We're happy to announce that we've completed 50% of our goal to digitize every cemetery in Israel — aiming to make it the first country in the world to have all of its gravestones preserved online and searchable, and we're making all of this data available on MyHeritage for free.
Cemeteries play a vital role in family history research and society in general. Most of the world's cemeteries have never been systematically documented nor has their information made available online. Also, age and exposure to the elements are rendering gravestones illegible, making this project even more urgent.
In 2014, we launched a global initiative with BillionGraves to digitally preserve the world’s cemeteries. The MyHeritage team even went out and digitized an entire cemetery, taking more than 50,000 photos in a single day.
When photographing and documenting gravestones using the excellent BillionGraves mobile application, the precise GPS coordinates of every gravestone are preserved. This makes it easy for others to locate and visit graves of family members and also allows volunteers to see which areas of a cemetery have already been photographed, avoiding duplication and maximizing productivity.
We have extended that original initiative, pledging to photograph all cemeteries and gravestones in Israel and to transcribe all the information on each and every gravestone.
As part of the global initiative we launched with BillionGraves earlier this year, the MyHeritage team recruited a group of enthusiastic volunteers to continue our efforts to digitize cemeteries.
After successfully digitizing a medium sized cemetery of historical significance earlier this year (see video), we decided to undertake our biggest challenge yet - to digitize Israel's largest cemetery - with over 200,000 graves. So earlier this week, we embarked on a one-of-a-kind project to photograph all headstones of the huge Holon cemetery in central Israel.
This was one of largest events of its kind ever organized - in the world!
The best aspect of the event was the true collaboration between MyHeritage and all leading genealogy organizations in Israel, in addition to MyHeritage power users. In total, some 120 people joined our initiative and participated, and approximately 150,000 gravestone photos were taken throughout the day! It was heart warming to see such collaboration among so many people who care about genealogy, from all ages, and all groups, working together to create an incredible resource that is free for all to use.
The day began at 8:30am - with MyHeritage employees and volunteers arriving at our offices - and ended at 6:30pm.
Ditch the flashlight this Halloween and take a trip through MyHeritage’s online graveyards.
We've found over 100,000 Freddy Kruegers, 6,000 Munster families and 5,000 Frankensteins in our vast database of over 5.5 billion historical records!
Have you tried out the Virtual Cemetery feature in Family Tree Builder?
The Virtual Cemetery is a place to memorialize your ancestors. It is automatically created whenever an uploaded media file is associated to an individual's burial fact.
Gravestones contain important information of relatives such as birth and death dates, names, spouses' information and more. The Virtual Cemetery feature is a great way to enrich your family tree with a wealth of information such as gravestone images linked to family tree profiles.
The Virtual Cemetery compiles all burial-related media, making it easy to access information from these important sources, without crowding other photo albums in Family Tree Builder. It is kept separate from regular photo albums, as it is just associated with burial facts. This way, you will not see cemetery photos when looking at your images of living people.
As part of our global initiative to digitize cemeteries, MyHeritage was contacted by a couple with an interesting idea that allowed them to embark on an international adventure.
Michael Kerr and his wife, Sabrina Rowe, decided to leave the comfort of their home, and bicycle across Europe, stopping to photograph entire cemeteries on the way. All the photos are being shared with the community for free on MyHeritage and BillionGraves.com.
We work hard to provide greater access to family history information and so were thrilled to be awarded the Presidential Citation at the FGS (Federation of Genealogical Societies) conference this past weekend, along with BillionGraves, for our partnership in promoting the preservation of international burial locations.
The Federation of Genealogical Societies was established in 1976 and represents more than 500 member genealogy and history societies, including over a half-million individual members. You can learn more about FGS in our genealogy society spotlight blog post.
Gravestones are a great resource for family history investigation and a useful tool to learn more about your ancestors. They provide detailed information such as names, dates of birth and death and often describe personality. However, natural wear and tear means that these important family history sources need to be preserved before it’s too late. Together, MyHeritage and BillionGraves launched a global initiative to digitize cemeteries and gravestones to preserve these gravestones by making them accessible for free online to millions to aid in their family history research.
Watch the video below to hear MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet explain the tremendous importance of this project and the value of gravestones for genealogy.
We recently hosted an online webinar on how to discover family history through gravestones. We were joined by two of our experts - US genealogy advisor Schelly Talalay Dardashti and chief genealogist Daniel Horowitz.
Schelly talked about the information that can be revealed about family via gravestones. Daniel discussed our recent partnership with BillionGraves and how to get involved in preserving cemeteries for future generations.
Did you miss it? Don't worry! Click on the video below to watch the full webinar.
Don’t forget to check our other webinars for even more genealogy tips to help make family history research easier.
Have ideas for other webinars? Let us know in the comments below.
Earlier this month, the employees of MyHeritage's Israel headquarters visited a cemetery to digitize gravestones using the BillionGraves app.
We documented over 70% of the entire cemetery, over 50,000 images of gravestones, and it was the single largest event of its kind ever held in Israel. Read more about the event here.
We're now releasing a video about this project with footage from our trip to the cemetery. It includes an explanation from MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet, who participated in the trip and who personally digitized some 1,000 gravestones.
He explains the tremendous importance of this global initiative and the value of gravestones for genealogy. Our generation has the necessary tools, and it's our responsibility to get the world's gravestones online before their inscriptions erode. It's a race against time. You can see how easy it is for anyone to get involved and help to preserve these important pieces of family history for future generations.
Watch the video below:
Schelly Talalay Dardashti, MyHeritage's US Genealogy Advisor, will demonstrate the information that can be revealed about your family via gravestones. Daniel Horowitz, MyHeritage’s Chief Genealogist, will join us to discuss our recent partnership with BillionGraves and how you can use their mobile app to help preserve cemeteries for future generations.
Register for free here: https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/261346007.
Date: Wednesday March 26, 2014.
1 PM CDT
2 PM EDT
6 PM GMT
(To find the time of the webinar for your location, use this Time Zone Converter.)
We look forward to seeing you!
Eighty MyHeritage employees from our headquarters in Israel arrived in full force early Sunday morning to the Segula Cemetery in Petah Tikva, Israel, to digitize gravestones using the BillionGraves mobile application. We felt it was important to practice this ourselves, before we call upon others to join us in this initiative. By gaining hands-on experience, we aimed to create best practices, improve the product and fine-tune methodologies for digitizing cemeteries all around the world in the most efficient manner.
So what brings a large group of young folks with smartphones to a cemetery? We recently announced a global initiative, together with BillionGraves, to digitally preserve the world’s cemeteries. It is important to digitize cemeteries because of the key role that gravestones play in family history and in society in general. Most of the world's cemeteries have never been systematically documented nor has their information made available online. In addition, age and exposure to the elements are rendering gravestones illegible, making this project even more urgent.