Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why WikiTree's Cemeteries Project is a Good Use of Time

My usual disclaimer: I work for, but this is my personal genealogy blog. I am not paid to blog here and my opinions do not necessarily reflect "official WikiTree opinions" or anything like that. This is just Lianne talking.

So, some WikiTreers (including myself) recently started up the Global Cemeteries Project, which grew out of WikiTree team member Paul Bech's Cemeteries of Australia Project. I am BEYOND EXCITED about this project, and will later write a blog post all about how much I love it. But for now, I wanted to write about the reaction to it.

A lot of people share my excitement. Enough people that I think this project is going to grow and become something wonderful. But what I find interesting is that the negative (or maybe not negative but simply uncertain) reactions all seem to be taking the exact same form:

Aren't you just reinventing the wheel? Find a Grave already does this.

First, let me just say that if you said something like this, don't worry: I'm not angrily replying to your comment. I'm writing this because a whole bunch of people said the exact same thing and I find it interesting. Because I disagree with it in literally every way. Let's break it down.

1) Having info in only one place is bad.

We all know this. That's why geneabloggers are always writing about having backups. Not to mention, aside from crashing, sites can shut down. While I like Find a Grave and hope it sticks around, let's face it: it's owned by Ancestry, and it's free. That has not historically been a great combination.

But my point here is that just because there's one site that has cemeteries and tombstones on it doesn't mean there shouldn't be another one. Which brings me to...

2) There's already more than one.

I don't understand the implication that Find a Grave has some kind of monopoly and we'd be crazy to "compete" with it. Isn't BillionGraves kind of huge? Not to mention country-specific ones, like Canada GenWeb's Cemetery Project, which is my personal favourite site for looking up cemeteries in Canada, as it's by far the most complete in my experience. So, obviously, this town is more than big enough for the two of us.

3) Find a Grave is not "international".

People always argue with me on this one, because technically Find a Grave is international. But it isn't really. For example, let's say I want to browse for a cemetery in a certain location. I have no clue what it's name is. From the cemetery search page there are options to "browse by US county" or "browse by non-US country". (There's your first big hint, by the way.) So I click the second link, and select Canada from the dropdown list. Surprise, surprise, there are too many cemeteries in Canada to list on one page so the query simply fails.

Simply put, any site that lets you drill down to the county in the US, but only the country elsewhere is not international. At all.

4) The Cemeteries Project directly contributes to WikiTree's mission.

This is the most important reason. We want to eventually have a profile for everyone, right? Presumably including everyone who has a tombstone in any cemetery. And a good, complete profile would ideally have a picture of that person's tombstone on it. So, really, the Cemeteries project is just doing what we normally do on WikiTree, but from a slightly different angle: starting with the source and creating profiles from it, instead of the other way around. Which, since it only creates profiles with at least one good quality source (the tombstone), is really a pretty good way of going about contributing to the tree.

So, I hope you'll consider checking out WikiTree's Global Cemeteries Project! Now, I'm off to go transcribe some more tombstone photos.


  1. My wife's family has a long line of Canadians from Jacob Countryman the Loyalist. I will be looming forward to seeing the new categories. Now I won't need to create them. I have dome from the Buffalo, NY area that I will have to look at to make sure they match the same setup.

  2. Thank you for this explanation and for the tip about the Canada GenWeb Cemetery Project, too.

  3. I'am looking forward when wikitree will be international, now it it just English centric. Bud recently allowed users with non english characters in the id to export GEDCOM so there is a hope :) For now your point 3 is no valid :(

    1. Thanks for commenting! This project just started, literally about a week ago. So the countries represented are those that people right away stepped up to participate in. It's harder for us to reach out to people who don't speak English, but anyone can participate in this project in any country! (In fact, we already have someone from France participating!)

      I, too, look forward to the day when WikiTree's interface is available in other languages, but in the meantime, it does support characters from other alphabets! So WikiTree pages can be written in any language.

      I hope you'll consider participating! If you have any questions about creating a project in a language other than English, I'd be happy to help. I can be reached at lianne - at - wikitree - dot - com.

  4. Lianne,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  5. I agree with everything you said, Lianne. I just became a Wikitree Cemeterist in March, 2015, I am absolutely addicted to it! I have started 4 or 5 Cemetery free space pages, and added 1000+ grave photos and profiles. I really enjoy researching the people and connecting them to others in the cemeteries. Great project! I wrote an article on my web site about becoming a cemeterist too, as well as one about Wikitree in general.