Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tracing Mormon Pioneer Ancestors: Find A Grave

Find A Grave is a commercial website. It was started in 1995 by Jim Tipton to track celebrity graves, but has grown to be the best aggregate site for burial records with a current claim of 68 million records.

I've used Find A Grave from time to time, but since I started looking into the site recently to prepare for writing this post, I've had so many adventures that I'm starting to lose track of them.

Here are a few:

Richard Litson, Sr. The record for Richard was created by Judie in Salt Lake. She has added a picture of his gravestone. His entry did not include any personal information or family links, so I requested that it be added (and sent the information), and she was kind enough to do that. You can contact the person who is creating or maintaining the grave entry by clicking on his or her name. The contributors and people who put the information on the site do it as a hobby and are providing a valuable service.

Edwin Pettit. (This one was actually several months ago.) I sent a note requesting that the name "Alfred" be removed from the memorial, since contrary to various online databases, this was not his middle name. I never checked to see whether that was done until right now, and the name is now correct.

Frances Ann Matthews Litson. I just added the crayon portrait of Frances to her memorial.

After contributing some information, I learned a little more about the community. I added a memorial for an ancestor who didn't have one:
Adeline Springthorpe Sparks Thomas. I wrote a little biography of her for her memorial (which I subsequently used for my Daughters of Utah Pioneers application) and added a picture. Helen Rigby has sent some lovely photos of Adeline's new gravestone, but I also requested a photo from local FindAGrave members. A nice woman from the area took a picture and put it online. I contacted her to thank her and she kindly gave me permission to use the photo.

I could not link to her family members, however, without requesting that the person maintaining their memorials do that. So I went to find the memorial for David Nathan Thomas in St. Johns, Arizona. By this point, I knew a little bit more about how FindAGrave works, and knew that I could request that a memorial be transferred to my account. I requested the memorials for David Nathan Thomas and Frances Ann Thomas Christensen. The person who created these memorials transferred them to me, and I added pictures and relationship information which will link these memorials together.

I also requested the memorial for Leroy Parkinson Tanner since I noticed he was not listed as one of the children of Henry and Eliza Tanner. I have updated his information and added a picture of his military grave marker that my dad took several years ago.

Athol Graham. The post I put up the other day about this Jarvis cousin came about when I clicked over to the contributor's record to ask her a question and saw that she listed his grave as one of her favorite memorials.

William Timms. I was showing my husband some of the resources available on his family. I am not too familiar with many of his family lines, so I was quite interested to see the information on this family. I've been emailing back and forth with the woman who put the information online and need to write a few more follow-up emails.

And finally, a couple more things you can do on FindAGrave:
  • Remove ads from a memorial. I don't see the ads since I am using AdBlockerPlus, but if you would like to do this to support the cost of running the site, it could be a way to honor someone.
  • You can leave flowers and a note on a memorial. A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the sad death of Richard Litson, Jr. In the way that sometimes happens when a person does family history work, I felt that his family wanted their son and brother to be remembered, so besides mentioning him here on this blog, I just added a forget-me-not to his memorial.
  • One lesson that I learned in between requesting the correction for Edwin Pettit and now is to remember, when making a request, to always thank the contributor for the work he or she has done. 
One of these years when I have some time, I'll systematically go through my family lines on FindAGrave and add and correct information. It is a wonderful resource, and I highly recommend it.

Assignment #9

Look up the grave record for a deceased family member. If a record does not exist and you are 100 percent certain that your ancestor was buried in a certain cemetery, you can create an account and add the record. If a record exists but there is no photograph of the grave marker, add one if you have it, or request one from a local contributor.

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