Review of BillionGraves.com – Part 2

When I posted the first part of my review of BillionGraves.com, I had not yet created an account. This is what happened when I registered and used the site.

Creating an account is free. It was a bit odd, however. I filled in the form (username, email address, and entered the password twice) and got a pop-up message that my registration was complete. I was then directed to the login screen. If I just created an account successfully, why do I have to go through a separate login process?

I logged in and chose the Transcribe tab. I was taken to a random image that needed to be transcribed.

Transcribing an image

Right away, I could see a problem. There is no link to a help screen. You might ask, “How hard can it be to transcribe a tombstone?” It’s harder than you might think. For example, if a stone has a woman’s maiden name and her married name, where do you put the maiden name? Does it go in the first name field or in the “family names” field? If a tombstone lists the age at death rather than stating the birthday, do you calculate the birthday and enter that or do you leave it blank?

Illegible tombstone

There is no way to mark an image as illegible. I would love to transcribe this little tombstone on the left, but there is no way it can be read.

Many of the tombstones that needed to be transcribed were obviously the reverse side of a tombstone. Which brings up another unfortunate shortcoming of Billion Graves: records can only have one image attached to them. They can have multiple people, but only one image.

I came across this image listed in Evergreen Cemetery in Springville, Utah:

Reverse of tombstone

Each name is listed in Billion Graves — but whose children are they? Not only do we miss out on who their mother is, but if we had found her record, we’d miss out on a wonderful list of her children.

Another drawback to having only one image per record is inability to have multiple views. Often on tombstones, the inscription is only legible when read close-up. However, it is good to have a photo of the entire tombstone for context. Yes, you can upload both photos and transcribe both of them, but are the two records connected? Unless someone notices that there are two identical records, it would be easy to look at one and not see the other.

One concern that I had in my first review was that the full record doesn’t show the name of the cemetery. I wondered if that was something that was available only when you logged in. No. Even after logging in, the full record still does not show the name of the cemetery.

Ok, so I’ve explored transcribing and I’ve looked at full records after logging in. What is the upload process like? I’d love to tell you, but I can’t. MAJOR FLAW with Billion Graves: You can only upload photos from your iPhone. What?!?! I spend hours in cemeteries. I go to cemeteries even when I know I don’t have relatives buried there. I go to cemeteries when I’m on vacation. I have more than one thousand tombstone photos sitting on my computer and I cannot upload any of them to Billion Graves.

I understand that the BillionGraves app is designed to allow people to upload their photos and automatically geotag them in the process. That’s cool. I like that concept. However, to completely disregard the contributions that non-iPhone users could make is extraordinarily short-sighted. Right now, not even Android users can upload via a BillionGraves app. Currently, unless you have an iPhone, you’re not going to add any images. BillionGraves reports that they are working on an Android version. But that still leaves out those who don’t take tombstone photos with smartphones.

I should be able to choose a cemetery, select “Upload image” and upload it from my computer or non-iPhone smartphone. It might not be geotagged, but it would be in the right cemetery and people would be able to access the image and the record.

I’m a long-time FindAGrave user and contributor, but there are things about the site that drive me batty. I had hoped that Billion Graves would give FindAGrave a run for its money. I think healthy competition is a good thing. Innovation tends to flow in a healthy competitive environment. I had hoped that Billion Graves would either force FindAGrave to make some improvements or would become the “go to” site for tombstone images. As it stands right now, Billion Graves is not the competition I had hoped it would be. Maybe they will be willing to listen to some constructive criticism.

18 thoughts on “Review of BillionGraves.com – Part 2

  1. Pingback: Review of BillionGraves.com « Amy's Genealogy, etc. Blog

  2. I have a new iPhone and hope to upload some photo to this site and I’ve transcribed a couple dozen headstones, but I agree with every one of your points and hope that BillionGraves.com pays attention and makes the necessary changes. Thank you for posting it so intelligently!

  3. While the idea is interesting I think that instead of a new site that this might be something that could have been incorporated with findagrave which has the format in such a way that answers reverse side, etc. I personally think that the quality of the photos with iphones is not the quality of digital cameras “yet” which is another drawback. & since I don’t use the iphone but have my camera with me 24/7 this is another drawback as you pointed out. As always good posts gal!

  4. Amy, I work with BillionGraves.com, and I can tell you our developers are very grateful for your review. Sometimes it’s hard for us to see the flaws when we’re caught up in the middle of the project. We’re already working on several of the issues you brought up.

    I wasn’t able to find your email address on this blog (perfectly understandable), but I was wondering if I could get in touch with you to run future developments by you. If you’re interested, please email me at kristy.stewart (at) billiongraves.com.

    • Kristy,

      Thank you so much for your reply. Being a developer myself, I know exactly what you mean about getting caught up in the project. I’m thankful that you and the BillionGraves team saw my comments as constructive criticism. That can be hard to do when you’re so “invested” in a project. I will send you an email shortly.

      Amy

    • Thanks for the heads-up on the Android app. I was at the American Library Association conference this past weekend and missed the news about it. I hope to have a chance to work with it this weekend. (I’m glad my phone is on the “Yes” list!)

  5. Amy, have you seen the new Restingspot app? Just saw it in a Legacy email. If so, how does it compare to Billion Graves?

    Thanks!

    • Greg,

      I have not had an opportunity to download the Resting Spot app yet. That is on the to-do list for this weekend. Look for a review coming soon!

  6. I was just told about Billion Graves and I went out and tried it, I took a camera along also as I went out 50 miles to work on a cemetery that had no images. I had major problems, if you don’t get a GPS 36.0 signal you are unable to get any pictures of the headstones. Since I had my camera along, I took the pictures of the headstones also. It was very disappointing and I notified Billion Graves of this issue and I also contacted my tech support to see if it had something to do with my phone and it did not. I am hoping that they get the cliches out of the system, because I think it will be a successful program and we can get a lot of work done, in the mean time I have posted information to Find A Grave also. One thing is for those of you who are taking pictures, you should go in after you download them and transcribe them. I have noticed we are getting lots of pictures but not many transcribe and if you have a clear view of the headstone from when you took the picture it is much easier, otherwise, if it is unreadable, then it gets deleted and all that work is done for nothing.

    Note: When transcribing, you can delete those that are ineligible, I have had several and either more research needs to be done and the person who does the research has to put all the information in for those that one can no longer read. It is very time consuming but well worth it.

    I am working on both websites and am willing to post all the information I have to others if requested.

    One thing that really bothers me is that I have 11,000 records from one cemetery and I can’t get them to answer me back on how I would put them on billion grave. They do need to be more prompt in returning emails.

  7. I think this billiongraves.com is the most shameful site I have ever come across!
    It’s frightening that random strangers can take photos of graves without the consent of the grave onwers families. I came across my daughter’s grave by chance on this site. I am so utterly angry that some ghoul is doing this. This is a private grave for my daughter to rest in peace and if I ever find out who took these photos and put them on this disgusting site, I’ll not be responsible for my actions
    We have a perfectly good system of registers of births deaths and marriages where if you really are trying to trace ancestors etc you will find info here.
    I deliberately left out my daughter’s DOB so no one could steal her identity.
    ALSO the information on her headstone was NOT her name by birth, so this info will lead to nowhere AND I’m sure there are many more graves stones with similar information.
    Get it straight – that particular grave is private, it belongs to me and my daughter’s privacy in death has been invaded.
    I also tried to contact this website by email and got a reply stating that I needed to give personal information before they would reply, NO CHANCE.
    The people taking these photos should be ashamed of themselves!

  8. Caution in subscribing to BillionGraves! (I hope I’m not out of line in writing this here. I subscribe to your newsletter and trust you).
    A good price tempted me to subscribe Feb.10th – immediately did some searching with no hits, and realized that this site is not for me, an 88 yr. old who is not going out to find graves (too late in learning that is the purpose of BillionGraves). On Feb. 11th I contacted their support to cancel my subscription and ask for a refund. I also found the place on the web site to “Manage Subscription” but there is no place there to leave a message. The response from support was extensive, and final. I did reply (attaching here) but have no hope of a refund.

    Subject: Re: BillionGraves Plus (Jean Bauder) – Priority Support
    Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2017 10:30:39 -0800
    From: Jean Bauder
    To: Priority Support

    Thank you for your quick response, but I certainly can’t recommend BillionGraves Plus – and I won’t! Would that you would be as above board making known your cancellation policy, as indicated in your email AFTER I enrolled. And for putting it in BOLD so that I now can’t miss the message.

    I understand that your department does not handle cancellations, but would you please pass along my great disappointment in your customer satisfaction for this 88 yr. old who realized she made a mistake within 24 hrs. of having subscribed.
    A wiser consumer, Jean Bauder

    “IF YOU HAVE NOT DONE THE FOLLOWING YOU WILL BE CHARGED YEARLY AFTER YOUR CURRENT SUBSCRIPTION RENEWS AND NO REFUND WILL BE ISSUED NOR ARE REFUNDS ISSUED AFTER ANY INITIAL PURCHASE

    NO EXCEPTIONS

    ALL SALES ARE FINAL”

    —————————————————————-

    On 2/13/2017 7:58 AM, Priority Support wrote:
    >
    > these in your first email. *
    > 3. The make and model of your mobile device. (If applicable)

  9. Hi Amy, Thank you for your review. I just started to try out Billiongraves.com on face book. I noticed while looking for my grandmother’s grave that is located in Daimondhead memorial that the graves listed didn’t show gran’s name? Checking the plot map I found that her section was not ‘uploaded’. This rang a bell as this particular cemetery is quite old but still active. I did note that images halted after a certain point many years ago. Thinking I would help out and go to the site the next time on that side of Honolulu. Tried to load the BG app on my Samsung (android) phone. They do have an app on the Google play site. BUT, the app asked me for a credit card #. Whats up? So checking online for a possible scam, I came across several that reported charges on unsuspecting customers. This sounds just like Credit Karma.com where you would give them a card number for a $1 charge but they charge you $21 later if you don’t cancel the ‘subscription’ you applied for in the initial set up. Of course no statement due is ever sent out, so you don’t find the charge(s) unless sifting through your charges to find why your account keeps getting debited.
    I just did the same search again today and didn’t even find the cemetery! It’s as if you continue to use this site that the results become limited. Odd as the more info you get the more you want, right?

    This seems to be a really cool site and idea. It would save people travel fare just to check on a grave site. Helping others find long lost parents, etc. seems to be a good cause. I accept all the ‘Ads’ and spin off links to genealogy sites as a way for this site to get sponsored. Volunteers should be able to earn credits for uploading headstones. But like all things, it comes down to money. BG should be a bit forthcoming and just state that additional information requires payment. With a caveat for refunds if inaccurate or wrong. Stores do take back items bought by mistake.

    I’ve been bitten by the Dan Brown and Steve Robinson Genealogy stories, which put me on the hunt for my grandparents whom died long before I was a twinkle in my father’s eye. Lot’s of drama I suspect with my family history. I don’t expect bloody encounters like those in the genealogy stories, but a grandma that had 13 kids? Oldest daughter doesn’t get married? Grandpa disappears? I have a feeling that when this hunt is done. Their drama will be stranger than fiction.

    Aloha, Mark

  10. Mark, Billiongraves is very glitchy and seems to be poorly supported. I suspect it is an ongoing beta-version as they seem to make changes on the fly which do not seem to have been tested. You actually do not have to pay to download the app. The app is free. I suspect its your Google Playstore account is the one asking for the credit-card details not BG. Just skip entering the credit card step and it will download. Many of the problems intitially identified in this blog have been rectified though I must say I find BG could still improve its help function and its support for users.

    I’ve found it great for locating the details on my family’s graves.
    Give it another go mate,
    Cheers
    Mark

  11. I just received an email that my membership has been renewed for the next year. I never received an email that it was running out OR how to cancel the subscription. I tried looking up graves ONCE and nothing showed up. This last email said my subscription was paid by MY paypal account. SORRY to say I don’t have a paypal account. I don’t want or need Billiongraves. Let me know what account you incorrectly had my NON-SUBSCRIPTION paid from and I will forward all the information to the BBB of Washington State along with the Attorney Generals office. I’ve read more blogs from people regarding what a sham this graveside is.

  12. I signed up for a BillionGraves Plus account and was somewhat satisfied with the results initially, but I was never able to import images into MyHeritage, which was the purpose of obtaining the account, even though I have premium accounts with both BillionGraves and MyHeritage and they claim to be affiliated services. I had to download the images one by one, rename them and add them indivually to each relative’s profile. Now they have made it impossible to even download the images. It just keeps getting worse and worse. I see no advantage whatsoever to having BillionGraves premium service and plan to terminate it. The intention by user’s for participating in the service to build a public archive of grave images, however it appears that their intention is to put all the information behind a pay-wall eventually, rather than provide a public service. Monetizing the public service of Boy Scouts; how low can you get?

    And even worse, when they eventually go out of business, all of that work will fade into the ether because they were too miserly to allow people to download any of it. What a waste.

  13. Hi Amy, It was great seeing you at the Ontario Genealogical Conference. To further your Canadian experience, did you know that there is a site called Canadian Headstones? It has been around for years and has recently been acquired by OGS.

  14. I signed up for Billion Graves last August 2017 but cancelled after one day because I didn’t like it. They acknowleged the cancellation but informed me I could not get a refund… which is fine. If they offered a trial subscription I could have avoided some of this.
    This August I received an email from them saying they’d renewed my subscription to Billion Grave PLUS~! I’m so frustrated. I can’t get any help with this. There is no place on their website to contact them. I saw a phone number on a post which gave a bad review – and that lady left a phone number. I called it and it just refers people to the website.
    I have asked PayPal to help me, but have not gotten a response yet.
    I just wanted to warn your readers to avoid this company at all costs… stick with Find A Grave.

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