All The Grave Collectors Out There

Instead of being concerned with the number of memorials you create or manage, lets focus on putting out the correct information. Quit going through obituaries to find people to add to Find A Grave. Instead, walk the cemetery and create ones that are from the cemetery. After all, that is the purpose of the website. TO. FIND. A. GRAVE. Not just to create a memorial.

Those who use the current obituaries should really be ashamed of themselves. Family members are still dealing with the grief of losing a loved one and you are worried about a numbers game and being the first to create the memorial. Have you no thoughts of the family?

In Closing

These are just my thoughts and they are based on my two weeks of dealing with Find A Grave. I do hope that all those out there volunteering to take photos of others grave continue to do so with some compassion for the families of the deceased. Lets take some time to make sure the information we are posting is correct and not based on assumptions. This is important for all of us.




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  1. Imagine my surprise when I found that a memorial was set up for my Dad by someone I don’t know. The memorial included my Dad’s obituary, and was set up the day BEFORE his funeral and two days before his burial. Thankfully, the person who set up my Dad’s memorial transferred it to me upon my request.

    1. Jana, that really makes me sad and mad all at once. Families should be given time to mourn before they have to worry about if their parent / spouse / childs info is up on the internet. I am so glad that they transferred it over to you.

    2. Since the person was so prompt in transferring the memorial to you, they are probably a person who just wants to get the information out there to be preserved and hopefully found by a family member… which it was.

      In this technological age, deaths are “on the internet” almost immediately. Funeral homes have huge online presences. Newspapers publish much of their content on line (obits especially). Data bases are out there and indexes end up in many places (ancestry, etc).

      Personally, I don’t understand why people get so worked up about F.A.G. “Owning” “Creating” “Managing” it all seems to be a little petty to me. I’ve been active with the site for over 8 years and have created over 12,000 memorials in that time. I know I’ve made mistakes, accidentally, which everyone would do. It’s just one resource in one place on one website. I don’t take the site all that seriously and certainly not personally.

      1. Nicholas,

        Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it.

        I just want to clarify that they were not quick to transfer the memorial. They NEVER replied. Find A Grave took care of it after two weeks of waiting for an answer.

        Personally, as I have said before, I do not use Find A Grave on a frequent basis. Usually a few times a year at the most. With the index now on, I do spend more time looking at the memorials because they end up as hints on my tree. The only reason I wanted to manage these three memorials was because I wanted to get the correct information out there.

        As for people wanting to ‘get the information up there’ they should not be pulling it from newspapers and ‘assuming’ they have it correct. That was the problem with the memorial for my grandfather. Since this person found where the mother is, she assumed the son was there also. Chicago is a large city with many cemeteries, not to mention the suburban cemeteries. So, there should be no assumption in the mix. That is why this numbers game is thrown into this post. If they were not looking to get more memorials up, they would not go searching for the information.

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I appreciate it.

      2. To Nicolas, your comments are confusing to me…you have posted 12,000 memorials and yet you really do not care about the site or families that might be effected by your callous way of posting.
        I do take find a grave very seriously, I have family out there I do not know. They do not know my family. I created family memorials in hopes that some day they will find the rich family history I have posted for their benefit.
        Long after I am gone it will remain for future generations. Accuracy counts, Memorials count.
        I have also encountered some volunteers that will not transfer family memorials…shame on you.
        When I knew my mother was dying I created a basic memorial, just to keep the newspaper posters from creating a cold and callous memorial of my beloved mother the day it appeared in the paper. Think twice before doing that. I had to request my fathers memorial a few weeks after his death, I was shocked someone I didn’t know did that…stop that already.

        1. Sam,

          I am so sorry you had to create your mothers before she passed away. You are the third person to tell me this since Saturday. I could not agree more with “stop that already!”

          Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate it.

        2. Sam, excuse me, but I don’t understand what what is callous about walking cemeteries & photographing graves to be saved and documented!
          When I said I don’t take the site very seriously, I meant I don’t care who manages a memorial I have created or what they do with the photograph I have uploaded. Ultimately, I created all of those 12,000 memorials hoping someone would come across them & want them. Numbers mean nothing to me, as a volunteer, I just want the information saved for future researchers. That’s what I don’t take seriously. Obviously I take the content on the site seriously, or I wouldn’t waste my time taking 1,000’s of photos!

          It’s ironic I’m being criticized here, as I have always been a very generous volunteer and my F.A.G profile has stated for years now, that “unlike many I don’t hoard memorials”

          I guess in genealogy, like most of life, you get what you give. If you are a kind, generous, understanding, respectful person, I think you often will get that back as a response.

  2. I have been a Findagrave member for about 12 years. I much prefer it to Billion Graves because I can walk the cemetery, photographing every row, and not have to immediately upload to the web site. Sometimes there is no internet at the cemetery. Unfortunately I don’t think there is any way to stop these numbers people. I try to limit my obituary scouring to my own county where I live. And if they don’t list a burial place, then I don’t add the memorial.
    Findagrave actually didn’t start as a genealogy web site; it started as a place to find where a famous person is buried.
    I could go on and on; I have an hour presentation on Findagrave so I better stop.
    Hope next time you have better luck. It all just depends on the memorial owner.

    1. Beth,

      I am not really concerned about a next time with Find A Grave. I am being very honest when I say I rarely use it. I have created 7 memorials, and that is more than enough for me.

      Thanks for sharing the history of the website, I did not know any of that.

      As for Billion Graves, I absolutely love that my pictures upload instantaneously. Though, I have only used it in the city. Never in a rural location. I will try that and see if it just holds the pictures in a queue waiting for you to have a connection. Should be interesting to see.

      Thanks again!

  3. It is clear that you did not read the Frequently Asked Questions about how Find a Grave is supposed to work. The edit tab (top right of the page) is where you go to ask for changes, not the messages on the contributor’s profile. That speeds things up a lot, and for most edits, the changes will be made automatically within 21 days if the memorial’s manager is not responding. Also, using the edit tab has a 6th option where you can leave the kind of message that you left on the manager’s profile (extended explanations, requests for transfers, etc).

    When you are working with a volunteer organization, there are always some people who are as quick and meticulous as you would like and some who are not. That’s life.

    Photo sizes have increased dramatically in the last few years, too. If there is one posted that is sub-par, you can always request a new one or post your own photos if you have them.

    I have only tried using Billion Graves a few times … I have not found it up to the quality I like, although the more the merrier, I’m sure.

    1. Jane,

      To be exact, I do know how to ask for changes. The original memorial creators information asked that people do not send corrections that way. I did as she asked and left the message. Again, by her request.

      I definitely understand the way volunteer stuff works. I volunteer locally for my genealogical society and other things in the community.

      To be honest, this all transpired over my facebook page a few weeks back and I am way over it. The only reason I wrote the post is because many friends of mine are having issues and blogging about it. I was asked to blog about my experience.

      I am glad that they have updated the photo issue. Still not a site that I will be spending anytime looking for graves to post on Find A Grave any time soon.

      As for Billion Graves, I know there are many that do not like it. We are all entitled to our preferences. Luckily, I get to use what I like and you get to use what you like.

      Thanks so much for sharing more information with me.

  4. Using the edit feature on a page will automatically make the correction should the page owner not respond within 30 days. Its a bit to wait yes, but at least its a good fallback.

  5. I agree with you about the collectors on Find a Grave. I have been on the site for 6 years, since I found my mother’s memorial on there. It was wonderful to find it as I had not seen her marker in person. I have since added memorials from a local cemetery as well as photographing the entire cemetery in TN where my father’s ashes were spread over his parents graves. But still I only have about 3000 memorials. Half of those were done as a bulk transfer when a former member passed away. I agreed to transfer her memorials to family as the requests come in.

    Some people that have been on there 6 years have 20,000 or more memorials. I always say I am about connecting not collecting. Since the site is now owned by Ancestry a lot of things have changed, including file size and being able to up load while at the cemetery. But the people have changed as well, with the new edit feature people can make a “correction” that will automatically up date after so many days. I went on one day and there was an edit linking a man to a baby, they baby was the “father” of the man. If I had not said no this is not correct that edit would have been on one of my memorials and I would have looked like a doofus. So the auto pilot for edit needs to go away.

    When I photographed the cemetery where my grandparents were buried I did so because it is my family cemetery. I am related to almost everyone buried there. I have stated this in my profile, the name of the cemetery is a family name and I have also stated this on my profile. So if I have people with that last name they are most likely relatives and I will not transfer the memorial. I had a collector get mad and post stupid comments because I would only transfer the female of a couple to her. the male was my 4 times great grandfather. Her comment was that we were therefore related because the couple had kids. I had done my research just as you did yours. Her female relative had no children with my relative, even though she is listed as the mother to the children in a census she was only their stepmother and some off the children she supposedly gave birth to were older than she was. I finally had to tell this person to leave me alone and that I would not transfer anymore memorials to her unless she can show me her relationship. She was a collector.

    I do agree with you on obits, if the relatives are still alive I don’t believe in putting the obit out there. The rule was NO obits as they were copyrighted to the paper that published them or to the person that wrote the obit. I wrote my father’s so it would be my copyrighted material. I still did not put it on his memorial because at the time he died 6 of his children listed were still alive as were their spouses.

    Anyway as you said to each his own and to a lot of the members it is a numbers game, but there are some of us that don’t know how to count…….

    1. Deb, Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. It makes me happy that are others that someone agree with me since most comments were telling me I did it wrong or I did not know enough.

      Thanks again!

  6. It is not always Find-A-Grave’s fault. I have a cousin who went out and took photos of family graves and posted them to FAG without looking to see if they were already there. Since she has additional information, do you think she will take her information down?

    There is a digital book out on the Internet, “MICHAEL PREWITT, SR. & ELIZABETH SIMPKINS

    In it there is the following:

    (74(12)242) Christopher James Prewitt, Jr., b. Feb. 17, 1949 Inglewood, CA; died in infancy*

    It is surprising how many people use this book as a reference.

    -Christopher James Prewitt, Jr.

    1. Chris,

      Is that supposed to be you? If so, that is a shame.
      As for the cousin, of course the person won’t take the information. This has moved beyond getting the correct information out there. Thus the numbers game. People just want to show they have created the most memorials…its sad!

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  7. Hi Terri, just wanted to say thanks for posting this topic and running a great discussion. It really helps me better understand the quality of sources I might be using. Fran

    1. Fran, Thank you so much! I am trying hard to keep it going. Though I have already been told my “rant” was uncalled for and that my expectations are so wrong.

      I refuse to argue with people that are just looking for a fight. So, I truly appreciate your kind words. I think we all need to know what it is we are working with and the quality of the work that is out there. Otherwise we end up with bad information in our tree which can lead us down a terrible rabbit hole in our work.

      Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to leave a kind word. I truly appreciate it.

  8. i think 2 weeks to allow somebody to respond is reasonable. Real life interferes with our internet commitments, the person might be travelling, have a sick family member … I am impressed that FindAGrave transferred the memorial to you. I find it a terrific resource. It is disappointing that the person who compiled the memorial did not check Google and find your blog. Perhaps it would have been better if they just documented the grave and left the research alone. Regards Anne

    1. Anne,

      I agree that two weeks is not too much to ask and normally I would be fine. My biggest issue was really just having the wrong information out there. The few people that are researching this line have not been able to get too far back and I will admit to being very protective of it. As far as I know of the few people that have tried to research this line, they have not been able to take the line as far back as I have. So, I am sure as a genealogist you can understand my concern about the right information being out there. Believe me, I have stalked people who have attached my information to their trees on ancestry just to get their information fixed. I have even started researching their lines to help them make the correct connection.

      Find A Grave can be a great resource, as well as Billion Graves. But, it is also important that those using these websites as a resource know that they still need to do more research and not take everything they find as the truth. Finding the appropriate records needs to be done.

      My biggest issue was the assumption that was made and put online based on one family members burial. I don’t mind they did a bit of research into my family, please I can give out many research problems for assistance. I just don’t think that using a obituary to create a memorial is a smart way to do this.

      This numbers game needs to be stopped. I am not sure if it is the same by you, but in the states it is all about who has the most memorials. This should bot even be a thought.

      Sorry for rambling on. I do appreciate your stopping by and taking the time to comment.

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