Monday, February 28, 2011

Find A Grave Fans - Your Ancestors are Taking a Break, Part 1 is a website dedicated to creating a virtual space for real cemeteries. Volunteers can create memorials for specific gravestones and even upload photos of the actual gravestones. This is a really nice feature for genealogists who are researching their ancestors and don't live close enough to visit in person. What's even better is that descendants can request to have photos taken by volunteers. I happen to be a volunteer who goes out and photographs stones on occasion.

The United States is a very large country. I think that some folks in other parts of the country haven't realized what a snowy winter we've had here in New England.

So, if you been wondering why all those photo requests you've been sending out have gone unanswered it because your ancestors are taking a break.

They decided to let their descendants focus on documents for awhile instead of gravestones. Most gravestones in my region (Norfolk County, Massachusetts) have been under three feet of snow most of the winter.

Earlier this month I went out and visited five cemeteries around the region. Most of them are inaccessible. Never-mind the gravestones being covered by snow, the cemeteries themselves are inaccessible. Many of the roads haven't been plowed. The ones that have are dangerously slippy due to ice.

Things have started to thaw a bit here in Massachusetts only to have two more dumps of snow in the last week.

Find a Grave fans, be patient, and check back in April!

Evergreen Cemetery, Medway Massachusetts

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An Easy Way to Find Gravestones Online

I was just reading a great blog post entitled "Another Google Alert Makes My Jaw Drop - Part 1" by Lisa Swanson Ellam over at The Faces of My Family blog.  Lisa encourages her readers to use Google Alerts to help find information on their ancestors.

Google Alerts are also a great way to find Gravestones on the internet.  The idea is that you tell Google Alerts what you are looking for.  When matching criteria appears on the internet Google Alerts will send you an email with the link.  It's that simple and saves you from having to do repetitive Google searches every week or month.

Here's what you need to do

First, go to Google Alerts.

Next you need to set up your search terms.  You'll want to do something like this:

name +death year
Ex. Samuel Ellis +1769

name +town
Ex. Samuel Ellis +Millis

name +death date +town
Ex. Samuel Ellis +1769 +Millis

The plus signs mean that the information following *must* be included in the search results.  Don't put the name in quotations (ie an exact search) just in case the gravestone uses a middle initial. I use the death date because that is the date mostly assured to be on a gravestone.  You may miss a gravestone if you use a birth date.  Use the town name if your target has a very common name.  Use the death date and town together in situations where the person has a common name and they live in a large city where there may be many people of that name.

Google Alerts will ask you to set some other parameters:

Type: You can choose tell Google Alerts where you want your information to come from - Blogs, News, etc.  I typically choose Everything.

How Often: Tell Google if you want alerts as it happens, once a day or once a week.

Volume: The choices are "Only the Best Results" or "All Results". I prefer All Results because I don't like to miss stuff.

Deliver to: This can go either to your email or to a Feed such as Google Reader.

Next press Create Alert and you are all done. You can always go back and tweak the Google Alert parameter settings if you like.

Now sit back and wait for your content to be delivered directly to you.  This is particularly good for finding content in places that you didn't know existed such as a blog or perhaps even a news story.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Samuel Ellis, Millis, MA - 1769

In Memory of Mr.
who Died August 14th,
in ye 71st year
of  his

Prospect Hill Cemetery, Millis, Massachusetts