May 2, 2013

Find A Grave Rant

I have a long standing "dislike" for some of the contributors at Find A Grave.  By and large I do not dislike all of them; I appreciate and admire their efforts  I have contributed a few hundred myself.

Among those that I particularly dislike are those who seemingly consider their contributions as part of a numbers game; e.g, the more you contribute the more your personal prestige is enhanced on the tote board in the form of "Fame Ratings", etc.

Many contributors deny it's a numbers game, even after entering 10 to 15 thousand memorials over a period of a few years.  Do the math on this one:  As of today, the top contributor has entered over 111,000 memorials in about 6 years.  That's equivalent to an average of 1500+ memorials per month.  That leaves little time for traveling to, walking the cemetery and gathering the names.  I presume it must be a team effort or, they are copying from published cemetery books*.  The contributor is defined only by an alias and invites you to contact "us" through one of their memorial pages.  They do at least offer to make corrections and links!

There are those contributors who seem to forget their entries are mainly family members of other people.  Citing Find A Grave guidelines.[1]  many of them will refuse to transfer members of your own family to you.

Those guidelines may or may not be good, depending on how friendly a contributor wants to be.

One of my favorite contributor is the one that enters the name of an obscure cemetery and places it in a very large county.  That county might cover 20,000+ square miles and contain 20-30 cities and towns.  Yet, the person entering the cemetery memorial pages will sometimes fail to enter the nearest town, or geo-coordinates of the cemetery.  You'd think they would at least want to share the name of the nearest town.  Maybe they forgot where they went...who knows!?

Another favorite contributor is the one that enters a memorial then refuses - or ignores- a request to make the appropriate links to a spouse or to their children.  Making those links isn't absolutely necessary.  But, imagine you are a novice researcher who has stumbled upon FAG.  There you find a few people in the same cemetery you believe might be your family.  You can't tell how they might be related to each other, and the contributor will not respond.  Sure, you progress with your research but, had the links been made when requested by someone who knows who they are, it would have been a much smoother ride for you.  I have had such requests to link families absolutely ignored.

It is the contributor who ignores requests that I believe to be indirectly responsible for duplicate entries.  Out of frustration many contributors will make duplicate entries and family links.  I admit that I have!  Then, you can expect to hear from the irate first contributor.  I recently made an inadvertent duplicate entry that contained photos, links to parents, spouse, children, etc.  As soon as I discovered the duplicate, I contacted the first contributor and offered to transfer my entry to them.  Their entry was "barebones" with no links, photos, etc.  They did copy the obit that I entered to their page then told me to move my info to their page and delete mine.  Well, I wasn't going to do that...not after spending half a day researching and entering the info.  So, I decided to leave mine where it is.  The other contributor might eventually get it deleted...who knows?  It's one of those fame rated contributors.

It sometimes takes weeks, even months (if ever) for FAG "management" to do anything to help resolve a conflict.  This presumes you survive the brutality of the FAG forums should you chose to go there for help.  God forbid that you accidentally place a query in the wrong forum.

Perhaps you won't ever hear from the original contributor.  You may even succeed in evading the "trolls" who lie in wait for someone to duplicate an entry.  They often pounce without warning with sarcasm and demands that you delete your contribution.  I do not respond well to that!

Just recently I have been working through my Edward Coffey Project, cleaning up and creating sources for burials that I have found on Find A Grave.  Even though a particular burial may not be in their family, some refuse to allow their headstone photos to be used "without written permission."[2]  I'm deleting those! On the other hand there are the contributors who tell us to "Please feel free to use any headstone pictures I have added."

This reminds me...I love those headstone photos that are out of focus or too small to read the dates, etc.  Those, combined with the ones which the photographer's shadow blacks out the stones info or, who failed to remove weeds, flowers, etc. that block the dates are really special contributions!

Some comments on the contributors profile page are mildly offensive.  For example, one writes that she will make transfers "IF [sic] you have made contributions for others on FAG,...".  Contrary to that attitude is the contributor who wrote:  "I'm glad there are guidelines set up by F.A.G. but think it's a nice offering to give it back to the family. Please just let me know and I will gladly transfer them to you."

Some needed improvements would make FAG a bit more user friendly.  First, they should use some of the revenue brought in by those obnoxious flashing ads to upgrade their software and server.  Other suggested changes would be to follow the example of sites that allow users to find people using inexact given and/or surname spelling and, allow searches on range of dates instead of exact birth and death years.  Oh, and give their forum managers some lessons in interpersonal skills!

Yes, FAG owners have carved a niche for themselves on the web. now carries a link to their site.  However, there's a new player on the block called Billion Graves. carries their link.  It hasn't been around very long and has a very long way to go before achieving the number of graves touted in their name.  It probably needs to be fine tuned a bit to make the site a little more user friendly, but it does offer promise of freedom from combative contributors and "overseers."

One thing that Billion Graves lacks that FAG has is ads.[3]  I don't mind ads per se but, FAG does go overboard a bit by allowing those God awful flashing ads.  I used to just scroll down a bit to roll them off the top of my screen.  Then, they began to put some of them in a sidebar.  Now, I've managed to get rid of ALL ads on FAG using  Ad Block+.  If you use Google Chrome as your web browser, you can find that extension on their webstore page.  I suspect it is available as well for some of the other popular browsers.

If you are a FAG contributor and find yourself offended by anything I've written here, you should certainly cannot understand where I am coming from.

Rant over!

*I strongly suspect this is many the case!

June 4, 2013

Well, almost over.  I found this today from someone who provided no means to contact them except from individual memorials.  That is, there is no e-mail address, no public comment section available; on this completely self-serving - can I say ignorant as well - comment.  The person or persons who wrote this refer to themselves as "D & L (#46624708)."  It really supports my theory that many "contributors" do it for the "fame."

"What can we say- WE LOVE CEMETERIES!!! We love finding old dates, odd names, and unique stones.
While we don't mind adding relationship links or making corrections of mistakes, we do mind transferring our records. We've walked these cemeteries ourselves and wrote down each and every piece of information that was there on the stones. We feel that we've done the work and since we entered the info first, we should get acknowledgement for it. Sorry to those that this offends or inconveniences."

[1]  They are really in the FAQ but, contributors often claim they are following FAG guidelines.  guideline is a statement by which to determine a course of action. A guideline aims to streamline particular processes according to a set routine or sound practice. By definition, following a guideline is never mandatory. Guidelines are not binding and are not enforced. That is very evident in the guidelines which govern duplicate cemeteries or grave sites.
[2] I copyright my blog, including photos because the person who submitted the info and/or photo stills has a claim to them.  However, the copyright permits fair use as defined on the blogsite.
[3] I suspect it won't be long before they begin placing banner ads on the site.  Check out their privacy and "refund" policies.

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