October 15, 2010

Opinion - Find A Grave

The following represents my opinion of the Find A Grave website.

According to Who is Behind Find A Grave the site was founded in 1995 by Jim Tipton.  It claims to have 500,000+ contributors who "submit new listings, updates, corrections, photographs and virtual flowers every hour."  I can believe that!  There have been times when I entered a burial and within minutes someone will have contributed a flower or other comment.  Among the top contributors is someone who has averaged 250 entries per day for the last nine years!

One very welcomed and extremely useful feature has been added:  Contributors can now add links to the burial place of other family members (spouses and parents).

To me and thousands of others, this website has become a very useful and important tool in our family research.  I have contributed to it a few hundred times and have used it more than a few hundred times to locate burials.  It is, for the most part maintained by very dedicated contributors who pay close attention to the information they enter.

On the other hand however, there are users who contribute without apparent thought to how someone will locate the info.  Sometimes cemetery names are misspelled, surnames and/or given names are misspelled, and birth dates/death dates are reversed.  Obituaries have been entered without reporting the name and date of the publication from which it was retrieved.  One of my pet gripes is the addition of a cemetery by someone who omits the name of the nearest town or does not provide simple driving directions or geo coordinates.  It can be frustrating at times when a county might have several cemeteries with the same name and no information is provided that would help distinguish one from the other.  I have found photos of signs which clearly show the name of the cemetery, yet whoever created the page misspelled the name or gave it a completely different one!

Another of my pet gripes is when a contributor abandons their creation.  There are many reasons for that I suppose; e.g., they pass away themselves or otherwise lose interest and never return to maintain the page they created.  Find A Grave has a policy which prohibits "mass transfer" of a cemetery site to anyone else.  I suspect the policy has resulted in the many duplications of grave sites and cemeteries that can be found there.  No doubt some logic is behind that policy, but it escapes me at the moment.  The administrators really need to find a convenient way for users to make corrections.

Find A Grave also has a policy of not allowing "copyrighted" photos of persons or headstones, etc. to be posted.  Sometime ago I created a large cemetery with photos of every headstone.  I added a "photo by" with my name as a watermark before uploading.  I had no idea that was considered a "copyright" but Find A Grave apparently did.  The administrators removed at least 50 hours of work, by not only deleting the photos but also the graves that I had entered.  It seems to me that the administrators should have given me an opportunity to upload fresh photos before merely deleting everything!

There is also a policy that prohibits anyone from uploading a photo of the cemetery; e.g., gates, adjacent church, etc.  All such photos have to first be submitted to Find A Grave administrators who will then post the pix... if approved.  However, there is no such prohibition against uploading photos of individuals or their headstones.  I do not know if it has ever happened, but conceivably, someone could create a false grave and upload pornographic photos which would then be immediately viewable to any visitor.

And finally:  The flash ads are annoying.  Thankfully, I found  "Adblock," a Firefox browser add-on that puts a stop to all that nonsense.

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