Launches to Preserve Family History on Memorial Day

The following news release was received from my friend, Claire LeBeaux. Note that the App is for the iPhone at this time, but “a Droid version is in the works, just not this weekend.”

PROVO, Utah – May 26, 2011 – Memorial Day is coming soon, and AppTime (, the group behind the family history app MobileTree (, has a new project they’re thrilled to share. It’s called, 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 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.” 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 The photos are tagged using the iPhone’s location services so the exact location of each grave is recorded.

Once the photos are on, 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, 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 project and what you can do to help, visit or (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.

Author: Leland Meitzler

Leland K. Meitzler founded Heritage Quest in 1985, and has worked as Managing Editor of both Heritage Quest Magazine and The Genealogical Helper. He currently operates Family Roots Publishing Company (, writes daily at, writes the weekly Genealogy Newsline, conducts the annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour to the Family History Library, and speaks nationally, having given over 2000 lectures since 1983.

2 thoughts on “ Launches to Preserve Family History on Memorial Day”

  1. The slick interface of doesn’t overcome its shortcomings. Searching for a name doesn’t allow you to narrow by location or cemetery after you get a list of results. Imagine searching for the surname Smith and thinking you’re going to be able to narrow down the list by location. There’s only 9 Smiths on there now so for the time being it won’t be much of a problem. Trying to search for cemeteries in a particular county is not possible: all you can do is search for a particular cemetery name. I’m not really sure how that’s helpful. Shady Grove Cemetery, anyone?

    There are already a number of sites with cemetery records with and probably being the most widely known. I guess pretty pictures and a web 3.0 interface is all you need to reinvent the proverbial wheel. I’ll be sticking with Find-a-grave and I don’t see that changing.

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