Posted by Kristie Wells on September 22, 2014 in Find A Grave

We love the enthusiasm and support of the Find A Grave community. Thanks to you, we just surpassed 100 million photos on the site, which is an incredible milestone. Now, it might be hard to believe, but there are still hundreds of thousands of photo requests still outstanding. So we are going to host a global meetup to see how many more we can secure.

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Cemeteries are an important part of our family history. Your work to fulfill outstanding photo requests and building memorials helps people around the world who cannot visit these cemeteries in person. We know a lot of this is done on an individual basis and we thought it would be great to try and get you together as a group in your local community to meet one another while you do what you love to do.

While we started with a few locations in the USA, we hope to inspire meetups all around the world and expect this list to grow quite large over the coming weeks. These events are all volunteer run and are easy to set up. We hope you will be inspired to host an event in your local town and add it to the list below.

How to Participate

If you would like to participate, the first step is to see if your city is listed. If it is, click on name of the city to see the cemetery (or if the city is large, a list of cemeteries) that will be hosting the event. If you find a cemetery you want to help with, simply click the RSVP button on the right of the screen. Meetup will ask you to sign up with an email address or you can connect via Facebook, whichever is easiest for you. It will also give you the option to share this event on the social web to let your friends know about it and we hope you do — the more, the merrier!

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If your city is not located in this list, we encourage you to contact a cemetery near you and ask them if it would be alright if you visited on Saturday, October 18th to take photos of graves that will be uploaded to FindAGrave.com. Please be sure to ask permission before you arrive.

Once the cemetery confirms this is ok, please go to our Meetup page and enter in your city and state, province or country. Meetup will try to find it on a map. Please make sure if they select a city for you that it is actually your city. When we first entered ‘Saint Louis’, it actually linked us to Saint Louis, France, not Missouri. (As you might assume, there is a little bit of difference between the two cities.) So we had to delete the bad entry and start over, this time spelling out Missouri and adding USA. It found the right city when we did that. If you make a mistake and need help, just shoot us an email to social [at] ancestry [dot] com and we’ll be happy to take care of it!

Setting Up an Event

In this example we are going to set up an event in Cleveland, Ohio (USA). First we entered the location we wanted (“Cleveland, OH”) and hit enter. It will show up in the list of meetups. Click on the Cleveland link, which will take you to the local community page. You will add some information to let Find A Grave volunteers in the area know you are interested in participating and hopefully, they will sign up to join you!

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If you are the first person to schedule an event in your city,  you will click on the blue “Got one?” link under the “Needs a location” section. Once you fill out the details for your event, the next person who clicks on ‘Cleveland, OH’ will see it on this page and can then choose to join you at your cemetery of choice, or they can schedule their own. If they wish to schedule their own, they would click on “Schedule A New Meetup.”

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When you are ready to build out your community page, follow these steps:

  • Select the start time. We have preselected a start time of 10am, but you are welcome to change that to whatever works best for you. If you wish to change the time, hover over the date/time area and a blue “Change” box will show. Click that and make the edits needed. 
  • Under “Suggest a place” are two fields. The first one is where you will list the name of the cemetery. The second one is for the street address, city, state/province and country. Meetup will try to find the address you added on a map and will give you the option to click what they found to ensure it populates on the map correctly. 
  • There is a blue “Add Details” box and we encourage you to personal this with anything unique about the cemetery, an area you would like to focus on, how many photo requests are outstanding, any special requests from the cemetery, etc.
  • Then leave a comment if you so wish
  • Lastly, make sure you RSVP for the event. Meetup will ask you to sign up with an email address or you can connect via Facebook, whichever is easiest for you. It will also give you the option to share this event on the social web to let your friends know about it.

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What to Do on October 18th

To ensure a successful day, we encourage you to look up the cemetery you will be visiting and go through the list of the outstanding photo requests. Some cemeteries have one, others have hundreds. Then work with cemetery staff a week or two before the day of the event to locate the graves you are wishing to photograph on a map. Most offices are more than happy to look up the name and provide the section and plot number for each request. Just please keep in mind asking them to do 100 might be taxing on their staff. Let them know how many you are trying to fulfill and then let them advise what makes the most sense based on their own resources.

We have put together a page of resources for you here. Be sure to go through that before the event. Items include a cemetery etiquette guide, a link to download the Find a Grave mobile app where you can batch upload photos (sorry, iOS only right now) and where you can easily search for your local cemetery.

Ancestry and Find A Grave staff members will be attending a select number of events and we’ll post an update on exact locations in the next week or two. Our hope is to be able to meet many of you in person, and that you have the opportunity to meet others in the community who share your love of cemeteries and giving back.

Make a day of it. Bring the family out. Meet other volunteers. Get to know your local cemetery staff a little bit better. Help those who cannot get to the cemetery in person secure a photo of their ancestors grave site (with or without the marker).

Then upload all the photos you take to FindAGrave.comIf you are fulfilling a specific photo request for someone, you can go to the main cemetery page (this is the page for the cemetery that has the total number of records, photos of the cemetery, a map, etc.) and then click on “# photo requests”. Scroll down until you find the right person and then click on the ‘fulfill’ link on the right. You can upload the photo there and they will be notified you have done them a great service. And if you decide to share any of this on the social web (events, photos, videos, etc) please use the hashtags #FGDay and #FindAGrave if you can!

Here are some other FAQs you may find helpful:

If you plan on joining us, let us know in the comments below where you will be and make sure to sign up on the Meetup site above.

Hope to see you out there!

Kristie Wells

Kristie is Ancestry's former Head of Global Social Media and Online Customer Engagement.

27 Comments

  1. Jennifer Trippeer

    Live in Waynesboro, Virginia and there are two cemeteries near by. Augusta memorial and Ridgeview Cemetary. Would like to be involved in helping people find their ancestors.

  2. Kristie Wells

    @Jennifer: Would you be able to call one or both cemeteries to see if they allow you to take photos of the graves? If yes, let us know and we would be happy to add them to the list to rally more local support.

    @Angelina: Please send an email to social [at] ancestry [dot] com with your location so we can help you find a cemetery near by. We would be happy to help you get connected there.

  3. Ann Anderson

    Kristie, Can you tell us how long it normally takes for a Find-a-Grave record to be indexed and show up on Ancestry after it has been added to the Find-a-Grave website?

  4. Caroline

    Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs, GA has 129 photo requests. It is now owned by Dignity and they will not cooperate with those of us who have tried to photograph headstones. They say it’s a family privacy issue. I will not be in town that day, but what a great opportunity it would be if they would agree to cooperate. I’ve heard this same story from others who have tried to work with their local Dignity-owned cemetery.

  5. Kristie Wells

    @Ann: Indexes are sent to to Ancestry weekly, they usually take a couple of days to be processed and then would show up in search results.

  6. Cheryl

    I would so love to help out but have prior commitment that weekend. I don’t see Jacksonville Memorial Gardens, Orange Park Florida listed but it is a huge cemetery just outside Jacksonville Florida. I don’t know if anyone else is involved. Have a great Oct 18th

  7. Kristie Wells

    @Sarah: We have not personally set one up in Brisbane, but you can do this directly. The key is making sure the local cemetery is ok with you taking photos and uploading them to Find A Grave. If they are, you can add the cemetery to the list and we can help promote it to get more local volunteers involved.

  8. Mary Seltzer

    I live in Clarkston – but the cemetery I chose to do on 10/18 is actually in Pontiac, Michigan. Is there a way you can change the name/location of my “Meetup” to read PONTIAC, Instead of Clarkston??

    • Kristie Wells

      Hi Bob, we had hoped this post would rally community members around the world to help identify cemeteries in need and help us get the approval to have individuals show up and take photos. If you know of a cemetery near you that allows photos to be taken, let me know and I am happy to post the event – then we can promote it and hopefully get others members in your community to participate. Cheers.

  9. Jeanette Shepherd

    Like Bob Douglas I’m also interested in the UK. I will be returning to New Zealand soon, are there any future plans for extending this kind of event outside the USA?

    • Kristie Wells

      Hi Jeanette, we launched this as a global event so would love your participation. What we suggest is that you contact a local cemetery and just make sure they are ok with you taking photos and uploading them to Find A Grave. If they say yes, then you can either add the event directly, or just post the name and location of the cemetery here in the comments and we can add it for you.

      We also hope to hold these types of events several times a year. While anyone can fulfill a photo request at any time, our hope is that these type of events can be used as an opportunity for our community to meet one another.

  10. Ruth Copley

    I already had plans to go to Riverside cemetery in Dowagiac Michigan that day to look for family. Will look for others if you let me know

  11. Jeanette Potts

    I live near a cemetery on the Arkansas River. There is not a name that I am aware of. I believe there are about 40 headstones from the 1800’s. Nearby is Wilson Rock, Oklahoma where the Steamboats docked in the 1800’s. Captain Wilson died there. I would like to register this cemetery as Wilson Rock Cemetery. I cannot be there on 10/18, but was hoping to find others interested in documenting with me!

  12. Deborah

    I have no idea where my great grandfather theodore kleinlein from south dakota/iowa may have died. He abandoned his family in 1911 ad is believed to have headed west. He was never heard from again. Do you have a list for such people compiled in the off chance someone sees such names on the 18thtime while they are looking for others?

  13. Peter Jones

    Hi Kristie, This is such a good idea but may I suggest that Ancestry.com becomes affiliated with Billion Graves.com. I personally have already uploaded nearly 10,000 photos from 11 cemeteries to Billiongraves and they now have millions of records on file. I was first introduced to Billiongraves through Ancestry.com
    Regards
    Peter Jones
    New Zealand

  14. Kristie Wells

    Pamela, this event is a volunteer run activity. If you would like to participate and don’t see a cemetery near you, let us know which location you would like to go to and we can help load it into Meetup. Our hope is then that others would see that event and then want to join you.

    Peter, I appreciate the work you have done (incredible amount of photos). Ancestry acquired Find A Grave last fall, so think it best we keep our focus there. But keep up the good work! Cheers.

  15. Kathy

    Can’t do it alone! How to connect with interested people in my area, basically area codes 13066 and 13104 in NY.

  16. I wish someone would start a campaign to re-focus the real meaning of Memorial Day. It was originally meant for families to remember their loved ones by visiting the their graves. Now, for some unknown reason, this venerable holiday has been lumped into a into a Veterans Day event–something we already have! Memorial Day dates back to the ending of the Civil War in South Carolina–I hope it can be properly reinstated. It was also referred to historically as Decoration Day–a phrase well known and used by all true Southerners.

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