An Image Here and an Image There: a BillionGraves Tale

Last spring while I was off playing Grandmother, my husband Jim decided to take a “stay-cation” and found a project dear to the heart of any genealogist … photographing gravestones in area cemeteries.  (I suspect he has a few symptoms of “genealogy fever.”)

He downloaded the app from to his cell phone and registered for an account (all free).  Then by using the camera on his phone he took a picture of each tombstone, “linked” those stones and memorials if they were family members (e.g husband and wife), and uploaded the images to the BillionGraves website.  Other volunteers transcribed the writing on the tombstones.  An especially helpful feature of the website is that not only is it searchable by cemetery and by name, but the location of the gravestone is indicated on a map of the cemetery.  Very useful for locating a particular burial site in a large cemetery!  (Of course this only works if there is a tombstone or grave marker.)

To date, Jim has contributed nearly 11,000 images to BillionGraves!  He has photographed all five of the cemeteries in Ames, Iowa as well as a few in the surrounding area.

The work was not without a few challenges, however.  He encountered snakes, bees, cold, heat and rain.  But the biggest challenge was fending off the mosquitoes in late July and early August.  In Jim’s words, “They considered me their person blood drive.”  He gained the upper hand when he wore this mosquito hat that kept most of them at bay.

Jim 2

And Jim without the netting:


The value of the BillionGraves website was brought home to me this last week when I helped a friend unravel a mystery she had been trying to solve for some time.  We found her relative’s grave in a cemetery in Illinois … thanks to other kind and generous volunteers who had photograved and transcribed the images from that cemetery for BillionGraves.

So, a big round of  applause and appreciation for ALL the volunteers at BillionGraves who have donated vast hours making this information available not only to genealogists, but to persons trying to find the final resting place of their loved ones.  Your work is a wonderful and helpful tool.

(Thanks  to our daughter Naomi for suggesting the topic of this post.)






About maryjlohr

Avid genealogist.
This entry was posted in Genealogy, Research, Story County Iowa, Technology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to An Image Here and an Image There: a BillionGraves Tale

  1. Karen Engesser says:

    Mary, your husband, Jim, has made a HUGE contribution to Billion Graves, with nearly 11,000 entries. He has been involved in a labor of love for you, being supportive to your commitment, helping others discover their ancestry. Hats off to you both!!!

  2. Mary Ann Black says:

    What a huge job for all! Good Work Jim! You were very determined!

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