Ways Find-A-Grave Needs to Improve

First and foremost, start with a Help section https://www.findagrave.com/list-faqs that does more than what the current Help section does. For starters, break the list into Rules that have to be followed by everybody and Guidelines that individual memorial managers can choose to adopt or not. As it is now, there are a handful of rules that have to be followed, but the rules can change. Often without warning. There is generally no date as to when an item was last updated.

For example, an old rule used to be first memorial created was the one that stayed with the original contributor being the one who managed the memorial, and duplicates were either merged with the original memorial or deleted. Later, they amended it to admins decide not only which memorial stays, but also which memorial is merged and who manages the memorial. And it’s not uncommon that a friend of an admin gets preferential treatment.

In the past, you could use the Wayback Machine to figure out when a FAQ section changed by reviewing different dates. Once they switched to the new Help section, you can’t check.

In addition, Find-A-Grave needs to require proof of where people are buried, and for Burial Unknowns (BUs) – Cremated – non-cemetery disposition or location of ashes unknown, proof of cremation and proof of ashes were scattered. This is a very common technique used by people who want to add somebody, but doesn’t know where the person was buried. Another common technique is to “plop” a memorial in a cemetery because they see another relative in the same cemetery or decide to throw them in whatever cemetery they want. FYI, death certificates and obituaries are frequently wrong on where a person was buried. A family member may later decide to go with a different cemetery for any number of reasons. For death certificates, it may only list a city and people find a cemetery with the city’s name in it and assume that’s where they are buried. A good example is my blog post yesterday about GM’s Day where I linked to Gary Gygax‘s memorial on Find-A-Grave https://upsdownsfamilyhistory.wordpress.com/2019/03/02/drivethru-rpg-gms-day-sale-march-2019, supposedly a Cremated – location of ashes unknown, but with a headstone that was added last year. Clearly a case of somebody using Cremated Location of Ashes Unknown to get around not knowing where somebody is buried.

Next, Ancestry needs to make sure all admins are fully aware of copyright laws. Based on the limited amount of information about copyright as well as past rulings by admins, it’s clear they don’t have a solid grasp of copyright laws. An old FAQ used to say citing the newspaper where the obituary was published was enough. I don’t see that note in the new Help section. They do briefly mention respecting copyright, but give no guidelines. When I find an obituary, I cite the newspaper, re-write the obituary in my own words and use a format that is different than the formats I see used by newspapers. The end result is I create a new obituary that has most of the information from the original obituary, minus references to living people. I check to make sure the living people are still living unless the person died long enough ago that any living people would be 120+ years old when I create my version of the obituary.

Next, let people know when the FAQs/Help/Rules change and note the sections and dates when the changes were made. It’s a pain to use the limited search ability of the Forums to try and figure out what the current version of what’s allowed and not allowed.

A good example used to be that surname on the headstone had to match. That included if the person had two or more married surnames on the headstone. It appears now they only want the last married name. It gets weird when an obituary mentions a person by one last name, but the headstone either adds a hyphenated name or two surnames that aren’t hyphenated, or uses a maiden name.

It also doesn’t help when one admin tells a contributor one thing and another admin gives different information to another contributor. I think it has gotten better on this front, but I sometimes see it still happening.

The above are good starters for Ancestry as it will save them a lot of trouble later.

About Wichita Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's collaborateDealspotr.com
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1 Response to Ways Find-A-Grave Needs to Improve

  1. Pingback: More Suggested Improvements for Find-A-Grave | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

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