Across the world, gravestones are deteriorating and erosion is erasing the precious details of our ancestors' lives. BillionGraves, the world’s largest GPS-linked cemetery database, can help. The BillionGraves smartphone app can be used to document gravestones. With BillionGraves, even if a loved one's gravestone is damaged or worn by time, the invaluable information recorded at their final resting place will still be available.

How can you help? You could organize a group for a cemetery documentation event. Be creative in your approach! This can be a great way to unite community members. 

For the group, it’s as easy as grabbing their smartphones or tablets, downloading the free BillionGraves app to their devices and heading out to the cemetery. Then they simply take pictures of each gravestone as they walk along. The app will capture the GPS location automatically and in just a short visit hundreds of records can be preserved. When they are finished, they can upload the photos - with one click of a button - so everyone can use them for family history and keep the memories alive of those we honor and love.

Group Cemetery Events are Great For:

Find a Cemetery

  • Click HERE to learn how to download the BillionGraves app and to find a cemetery to document.
    • Click the pins on the map to see the cemetery name.
    • Click on the cemetery name to see the cemetery page.
    • View the cemetery page map to see if pictures have already been taken at that cemetery.

Determine Where to take Pictures

  • Orange dots on the cemetery map represent where pictures have already been taken.

  • You may need to zoom in on the cemetery map.
  • Look for a section in the cemetery that is not covered with orange dots.
  • If there are sections without orange dots, then your service is needed to photograph that cemetery!

Organize your Group

  • Go out and take a few pictures before you take a large group to the cemetery so that you will be better able to answer questions.
  • Select a date and time for your event. 
  • Check with the cemetery manager to be sure there are not any services scheduled at the time of your event.
  • Invite participants.
  • Have your group install the BillionGraves app on their smartphones and set up accounts before going to the cemetery. Internet access at the cemetery may be limited.
    • Only devices that have a camera and GPS hardware can be used.
    • WiFi-only iPads and iPods do not have GPS hardware.

What to Bring

  • Plenty of drinking water
  • A cloth or brush to remove dried grass or dirt
  • Maps with sections highlighted for each pair of volunteers
  • Extra battery packs
  • Your phones!

Take Pictures

  • Using the app, click on "take pictures" to begin taking photos at the cemetery. 
  • The GPS coordinates will automatically be recorded.
  • Go up and down the rows, taking pictures of each gravestone until you have completed an entire section or the entire cemetery. Keep moving at a quick pace. If you take 1 photo every 15 seconds you will have taken 240 photos in an hour!   
  • It works well to have your volunteers work in pairs. Have each person take a separate row of headstones. After finishing a row, have them leap-frog their companion's row to the next row.
  • Volunteers who don't have a smartphone can help others who do by clearing flowers, grass or other debris off of the headstones.

Photo-taking Tips

  • Stand to the side to avoid casting a shadow.

  • Remove weeds, grass, or other debris that may block gravestone information.

  • Be sure the names and dates are inside the photo frame.

Use the BillionGraves App

Be sure to use the BillionGraves app to take your pictures. Using the app will allow to upload the images to the website right from your phone and will also capture the GPS location of each image taken. The GPS location is critical for helping other volunteers determine which parts of the cemetery have been documented. It also helps users find their loved one's gravesite and search for previously unknown relatives near their loved ones.

Uploading Photos

  • You can upload your photos right at the cemetery if you have unlimited data or you can wait until you have connected to WiFi to upload.
    • From the main screen of the phone app, click on the 'Photos' button.
    • Click on the orange 'Upload' button.
    • That's all there is to it! If you want more information about uploading click HERE

Linking Images with the BillionGraves App

If a gravestone has data on more than one side (for example, parents on one side and children on the other side) there is a way to link them together. Just click on the chain icon in the corner of your screen between each photo that you would like to link (front side, chain icon, backside). 

You can use this linking feature for obelisks that have data on four sides. You can also use it to link a large gravestone with a family surname on it to nearby smaller gravestones with the family member's first names on them. 

Transcribe the Gravestone Data

  • When you click the "upload" button you will be given the option to transcribe the photos yourself or have other volunteers do the transcribing.
  • What is transcribing? It is recording the names, dates, and other information from each gravestone image onto a form on the BillionGraves website.
  • If you choose to transcribe your own photos, you will have 14 days to complete the task before your pictures will go into the general queue for anyone to transcribe.
  • In case you are wondering, BillionGraves needs help with taking photos more than transcribing at this time. So if you have the option, please take more photos!
  • For more detailed information about transcribing, click HERE.

Resources from FamilySearch

For additional resources provided by FamilySearch for BillionGraves, click HERE and HERE.

Have Fun!

After you have explored these resources, if you would like help finding a cemetery to document or planning a group project, please email us at We'll be happy to help you!