Wednesday, September 15, 2010

FamilySearch Digging Up Cemeteries

FamilySearch is leading a genealogical community effort to develop technologies that leverage the power of the new FamilySearch (NFS) Tree.

Tim Cross, product manager at FamilySearch, showed three of those eye-popping new technologies at the recent BYU Family History Conference. Last time I talked about Community Reference Links. Today, I’ll show you another and next week I’ll wrap up with the third.

Cemetery Matching

At one time the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told its members not to include cemetery names in burial locations. It made it too hard for the Church to match duplicates.

The NFS Tree changes this. It is not only OK to enter a cemetery name, there are advantages to doing so. FamilySearch has been busy adding cemeteries to the standard location database in the NFS Tree. Currently it contains over 140,000. Specify a standard cemetery and the NFS Tree is able to exactly match the cemetery to identify all those buried there.

Cross showed a proof-of-concept or alpha release of “World Cemeteries” from Tree Seek, a product that taps into that capability to produce a directory of the world’s burials.

(What is an “alpha” release? Before a product is released to the general public, a “beta” release of the product is given to a few members of the public for testing purposes. Before “beta",” an “alpha” release is given to the developer’s own employees for internal testing. But I digress…)

World Cemeteries displays icons on a map indicating the number of cemeteries in a general area. The color of the icon indicates the number of cemeteries.

World Cemeteries Displays Colored Icons with Cemetery Counts
World Cemeteries Displays Colored Icons with Cemetery Counts

Click an icon to zoom in and center the map on that location.

Balloon with Cemetery Information 
Balloon with Cemetery Information

List of those in NFS who are buried in that cemeteryContinue to zoom until a cemetery of interest becomes visible. Click the cemetery to see a balloon with the name of the cemetery and links to resources. One link goes to a FamilySearch Wiki page appropriate for the cemetery. Another link goes to its Find-a-Grave page.

The first link, “FamilySearch Burials,” is the eye popping one.

Click on FamilySearch Burials (it requires an NFS account) and World Cemeteries queries the NFS Tree for a list of all those buried in the cemetery. I’ve shown an example to the right.

Click another link and World Cemeteries indicates which ones are your close relatives.

World Cemeteries also makes it easy to link this cemetery to your ancestors in the Tree. After you navigate to a cemetery, you can search for your ancestors and add the cemetery location to their burial information.

With a list of all the burials in a cemetery, it would be easy to add the standardized cemetery location to all of them. That would be a nice service project for a youth group, scouting unit, school, or genealogy society.

Cool stuff, isn’t it?

Imagine some future time when you get a moment to make an unplanned visit to a cemetery. You turn on your cell phone, click a button or two and your favorite FamilySearch-powered phone app digs up a list of your closest relatives interred in the cemetery. That’s something I can dig.


  1. Great post, nifty service. By the way you spelled "Tree Seeker" incorrectly, it's "TreeSeek".

  2. Dear Great,

    Oops. Thanks for the heads up. Got it fixed.

    -- Insider

  3. Your title: "FamilySearch Digging Up Cemeteries" is misleading and I believe could provide some ammo for our critics, if taken literally, thus creating yet another untruth about the Mormons that we will have to debunk.

    Perhaps you should try another title?

    Concerned FHC Director

  4. One fault I see in your example of a list of folks buried in a cemetery. It is alphabetized by the first name, rather than a surname. Hopefully that will get fixed before the final release.

  5. It is too bad that we don't allow all of the Australian cemetery and church records to be recognised by the place names and allowed to be inserted as locations and sources.There have been 3 sets of place names and now we end up with the 2010 version which does not allow the 1800-1900 areas to be seen.
    Still a work in progress changing every 90 days.
    But the duplication and combining will keep me busy for the next 2 years or so.


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