What is the Difference Between BillionGraves and Find A Grave? Part II: For Volunteers June 25, 2019

I have been patiently waiting for Part II since mid-April 2019 – What is the Difference Between BillionGraves and Find A Grave? Part II: For Volunteers: https://blog.billiongraves.com/2019/06/25/what-is-the-difference-between-billiongraves-and-find-a-grave/

I shared Part I: What is the Difference Between BillionGraves and Find A Grave? Part I: For Researchers – BillionGraves April 17, 2019; original blog post https://blog.billiongraves.com/2019/04/17/what-is-the-difference-between-billiongraves-and-find-a-grave-part-i-researching/.

One of the most common questions we are asked is, “What is the difference between BillionGraves and Find A Grave?”

BillionGraves and Find A Grave do have a lot of similarities. Both have searchable websites for finding cemetery data. Both are crowd-sourced with volunteers taking photos and transcribing. BillionGraves and Find A Grave are both free of charge to access data.

But it is what is different about them that makes BillionGraves outstanding.


This blog post is the second in a two-part series and it focuses on how BillionGraves and Find A Grave are different for those who volunteer to take photos and record gravestone data.

Part One of this series focuses on how BillionGraves and Find A Grave are different for researchers. It will help you to understand how BillionGraves has grown to be the world’s largest GPS-linked cemetery database by following the Genealogical Standard of Proof and providing GPS-linked gravestone images as a foundation for additional sources.

Part One will help you understand how BillionGraves always puts evidence first by providing sourced documented records that genealogists can rely on. Because your research matters to us! And we want to help your family tree be the best, well-sourced, documented tree it can possibly be!

The main difference for volunteers between the two companies is that BillionGraves is quick and easy to use. Just download, point, click, and go home. Done.

And you can feel great about what you have accomplished at the cemetery with the BillionGraves app since EVERY gravestone will have a photo that is linked to a GPS location.


BillionGraves is so easy, it’s like taking a selfie of a gravestone!

Taking photos with the BillionGraves app is as simple as that! With just one tap, you have provided a photo, a GPS location, and the data is ready to be transcribed.

It is quick, easy, and accurate to be a volunteer for BillionGraves vs. Find A Grave. BillionGraves is so fast and easy that you can take about 300 to 400 gravestone photos in an hour.

Compare this to uploading spreadsheets or photos from DLSR cameras manually to a cemetery on the Find A Grave website. That is SO time-consuming.


Is it easier to be sure every gravestone has been documented with BillionGraves or with Find A Grave?

When photos are taken with the BillionGraves app it is usually done row by row, with volunteers photographing each section until the entire cemetery has been documented. Every gravestone is automatically tagged with a GPS location which ensures that no gravestones are missed.

Without the automatic GPS-tagging feature, Find A Grave users rely heavily on photo requests from family members to find gravestones that have not yet been photographed.

But what about deceased people who have no descendants? Or what if none of their descendants are interested in genealogy? Who will photograph their gravestones with the Find A Grave method?

And will their gravestones be too deteriorated to read when another descendant comes along in another generation or two that is interested in family history?

Volunteers, BillionGraves’ GPS feature helps you keep track of your location in the cemetery.

Why should this matter to you as a volunteer? Well, it makes it SO much easier to take photos with the BillionGraves app without missing a single gravestone.

It would be nearly impossible to finish photographing all of the world’s gravestones using Find A Grave since there is no easy way tell which sections have been photographed and which still need to be done in partially photographed cemeteries.


Just look at all the gravestones in the photo above from a cemetery in New York City! The GPS feature on the BillionGraves app is really helpful in a cemetery like that!


The BillionGraves app even keeps track of your location while you move around as a flashing blue dot in the corner of your screen!


Accuracy Matters!

The GPS-tagging that is automatically done with the BillionGraves app confirms that someone was actually in the cemetery standing in front of that very gravestone. This ensures that the records are in the correct cemetery. You can’t “tamper” with BillionGraves GPS data because it’s done by the app, not by humans.

Find A Grave data, on the other hand, is usually uploaded by time-consuming manual processes. And the more that is done manually, the more you introduce opportunities for false information and inaccuracies.  No matter how careful someone is in transferring the data to their computers, labeling the gravestones, and sometimes typing in the GPS location (if they figured out the GPS with another device) they are still human. And humans make mistakes.


Is it easier to finish documenting a partially photographed cemetery with BillionGraves or Find A Grave?

Let’s say you wanted to finish documenting the cemetery where your ancestor was buried and it had 50,000 graves. Below are examples of how it would be done using either Find A Grave or BillionGraves.

Completing a Partially Documented Cemetery with Find A Grave in 5 Steps

Step 1

If you set out to finish documenting the cemetery by using Find A Grave you will first need to consult the website on your computer. There you may see the percentage of the graves that have memorials for that cemetery – for example, 50%. But there is no way to tell which 50%!

With 50% of the 50,000 graves memorialized there would be at best 25,000 gravestones photographed. (That would only be true if every memorial had a photograph of the headstone.)

Step 2

Some of the memorials may have photos of gravestones and others may not. You won’t know until you look up each one individually.

Those 25,000 stones are likely to be scattered throughout the cemetery. Most of them will not have GPS locations typed in. Even if they do, you will need a separate device to find GPS position since the Find A Grave app does not have that feature.

Step 3

To find out which gravestones have been documented with Find A Grave you could start going row by row, entering the name of each person individually in the search field on the app.

After doing a search on the app, a photo of the gravestone will appear if it has already been documented. If the grave has not been documented yet, you could then take a photo. (Just imagine how long this would take to type in 50,000 names on your phone to determine which 25,000 still need photos!)

Step 4

Later, you will need to use cables to upload the photos to your computer. Then crop and edit.

Step 5

Next, transcribe the names and dates yourself. By the way, they could be duplicates of someone else’s work – there is no way to tell.

Or just start over!

If all of this sounds like way too much work, you could just start over and photograph all 50,000 gravestones row by row to finish the cemetery.

Above is a Find A Grave map of a cemetery in Hamilton, Indiana.
The Find A Grave website claims this cemetery is 86% photographed.
However, there are no markers on the map to show which graves are done.
This is a BillionGraves map of the Hamilton, Indiana cemetery.
The dots on the left represent photos and GPS locations for each gravestone.
The gravestones on the right side of the map have not yet been photographed.

Completing a Partially Documented Cemetery with BillionGraves in Two Easy Steps

However, if you went to that same cemetery and you had the BillionGraves app on your phone you would be able to finish the cemetery in two easy steps.

Step 1

On the BillionGraves app, open a satellite map with GPS pins marking each headstone that had already been photographed.

You can tell which sections are already complete and which still need to be photographed by simply looking at the pins on the map. Take photos in the area where there are no pins.

Step 2

Upload the photos straight from the app with one tap of a button. There is no need to hook your phone up to your computer. This can be done right at the cemetery if you have unlimited data or you can wait until you connect to WiFi to save on data.

There is no need to transcribe the photos yourself either. BillionGraves has thousands of volunteer transcribers just waiting for photographs. (Unless you just want to, which is also great!).

When I take gravestone photos and upload them at the cemetery they are often completely transcribed before I can drive 2-3 miles to our home!

The BillionGraves app, on the other hand, automatically tags gravestone images with a GPS location as each photo is taken. GPS pins appear on a cemetery map at each grave. This makes it easy to see which gravestones have been documented and which still need to be done.


Can I add gravestone photos that I have already taken with my own camera to BillionGraves or Find A Grave?

Yes. You can add photos taken with your own camera to the BillionGraves website.

However, photos taken with the BillionGraves app are considered primary sources. And photos taken without the BillionGraves app which are added to the BillionGraves website from another source, such as a DSLR camera or a phone camera, are considered secondary sources. On the BillionGraves website, these photos are called Supporting Records. They are simple to add to the BillionGraves website and they are desirable, but they are considered secondary sources to the GPS-linked photos.

On the BillionGraves website, it is easy for genealogical researchers to see if a photo is a primary or secondary source. Photos that have been taken with the BillionGraves app are framed in gray and photos added from another source are framed in orange.

The different frame colors make it easy for genealogical researchers to see which photos will need the accuracy of their locations verified due to the fact that they came from sources that were not automatically linked with the GPS location on the BillionGraves app.

If a volunteer later takes a photo with the BillionGraves app of the same gravestone that had previously been added from another source it will be linked to the GPS-tagged gravestone image. The GPS record is the primary source, which ensures that the evidence of the location comes first. The linking allows researches to see both photos.

In comparison, you can add your own photos to Find A Grave memorials. Without the GPS feature, they do not follow the Genealogical Proof Standard, but yes, you can add them.


What is the difference between BillionGraves and Find A Grave for Transcribers?

Find a Grave photographers must transcribe their own records. BillionGraves photographers may transcribe the data from their pictures OR they may choose to have other volunteer transcribers do it.

How is data managed by BillionGraves and Find A Grave?

Once a record has been uploaded to the Find A Grave website it is managed solely by the person who put the record online. This is frequently a source of irritation for those who know the data is wrong, but cannot get in touch with the person who has recorded it to have corrections made.


On the BillionGraves website, anyone can fix data that is incorrect by simply clicking on a pencil icon on the screen as seen in the photo above.

What about Photo Requests?

Both BillionGraves and Find A Grave offer the option for free photo requests. For example, someone asks for a photo to be taken of their ancestor who may live in a distant place and someone else fulfills the request by going to the cemetery to take a photo.

The big difference is that when you fulfill a request for Find A Grave, you don’t know if you are taking a photo of a gravestone that has already been documented.

With BillionGraves, every photo has a GPS location. So you will be able to see right on the app if the gravestone has already been photographed. If for some reason the gravestone is photographed more than once, duplicates are easily merged during the transcription process.

Why Don’t BillionGraves and Find A Grave just work together?

Well, BillionGraves and Find A Grave aren’t doing the same thing. BillionGraves is ensuring that every gravestone has a GPS-tagged location on a satellite map. Find A Grave is building a list of memorials for deceased persons, which may or may not include gravestone photos.

Eagle Scout Ty Smith organized and led a cemetery
documentation project at Calvary Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee

Some Real-Life Examples

On May 18-19th, Eagle Scout Ty Smith led a group of about 65 people in documenting Nashville’s Calvary Cemetery with the BillionGraves app. They photographed about 18,000 gravestones in 2 days!

Inspired by the large number of gravestones documented by Ty Smith, Trevor Warren has set a lofty goal for his Eagle Scout project to photograph 15,000 to 20,000 gravestones in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area this summer.

Prior to learning about the BillionGraves app, Trevor took a trip to a cemetery in Philadelphia, where he searched for a family member’s grave with only Find A Grave as a resource. It took hours in the hot summer sun.

Trevor later learned about the BillionGraves app from an aunt at a family reunion. Trevor immediately recognized the value of the GPS feature on the BillionGraves app. He said, “It made me want to photograph gravestones with the BillionGraves app so I could help other people find their ancestors easily with the GPS locations attached.”

Many thanks to ALL awesome cemetery volunteers!

Cathy Wallace and the BillionGraves Team


P.S. Would you like to take photos with the BillionGraves app? Or lead a group in documenting a cemetery? Then send an email to volunteer@billiongraves.com! 🙂



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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