July 29, 2022
For many years Find a Grave was one of my favorite websites. I used it frequently to look up where my ancestors were buried. I broke down many a brick wall by finding out that an ancestor was buried in a location I’d never considered before. In addition, I spent hours adding memorials for my family and making sure that the connections between generations were complete so that memorials would be more useful for other searchers.
I even volunteered to work on a DAR project to photograph all the headstones in our local historic cemetery. We then posted the pictures of the thousands of graves on Find a Grave. It was a multi-year labor of love to help other genealogists.
I loved what Find a Grave did. Not anymore. My disillusionment with Find a Grave started several years ago when my sister passed away. She was a genealogist and a dedicated volunteer for Find a Grave. She researched and made memorials for our large, extended family. She volunteered to take photos of graves and made innumerable trips to local cemeteries to do so.
When she passed away, I knew she would have wanted a monument of her own. I felt it was one last thing I could do for her. Only a few days after her funeral, I decided to make her memorial. Someone else had already done so. They’d even included a photo of her, one that I never liked and hadn’t planned to use. I felt the Find a Grave poster had usurped something I dearly wanted to do for my sister.
When I wrote the volunteer and expressed my disappointment, she was cavalier about the whole thing. She said if she hadn’t done it, someone else would have. Basically, she told me to get over it and asked why it was a big deal. The big deal was that it was MY sister, and the poster was a stranger. She had no connection of any kind and hadn’t even known my sister.
I’ve learned that Find a Grave incentivizes volunteers to post as many memorials as possible and gives them recognition for doing so. Apparently, there are folks who do nothing but hunch over their computer waiting for news of deaths to show up so that they can make memorials. Some of them have made thousands and thousands of them.
Immediately after the recent Texas elementary school shooting, some of the Find a Grave ghouls made memorials for the massacred children, even before news of some of the deaths was officially confirmed. For many genealogists, this was the last straw, and they have begun petitioning Ancestry, who owns Find a Grave, to require non-family members to observe a decent waiting period before they make memorials for the recently deceased. So far, Ancestry has expressed sympathy but has done nothing.
Several years ago, I decided I would no longer volunteer for Find a Grave. Even though I like the information that’s available on Find a Grave, I don’t use them when I’m researching now. I know that these puny attempts are pointless in the big scheme of things. But, until Find a Grave changes their policies, I just can’t use the website. I tell other people exactly why in classes and help sessions, too.
Find a Grave has always had a good reputation for being a helpful, free source of genealogical information. I don’t think they deserve it now. I can’t force them to change, but maybe if enough of us quit using them, Ancestry will see the light. No one should have to see a memorial for a beloved family member treated as a competition.