more on "giving back"

A Basic Findagrave Tutorial

Dennis J Yancey -

We Live in  a society that seems to be so focused on what people can "get out" of life, or get out of some service - a "consumer" based society in so many different definitions of the term. One thing that I love about is that it can be a way that people can "GIVE BACK" to their community and fellow genealogists and even "give back" to their ancestors.

The PERSPECTIVE That Findagrave users have toward the system can really make a NIGHT and DAY difference as to what Findagrave is or becomes (and in turn its value to us all) - especially for a group of related families and  their memorials and those who take interest in such memorials.

It bothers me a bit when people simply look at Findagrave as they do other on line service - such as - that of a service that either provides or doesn't provide information about specific family/genealogical information.   So for example, the person who logs onto Findagrave and looks for a few graves of family members, doesn't find them or maybe sees that an entire cemetery is pretty much missing, and so in turn quits using Findagrave because it didn't serve as useful to them.
In my humble opinion - such a person has TOTALLY missed the boat as to Findagrave and its mission and possibilities.  
What You Can You Do? I, for one, like to see FINDAGRAVE as a way TO "GIVE BACK" to the genealogical community - and even a way we can "GIVE BACK" to our ancestors (in ensuring they are remembered).  Today Findagrave has become a great resource for members of the Yancey Family - with a vast majority of memorials, with photos and family  interlinks - - BUT it only became this way - because in the past - people looked past the deficiencies of the system - and rather looked at the OPPORTUNITIES and POTENTIAL. Many Yancey researchers have actually acted conversely to the example I just shared - and actually FIND GREAT SATISFACTION in looking  for families that are not yet entered into Findagrave - or maybe focus on entire cemeteries that seem to have been missed by Findagrave submitters - and make it a goal to work toward - entering into the system -  these who currently lacking records in the system.
THESE people are looing at how they can GIVE to this system ( and in turn GIVE to the genealogical /family community) and not just be a CONSUMER of genealogical information.  I wish more people would have this type of attitude.
What a better world we would live in - if everyone thought and acted in terms of "giving" instead of just "receiving" - in all aspects of life - including our genealogical research.

ANYONE can be a positive force in making FINDAGRAVE a better system.
Many people mistakenly assume that only people who photograph graves are allowed to create memorials in Findagrave. This is so far from the truth. Even if a person was someone who was restricted to their own home - due to disability or some other condition - and rarely gets out - can actively take a role in making Findagrave a great site.  IN fact in my mind - it is a wonderful tool for people who are home bound - or limited in their activities - and can be a great therapeutic tool in helping people find purpose in day to day tasks.

For a list of possible items that someone even with little technical skills - can do to help Findagrave become even a better system - see the bottom of this page.
Actions showing our application of terms like TACT, RESPECT, PATIENCE, and MANNERS (including GRATITUDE)  can go a VERY LONG way in your collaborative work with others. There will be various cases where you will be tempted to just jump in and tell someone of what you feel is an error, mistake or flaw in the memorial page they admin. MY SUGGESTION is to take a deep breath, forget about that for a few days - and FIRST send a message thanking the person for creating the memorial - and maybe share with them briefly your connection to the deceased. There will always be time to point out ways to improve the memorial. BUT the path will flow so much more smoothly - if you start out on the right foot - - and way too many times people just want to point out a flaw - and in so doing put someone on the defensive.  I, personally, have been amazed how much I have been able to accomplish simply by how I carefully worded my initial communications to others in the Findagrave network.
What You Can Do? The PERSPECTIVE That Findagrave users have toward the system can really be a NIGHT and DAY difference as to what Findagrave is or becomes - especially for a group of related families, their memorials, and those who take interest in such memorials. It bothers me a bit when people simply look at Findagrave as they do other on line service - such as - that of a service that either provides or doesn't provide information about specific family/genealogical information.   So for example, the person who logs onto Findagrave and looks for a few graves of family members, doesn't find them or maybe sees that an entire cemetery is pretty much missing, and so in turn quits using Findagrave because it didn't serve as useful to them - in my humble opinion - such a person has TOTALLY missed the boat as to Findagrave and its mission and possibilities.  
TOPIC: FINDAGRAVE IS NOT A FAMLY TREE SYSTEM (LIKE FTM OR PAF ETC.) - Don't expect it to act like it is.
FINDAGRAVE is first and foremost an on line database of GRAVE sites.  As a grave database - it also allows for uploading of photos of grave markers, photos of the deceased, and supplemental material related to the deceased (such as a short biography or eulogy).

BUT because it is not (and does not try to be) a Family Tree system - you will note that children
or parents of the deceased may not always have a linking entry on a memorial page. One doesn't just
"add a child record" because a person is a child of the main entry.  A person gets entered into the
Findagrave system in the first place - first and foremost - because of a GRAVE site - usually one linked to a specific cemetery and location. Now it is true that links between Findagrave memorials can be made - between parent and child and husband and wife.  BUT THIS is secondary to what got the record into the system in the first place and is more "icing on the cake" - then it is a core feature of the system.
Don't expect to see links to parents or children - if there memorial is not in first in the system (implying that their burial location is known - and that they are deceased in the first place).

Findagrave was never meant to or designed to compete with family tree programs like FTM, Roots Magic, PAF etc.  Its not "one or the other".  Rather,  it is two things that can compliment each other.  
Now of course if a known grave site exists for a person who is not yet in Findagrave - it can be entered into Findagrave as a memorial page and linked to other family members already in the system - - but they key initial "trigger" is the known existence of  the burial site (or cremation etc.,) - and NOT just the fact that person X was a child of Person Z.
What You Can Do? WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MAKE FINDAGRAVE EVEN BETTER?  When you see that a specific memorial is not linked to Parent or child - look for the specific memorial sites for these related family members.  If they exist - take note of the memorial Id number of the parent/spouse in the relationship - and send a message to the  admin of the CHILD/SPOUSE in question - and provide them the number needed for linking the memorial. Note that a link between parent and child - is only done from the CHILD record and not the parent. If a certain family of memorials has many links - its because someone like YOU or ME - has taken the time to provide the links to the administrator.
TOPIC: DONT GET "RILED UP" with the misleading indicators on Findagrave that may say that person X is only a "half sibling" of who YOU know to be a full sibling.  Findagrave has an annoying quirk that often displays this misleading/erroneous statement.  If you know this to be an error - the cause of it is usually simply the fact that one/many of the children are only linked to one of the parents and not both parents (as they should be).  
What You Can Do: Ensure that each child is linked to BOTH parents.  If they are not- bring this to the attention of the memorial admin through a submitted edit (not just an email)   (DONT assume (erroneously) that somehow the admin explicitly marked a child or sibling as a "half sibling"). 
Just help ensure that from each child memorial - both parents are linked correctly - through edit submissions.  If you have problems - let me know and I'll be glad to help you resolve this issue.
FINDAGRAVE is a collaborative and  "crowd sourced"  system with millions of users. Few of those users will have the exact same way of thinking about "how things should be" as you do.   Even though Findagrave does have published policies and procedures - there is wide room for a difference of opinion. You don't have the control you have when you use a system like FTM or PAF on your local PC. Respect the rights of the admin of each memorial page - and let it be "ok" that someone has a difference of opinion.
IF you feel that something is just blatantly disregarding Findagrave "rules"  and blatantly unethical -  - and after you've had plenty  of time to think it over - consider contacting Findagrave support - but let these cases be few and far between.  Try to work together and not in conflict with the other collaborative users.
As you find a specific memorial of interest - ask yourself the following questions:
Is there a photo of the grave marker posted?  Is the memorial linked/assigned to a specific cemetery?
Do the Dates and places make sense?  Is the memorial linked to other family members
The simple existence of a memorial for a deceased person - should NOT be reason for assumption that the information is totally accurate that is posted.
What You Can Do:? If no photo is currently posted - click the "Request Photo" button and request one.  If you feel dates or places or other information is incorrectly recorded - consider submitting an "EDIT" to the memorial.  In communications with the Admin - be careful not to put them in defensive mode - simply by focusing on that which you think is wrong - and not acknowledging and pointing out that which is good and positive.
If the memorial is not linked to a specific cemetery - see what can be done to determine the correct cemetery.
If you have biographical info about the deceased - share such info with the admin.
Find ways to positively work with the admin to gather further details and info - to act as "support" for the information that is recorded on the memorial. USE TACT in pointing out lack of supporting evidence - but rather look for ways that YOU can be a tool in gathering this supporting evidence.

If you know of cases where you feel the memorial is just blatantly wrong and misleading - please contact me and I may be able to provide you with some tips in getting it corrected. 
TOPIC: DATA QUALITY - It’s a Mixed Bag
My own experience is the data quality (across the board)  is that it is above average  but for specific cemeteries can be low quality.  It is definitely a mixed bag - with CLEAR room for improvement.
But its all in the attitude of the user that makes a world of difference.   One reason for poor data quality in some cemeteries is that very large amounts of records were BATCH submitted (through a systematic / programmatic process) that was very much prone to errors.
Other cases of cemeteries show very high data quality - often because a group effort was made to really focus on a one by one approach and the information was based on an actual photograph or viewing of the grave marker.
What can YOU do? Some people have an experience with poor data quality from a given cemetery - especially where large amounts of data were uploaded in batch without a one by one human reviewer and form a source that was filled with a large amount of bad data. Some times people take the approach "I don’t want to be part of this mess".
BUT frankly I think there can be a much more productive and better long term attitude.
One could also now take the approach "Now that these thousands of records are in the online  system - now there are virtually hundreds or thousands of users that can use the on line facility (across the world) in helping to collectively use the magic of "crowd sourcing" to correct these records - in what CAN be a potentially short period of time.
One of the most important things one can do is to submit "photo requests" - and hundreds of volunteers often stand ready to go and take photos of the grave markers - then in turn  - people can compare the uploaded grave photo to the data that was uploaded - and see what errors need to be corrected.
With the right attitude - a cemetery can go from poor quality high h quality data on Findagrave - in a rather short amount of time.  Again it depends on people wanting to be part of the solution and not just reacting to the imperfections.   This has been our approach for the Yancey records on Findagrave - and I think it has made a world of difference. 
TOPIC: NOT ALL FINDAGRAVE MEMORIAL "ADMINS" ARE CREATED EQUAL.  (those who are responsible for updates to an individual  memorial page)
You will find a wide range of different personalities and styles among Findagrave Memorial Admins.
From one  end of coming across as a rather rude - to the other end of being totally friendly and cooperative.
This is a collaborative system - and among the many thousands of users  - you will find  just about everything.
Don't let one sole experience affect your overall experience with Findagrave.
You will find that many "admins" at Findagrave can be categorized into different "camps" or admin-styles.
And you will note that you can often figure this out - by looking at their "profile page"

CLICK HERE - to see the profile of an admin who seems very friendly and easy to work with
CLICK HERE - to see the profile of someone who seems to be of the type that makes sure everything is precisely according to the Letter of the Law
CLICK HERE - to see a typical "grave walker" type admin - that is mainly the admin because they took photos - not because they are family - this one seems to be friendly to transfer to family.
CLICK HERE - to see people who have uploaded massive amounts of grave records (often through a "semi automated" batch process")  This type often feel they have so many memorials that they often don't have time for more than a terse response if any.
CLICK HERE - to see someone who has a large number  of memorials - but seems to want to keep most of them to herself - except from requests from close direct descendants.

CLICK HERE - to see someone who really wants to emphasize the volunteer nature of Findagrave

CLICK HERE - to see someone frank feelings about how things work on Findagrave
What You Can Do? Before you contact a memorial admin on any issues - its almost always a good idea to take a look at their profile - to get a general ides as to their "operating style"  - you will then know much better how to customize your approach to  this admin - and be more successful in your goals / intent.
The vast majority of Findagrave memorial admins - are such - SIMPLY BECAUSE they have an "avocation" or hobby of either photographing grave sites - or uploading grave site information without photos from cemetery records to the Findagrave system. Most admins are NOT family of the deceased.
THUS if  you "play your cards right" - and it you use tact, foresight and planning  - - if it is your desire - you can OFTEN  get the current admin to transfer the memorial to you - EVEN IF you may not fall within the strict arbitrational rules used when two people both want to be the memorial admin.
What You Can Do? IF you are interested in possibly taking over as the "admin" of a Findagrave memorial - (especially if they are some sort of family connection - but even if they are not a direct ancestor) - - may I suggest you simply first send a brief notice to the admin - and THANK THEM for creating the memorial, share with them briefly what your connection is to the deceased, and maybe share some little info you know about the deceased with the admin.
 DO NOT just jump in on your initial contact with the current administrator by asking "ARE YOU FAMILY of the deceased?" .   People will perceive that you are jockeying for position in a  "memorial take over"?  First just thank them, say something nice, and share some comment about the deceased and see how they respond - most often it will be positive if you take this approach.
What You Can Do: The most common reason for this - is NOT that the current admin is intentionally ignoring your email/messages.
The most common reason, is simply that the email on file for the admin is no longer active and is not getting your email.
If after a couple attempts at contact - no response is obtained from the user - consider sending an email to the Findagrave support team - and let them know - and even asking them to make updates to the memorial on your behalf that you feel need to be made - or even asking that the memorial be transferred to YOU as family (if that be the case) .   If you "play your cards well" and use tact, patience and respect - you may be surprised how many memorials that once were assigned to totally inactive administrators - can be turned over to YOU as the new administrator.
PLEASE feel free to share with me details about specific cases - and I can suggests differing methods of action.

ALSO realize that even if you cant make contact with the administrator - you can STILL submit edits to the specific memorial page.
AND IF The administrator doesn't take action - such changes will be made to the memorial after a period of 30 days of inaction.
Personally I have made various updates to memorials - - even if I never was able to make contact with the administrator. - via submitted edits to the page.

Some Common Misconceptions about Findagrave: