Utilizing Findagrave’s Photo Upload and Transcribe Beta

When I spend an hour or three at a cemetery I can easily take 1,000 photographs or more. Uploading them to existing memorials is easy—especially now that findagrave.com has upped the max file size. The hard part—or at least the most time consuming—is creating memorials that don’t already exist for all those images.

As soon as I saw the “Upload and Transcribe Beta” option, I was hooked.  The activation link is also present on the homepage near the very bottom of your screen. Enable the tool and then browse to the cemetery where you want to upload images.

Underneath the new Transcriptions header, you’ll find the link to upload images to that particular cemetery. Upload as many as you want and then utilize the “photos to transcribe” link to access your images needing transcription. The screen will look like this:

Screen shot 2014-10-20 at 5.32.34 PM


You can click on a photo and then begin entering the person’s name, birth date, and death date on the right. As you type a surname, a list of possible memorial matches pops up. If the memorial exists, just select the name. Otherwise, type in the information. You can then select done or click to add an additional name. Selecting add details let’s you include maiden name, prefixes, marker transcriptions, etc.


  • Creating memorials is quick and easy with this tool. The ability to add multiple names from one stone takes a fraction of the time it takes to create memorials one by one. When you submit, multiple memorials are created with the same photo.
  • You can link more than one photo to the same group of memorials by selecting the link icon that shows up on the thumbnail of the photo you’re working with.
  • You can zoom in or out on the image up to it’s actual size
  • The photo uploader retains management of the memorial and the transcriber is given credit for the entering of the data (which, if you transcribe your own is both)


  • The interface is a little cloogy and works best on a large monitor
  • It may not be obvious to other transcribers that there are two or more images to be linked together for the same people
  • Although the surname field shows you existing memorials, there’s no way to tell whether they already have a photo. The first few I transcribed already had images and I ended up adding doubles. Best to keep the cemetery page open in a separate tab so you can double check for photos when a memorial already exists.
  • The system gives the original photo uploader 7 days to transcribe their own images before making them available to the community for transcription. While it’s a nice feature, it would be even nicer if there were a way to release your uploaded images before the 7 days is up.

Fernwood Cemetery, Lansdowne, PA Burial Records

In 2013, I discussed How to Locate your Ancestors at Fernwood Cemetery in Lansdowne, PA.  Thanks to ancestry.com, there’s a new and improved method!

Ancestry has been regularly adding records to its Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town records collection. In this collection, you’ll find a variety of indexed cemetery and funeral home records (mostly from old ledgers). Although there is no way to search all of Fernwood’s records in one fell swoop, the research process isn’t that hard.

First, determine when the individual died using ancestry’s Philadelphia Death Certificates or Pennsylvania Death Certificates (for a wider range of dates and locations). You’ll find both in the card catalog by searching for “Pennsylvania Death”. The death records will confirm death date and – most likely – cemetery.

Then, use the card catalog again to bring up the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records. On the search screen, enter “Yeadon, Delaware County, Pennsylvania” as the death location, enter at least the death year, and the first and last name. Limiting the location to exact will generally bring up only Fernwood cemetery records. If you don’t get a hit right away, try different name variations, phonetic searches, etc.

Once you’ve got a hit on the right person, view the record. It will likely be a scan of a ledger page with many names on it. Find the person you’re looking for and you’ll find the section and lot numbers on the right side of the screen.

Good luck!

Findagrave Hacks

I recently exported the 380+ photo requests for Fernwood Cemetery in Lansdowne, PA and exported them to an Excel spreadsheet so that I could edit and manipulate the data. My goal was to lookup and enter section and lot information for the requests and then sort the spreadsheet to group the requests by section.

There are two tools I came across to assist with this. Both require entering the cemetery ID number, found at the tail end of the cemetery page on Findagrave.com. For instance, Fernwood Cemetery’s url is http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&GRid=128518735&CRid=153990 and the ID # is 153990.



The first site spits out the photo request data that you can copy and paste into excel.

The second site—which is the one I used—gives you access to a bit more data:

Screen shot 2014-10-20 at 8.02.25 PM

Selecting one of the blue numbers for no photo, has photo, or photo requests gives you data that you can copy and paste to excel. Selecting “More Info” brings you to a page with more data about the cemetery’s findagrave statistics and gives you a way to search for a particular name—as well as the very handy date range search (in case you don’t know the name or the name might be misspelled).

Happy hunting!

Studying Stones

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here, but I’ve always said my genealogy research has ebbed and flowed. It flowed a lot last fall and winter – partially because the colder months in Pennsylvania mean less time outside and partially because I lost a brother last fall. The death of a family member always pushes me into a period of heavy research.

But spring came, and I found myself returning to the outdoors and volunteering my time to help others in their genealogy quests. I’ve spent hours upon hours working at historic Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia, assisting the ongoing efforts to reclaim this neglected place. I’ve also spent many hours this spring and summer working section by section to photograph Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill – my own slow attempt to photograph the entire place. I’ve completed two sections and about half each of two more.

This coming weekend I am planning a “Community Day” meetup at Fernwood Cemetery in Lansdowne, PA that will hopefully bring about a dozen volunteer photographers together to fulfill about 250 photo requests. It’s especially timely that Findagrave has launched a beta version of their transcription system, which allows a photographer to batch upload photos and then lets other volunteers transcribe them to memorial. This is quite helpful for someone like me who can easily take 1,000 photos in less than two hours and then has little time to create memorials for all of them.

I hope to find my way back here a bit more regularly, as this blog is a good place to ponder those elusive ancestors!

Found, then Lost

My aunt and uncle recently sent me a package of material related to my grand-parents and great-grandparents—birth and death certificates, marriage information, etc. It was such a pleasure to go through, especially discovering new information and reconfirming other details. There was even correspondence between my great-grandfather and a gentleman doing research about the Warner surname.

However, the most intriguing piece was a photocopy of an index card that indicated my great-grandfather had donated Civil War medals to…someplace. I knew that my great-grandfather had been very involved in his town’s historical society so I emailed them to see if these medals had ended up in their collection. I couldn’t wait to hear back, plan a trip, and go visit these medals that would have been given to my great-great-grandfather.

After waiting a few weeks, I heard back, but unfortunately found that the historical society had suffered hurricane damage in the 1970s and although they had written record of the donation of the medals, the actual items were long gone.

While it’s disappointing, I consider it just another avenue to explore. Did other family members donate items to historic societies in other towns? Did my great-grandfather donate other things to this same society that I’m not even aware of yet?

This experience reminds me to leave no stone unturned— that no lead is too small to follow up on.


Was Your Ancestor a Mason?

I’ve found lots of references to various ancestors being masons, but it never dawned on me that lodge the ancestor belonged to may have information on him. A distant cousin suggested this to me and it was like a new door opened.

I went back to my records for one particular ancestor—I had found him in google books and other places as being a member of a particular lodge. I was pleasantly surprised to find this lodge still exists and sent off an email. I heard back quickly, although the research took a bit of time. They weren’t able to produce a photo (which the may have for those higher up in the organization, depending on the time period and the lodge’s record keeping), but they were able to tell me the date he joined and the dates he achieved different ranks.

It doesn’t seem like a lot of information, but it does place this ancestor in a particular place at particular times, which is nice information to flesh out the experiences of someone’s life.