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HeadstoneHunter.com

by Steve Paul Johnson, April 7, 2000

The HeadstoneHunter brings together genealogists wishing to obtain photographs of ancestors' tombstones, and volunteer photographers willing to travel to cemeteries.

Obtaining a photograph of an ancestor's grave is often a common task in assembling a genealogy, both because the tombstone may contain useful information, and because seeing the grave is perhaps the closest one can get to "meeting" their ancestors. HeadstoneHunter.com is a new website created to join those in need of obtaining a photograph with those who are willing to take the photograph.

The site, which just recently debuted on April 5, 2000, is the creation of Lee Freeman and a partner. "The idea came about from watching my wife work on genealogy research projects - looking for genealogy documentation", says Freeman. "There are usually available means to obtain records, such as wills, birth certificates, death certificates, obits, marriage licenses, etc., but the mechanics of trying to obtain information from a cemetery were difficult".

Thus, HeadstoneHunter.com was born out of the need to help genealogists obtain cemetery information.

People helping people is exactly what Freeman saw among genealogists on the Internet, and chose to channel that quality into obtaining cemetery records. Says Freeman, "The feeling was that the 'Internet Genealogy Community' is fairly accustomed to responding to requests for help from other genealogists on the net, so why not create a site that caters to individuals that (a) are searching for headstone information and (b) those that are able to do some leg work. "

Screenshot of the Headstone Request database. Click to enlarge.

The site uses a database of "Headstone Requests". Anyone who is in need of a cemetery record can add a request to the database. Volunteers who are willing to do the research will browse the database, select a request, and begin the work. When the volunteer is able to capture a photograph of the desired tombstone, he or she contacts the person who submitted the request.

Headstone requests are submitted using an online form. The form asks for basic information such as the decedent's name, dates of birth and death, the name and location of the cemetery (if known), and a comment about the request.

When volunteers browse the database, they will see a listing of requests sorted geographically by country, state, and city, and the date the request was made. Volunteers can click a request to view the details.

Screenshot of the details of a Headstone Request. Click to enlarge.

In addition to posting a request to the database, one can browse a list of volunteers and contact them directly. The list is also sorted geographically by country, state, and city. Clicking a record will display the details of that volunteer.

Anyone can become a volunteer by filling out an online form. You are asked to enter the geographic location that you are willing to travel, your e-mail address, and some comments.

In addition, HeadstoneHunter.com offers a page on tombstone symbolism along with their meanings. In some cases, photographs of the symbols are provided. There is also a page providing photography tips.

HeadstoneHunter.com is actually quite similar to Cemetery Photos. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that with HeadstoneHunter.com, people submit requests into a database, whereas with Cemetery Photos, people submit requests to a mailing list. The two sites both allow people to view a list of vounteers to contact directly.

Being that it debuted just this week, only a handful of requests and volunteers have been recorded. However, the numbers should pick up quickly as people are always in need of tombstone photographs. HeadstoneHunter.com appears to be an excellent place for genealogists and volunteers to interact. Says Freeman, "That was the idea behind the site -- bring two groups of individuals together that could help each other out. Make it simple, and make it free."

- Steve Paul Johnson

Steve is the editor of The Cemetery Column, and is webmaster of Cemetery Records Online.

Visit HeadstoneHunter.com at [http://www.headstonehunter.com]

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