Ancestor Gravesite Project
by Steve Paul Johnson, March 22, 2000
Photobases are increasingly becoming popular as they combine
photographic information with textual data. The Ancestor Gravesite
Project is among the first of such web sites to reach genealogists.
The Ancestor Gravesite Project [http://www.ancestorgraves.com]
is a web site where people can enter the name of someone who has
since passed away and view their tombstone or grave marker along
with identifying information, and the name of the cemetery. Photographs
and information are provided by visitors to the site. Access is
I visited the site and ran some test searches. I entered some common
surnames into their search engine and got back results very quickly.
The results show all the persons in the database with a matching
surname, along with the cemetery location and country.
I clicked on one of the names and the photograph and information
came up very quickly. The photographs are stored in JPEG format
and tend to range from 20K to 60K in file size, so they should load
in fast for most people. Information presented includes the name
and location of the cemetery, the tombstone inscription, and the
name and e-mail of the submitter.
In addition to searching by surname, the site allows you to filter
by state or country, which will become necessary when thousands
of records of the same surname are in the database. As of this writing,
the database contains just over 2,000 records with about 5 to 10
records being added each week.
People wishing to submit a photo can do so by filling out the submission
form. The form asks for the full name of the interred, along with
the name and location of the cemetery, military info, tombstone
inscription, and the submitter's name and e-mail. Once the information
is entered, a second page is displayed providing instructions on
how to send the photo. You are instructed to attach the photo to
an e-mail. You are also given a tracking number and asked to enter
the number into the subject line. I entered a record and photo for
Earl C. Kelso, a tombstone I found at Calico
Cemetery in California.
Photos are accepted for all cemeteries worldwide, though the form
limits you to the United States, Canada, Australia, and Germany.
The form also provides a drop-down list for the states and provinces,
and requires you to select from the list. Apparently other countries
will be added on a per-request basis.
The project started in August of 1999 by Sandy Landrum-Kelly. Prior
to then, she had maintained a book of tombstone photographs that
she collected from her years of cemetery visits and came up with
the idea of publishing those photos on the Internet so that others
can sort through them and find out if they are related to her. She
created the web site and her husband did all the back-end programming.
Since then, Sandy was able to obtain tombstone photos from her cousins
and added them to the site. Word of the web site spread around,
and people asked Sandy if she could publish their photos too.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Sandy and her husband are the sole owners
of the Ancestor Graves Project. Sandy designs the web site, edits
the photos, and enters the data, while her husband does all the
programming. Jim Elsenbeck at Fastlanta,
Inc. provided them with all tools they needed to get the site
up and running. The Project is not part of any other parent organization.
Before there was a submission form, the photos and information
were e-mailed to her. But the volume of information coming in was
increasing so fast that she had to come up with better way to handle
it. Replies Sandy, "At first everyone was just sending both data
and photos where I would then type in the gravesite information
and edit the grave photo. It was a good method at first, but we
soon realized that we would have to come up with a better way to
accommodate the increasing amount that we were getting. Since adding
the form, it has become much quicker for everyone."
The Project is also a "sister-site" to Cemetery
Photos. Paula Easton of Cemetery Photos learned of the web site
and contacted Sandy. The two web sites now cross promote each other's
services. Paula had received requests from her visitors to publish
actual photographs, while Sandy received requests to publish information
without photographs. They now refer these requests to one another.
Since it's inception, the Project has grown quickly. "Funny thing
was I was not prepared for all of the photos that started coming
my way after the word spread!" says Sandy. "It was overwhelming
at first, but I still wanted to make it work so I stuck to it, making
changes along the way to accommodate everyone who wanted to contribute."
The popularity of photobases (photograph databases) has been growing.
With diskspace getting cheaper by the month, it is becoming more
feasible to build databases that store hundreds of thousands of
photos. In February 2000, Genealogy.com jumped on the bandwagon
with its Virtual Cemetery, very much like the Ancestor Graves Project.
Other organizations are photographing census pages and making the
images available online.
When asked what plans she has for the Ancestor Graves Project,
Sandy replies, "To just keep our site available for researchers
and hopefully help them find a long lost ancestor and even some
living relatives. We enjoy feedback from visitors and it's their
suggestions and opinions that shape the web site. We want it to
be something that is going to be helpful to genealogists so if they
tell us that something needs to be done to make the site easier
to navigate we try to accommodate them. We originally had a message
board on the site when we first started, so we would like to make
that available again this year."
- Steve Paul Johnson
Steve is the editor of The Cemetery Column, and is webmaster
of Cemetery Records Online.
Visit the Ancestor Gravesite Project at [http://www.ancestorgraves.com]