PROVO, Utah – May 26, 2011 – Memorial Day is coming soon, and AppTime (http://www.apptime.com), the group behind the family history app MobileTree (http://www.mobiletree.me), has a new project they’re thrilled to share. It’s called BillionGraves.com, it’s as ambitious a project as the word “billion” makes it sound, and they want you to take it with you to the cemetery this Memorial Day.
“It’s a huge opportunity for everyone in family history,” says Rob Moncur, the head developer for the BillionGraves.com website. “We want people from all over the world to be able work together and pool resources so everyone can find the ancestors they’re looking for.”
BillionGraves.com aims to be the largest repository of headstone records, images, and locations in the world. This will give family historians access to previously undocumented information that can further their genealogical research. The site is built with these researchers in mind, and its structure is inherently collaborative. The first step in the BillionGraves process is to have iPhone users download the BillionGraves camera app and take it with them to local cemeteries—hopefully at times when they would already be going, like on Memorial Day. Those people snap quick pictures of the cemetery’s headstones, and the app uploads the photos to BillionGraves.com. The photos are tagged using the iPhone’s location services so the exact location of each grave is recorded.
Once the photos are on BillionGraves.com, anyone with a BillionGraves account—whether they have an iPhone or not—can transcribe the records on the headstones and make them easily searchable. Then anyone can search for their ancestors and find not only the information recorded on headstones, but also see the headstones and the exact locations of ancestors’ final resting places. Those records, formerly undocumented and hard to access, open up to family historians worldwide.
“This is something anyone in the world can access and participate in,” says Curtis Tirrell, AppTime’s CEO. “Everyone has unique access to their local cemeteries. You have access to someone’s ancestor, access they may not be able to get alone. We’re creating a way for everyone to help other family history researchers and remove problems of distance.”
The BillionGraves crew is excited about the prospects for BillionGraves.com, but they all know that they need the family history community to back them in their endeavor.
“We don’t know where all the cemeteries in the world are,” says Moncur. “There are cemeteries that aren’t plotted on any maps, and we can’t go out and find those. But people know where they are. All those people need to do is let us know and snap as many pictures as they can. We want to make that process simple and easy, which is why we’re releasing the app and launching the website right before Memorial Day. Lots of people will be going to cemeteries anyway. We just want them to do a little something extra while they’re telling stories about great-grandpa, and that extra will help people all over the place.”
To learn more about the BillionGraves.com project and what you can do to help, visit http://BillionGraves.com or http://billiongraves.blogspot.com (the project’s blog) and, if you have an iPhone, download the BillionGraves Camera app. The app is free May 25-June 1. After that it will cost $1.99 to ensure only responsible users download it.