Find a Grave is a relatively new site for me. When searching Ancestry.com, the site would popup in the search and lead to another website. The website would display graveyard information about the person I was researching and quite possibly a corresponding headstone. I would blindly add the gravesite to my ancestor’s page and move on. I didn't quite get it but thought it was really cool.
I don't know when it changed but suddenly, like most of my genealogical research, it hit me that there was more to Find A Grave than I realized. The website is not flashy. Its plain look threw me off and the features don't come with bells, lights, and whistles. However, I'm not complaining because I discovered advantages I never expected.
The format is straight forward. Fill in the information and press search. The trick is to put in enough information to get close to the person you are searching for but not more than was posted on the site. For example, I typed in William Ogden Rhea.
This is the message I got:
Grave Search Results
Sorry, there are no records in the Find A Grave database matching your query.
Well, at least the system is polite. So I played with it and found that if I put in “Rhea”, added the state, and omitted the William Ogden, there were 16 results. From there, it was easy to find my grandfather. With those results, I could also see my grandmother.
Wait, I am getting ahead of myself.
Martha Jane McColloam is my great grandmother. She is my topic for the Family History Writing Challenge in February 2013. Lynn from “The Armchair Genealogist” does this every year. I have spent weeks getting ready.
When I found Martha’s headstone I was delighted. It confirmed birth and death in a very concrete way. However, buried with her was a L. V. McColloam and a link to that page. Scrolling over to her page, I saw it was assigned to a Lillie McColloam. I knew that wasn’t right. Lillie married Nelson Snodgrass. I also knew that Martha’s daughter Luvena never married and died young. Sure enough, the dates I had for her matched the headstone.
On the Find a Grave page, there is a tab called edit. Clicking on the tab takes you to a form where you can correct information, add a bio or add other information for others searching for that person. Corrections were completed the next day.
Curious, I wondered who got the form so I starting reading the forum. I found that mostly volunteers maintain Find A Grave. I also found that it is possible to request a marker photo if there is not one on the page. Given the new-found knowledge, I tried another family and asked for the photos of my husband’s biological grandparents graves. The next day I received an email from the person who was going to take the pictures. She had questions about the family who makes up 90% of the cemetery. We had a very long conversation. I added her as a guest on my Ancestry.com to aid her in identifying many of the graves with markings that aren’t clear anymore. It was very beneficial for both of us and we still correspond.
Back to the Rhea’s…the pictures of the markers were available almost immediately. They came with a message. Was the other two Rhea’s part of the same family? I didn’t realize my aunt and uncle were buried there too. I looked them up on Find A Grave but there were no pages for them. That’s when I learned I could add people if the cemetery is known. I completed the bio and the links and then requested the photos. I had always assumed that if they weren’t there, they didn’t exist. Now I know better.
I will admit that there is more for me to learn but giving back is big on my list. I am a new volunteer and take photos at my local cemeteries. If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, I will be out taking photos of the headstones in my queue.