Events and WebinarsFamily HistoryPro Bono Projects We’re Halfway to Digitizing Every Cemetery in Israel By Esther September 18, 2016 Share Share Copy Link 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. The MyHeritage team at Segula Cemetery (click to zoom). 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. We are creating a database of millions of indexed gravestone records, ensuring the preservation of this vital information. The database is available for family historians and genealogists and searchable online for free. Some interesting gravestones that we photographed in the Segula Cemetery in Petah Tikva, Israel. As we announced at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference in July 2015, we have set a goal to complete photographing and indexing all of the more than 1000 cemeteries in Israel by the end of 2017. We have recruited a group of enthusiastic volunteers to help us. We are organizing the effort, and also actively participating and doing the majority of the work. To date, we have completed 50% of this milestone, and we’re on schedule to complete our goal by the end of 2017. We have: Completed photographing the four largest cemeteries, and dozens of smaller cemeteries, in Israel. Taken approximately 1.3 million photos, and are adding 5,000 photos every day. Indexed more than half of the photos we’ve taken. Hired five full-time employees and 60 part-time students at our expense to help advance the project. Assembled a group of over 250 volunteers including users, Israel Genealogical Society (IGS) and Israel Genealogical Research Association (IGRA) members, family historians, genealogists and hobbyists from all over the country. Gilad Japhet, MyHeritage Founder, and CEO, briefing a group of volunteers before digitizing Israel's largest cemetery, the Holon cemetery in central Israel. How can you help? Preserving cemeteries online is a tremendously important project which we are committed to carrying out worldwide. We invite you to join our initiative and help us digitize the cemeteries of the world, together. Everyone can help, by photographing some cemeteries in his/her area, or by transcribing gravestone photos that others have taken. Together, we can do it! We warmly invite you to participate.