New York State Funeral Directors Association

Cemetery Volunteers Help Preserve Family History

If you live close to the cemetery where your loved one is buried, it should be fairly easy to stop by and pay your respects.

But for those who live hundreds of miles away – and those with roadblocks to mobility such as a disability or inability to travel – simply seeing their loved one’s grave site can be a real gift.

With the help of an online project, anyone who visits a cemetery can help those who can’t by simply taking a photograph.

The Find-A-Grave website has grown to feature more than 180 million memorials since it launched in 1995.

Many memorials for individuals include photographs of grave sites and details that are included on headstones and markers.

But there are many other graves that have not been photographed – and that’s where volunteers who visit cemeteries can help.


Letters, numbers and symbols etched into limestone and marble are fading more and more each day. A view of the Find-A-Grave website

Eventually – as some already have – the identities of people recorded on these markers will erode away altogether.

Digital photos taken today, and stored electronically, preserve the record of these individual lives – and in some cases may stand as the only memory of those buried beneath these headstones and markers.

Volunteers at Find-A-Grave are capturing these images every day and making it possible for family to establish a connection with the burial site of their kin hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

After a relatively easy signup process, Find-A-Grave volunteers can add memorials, upload photos of grave sites and cemeteries, transcribe photos and request photos of their loved ones’ final resting places and markers.

Those who visit cemeteries often could consider taking a photo of these sites to start off with.

Placing these images on the Find-A-Grave site will enable other relatives – even those you may not be aware of – to find their ancestors.

A memorial on the Find-A-Grave website will contain the name of the individual and information like the dates of birth and death, the site of their interment and an ID number.

Sometimes, they will also have more detail on the location of the burial site, such as a plot number or section of the cemetery.

The Find-A-Grave website is a treasure trove for genealogists working to fill out their family trees.

The details members upload are all searchable, so a search even on Google will bring up the Find-A-Grave results.

But the joy at finding a relative on the other side of the country – or on the other side of the planet – can be diminished when the place reserved for a photo is empty.

That’s where Find-A-Grave volunteers can help.

Those who sign up get regular email alerts about new requests for photographs of grave sites within a pre-determined distance from the volunteer’s zip code.

After finding the final resting place, the volunteer takes a photograph and the uploads it to the Find-A-Grave website.

Find-A-Grave has an App for mobile phones, too, making the process that much easier.


A feature of the website encourages people to transcribe photos.

These are grave site pictures – many of which are completely legible – which don’t yet have details typed into the Find-A-Grave database.

This newer feature will expand the website’s holdings markedly. People simply need to upload the name of the cemetery with the image – volunteers can do the rest.

Volunteers who haven’t actually visited the cemetery can read what’s on the headstone or marker and type that information into the website.

There are thousands of these photos – 8,513 when I last checked – which are waiting for details to be transcribed from the images.

Each detail added will expand the amount of information out there that will ultimately help family members find their family members.

In instances where the information is known but photographs aren’t available, participants can create a memorial, add the details about their loved one and provide the name of the cemetery – or more if known, and volunteers at Find-A-Grave will do the rest.

Whether you’re a frequent visitor of cemeteries or visit once a year, your photograph can go a long way towards helping someone who is far away get a little bit closer to their family.

CLICK HERE to visit the Find-A-Grave website and learn more about it.

EdsPhotoEdward Munger Jr.
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association