MyHeritage Completed Digitizing All of Israel’s Cemeteries!

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We’re very happy to announce that, after five years of dedicated efforts, we’ve completed our ambitious goal of digitizing every cemetery in Israel. It is now the first country in the world to have almost all of its gravestones preserved and searchable online, with images, locations, and fully transcribed records. We’ve put up all this content for free, too!

Background

Back in February 2014, we teamed up with BillionGraves to launch a global crowdsourcing initiative to digitally preserve the world’s cemeteries. It is essential to digitize cemeteries, by photographing the gravestones and transcribing them, because of the key role that gravestones play in family history. They provide vital information such as a person’s name, the names of close relatives and dates of birth and death. Sometimes they even describe the deceased’s character and personality. Most of the world’s cemeteries have never been systematically documented or made available online; MyHeritage and BillionGraves sought to change this.

Age and exposure to the elements are causing the gravestones to fade, rendering them illegible. It is becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to read them and know who has been buried there. This adds to the urgency of the project. Even as gravestones continue to wither away, we can ensure that the footprints of our ancestors do not.

Our generation is blessed with the necessary tools available, and so it is up to us to preserve this valuable information. BillionGraves is a unique application, available for both iOS and Android, which allows users to volunteer and photograph gravestones. Photographs are then transcribed by additional volunteers on the BillionGraves website, resulting in searchable digital data. Besides being very easy to use, BillionGraves automatically captures the exact GPS coordinates of every gravestone when photographed. This allows others to locate, visit or re-photograph any gravestone of interest and reduces duplication by allowing volunteers to focus on parts of cemeteries not handled before.

MyHeritage employees kickstarted the effort by first digitizing Segula Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Israel. In a single day, we took 73,000 photos in order to index them shortly afterwards. A few months later, we brought friends and genealogy organizations along with our employees to digitize Holon cemetery, the largest cemetery in Israel, with over 200,000 graves. It was one of the largest events of its kind ever organized – in the world!

At launch, MyHeritage Founder and CEO, Gilad Japhet, explained the importance of this work:

Project overview

Through our global initiative with BillionGraves, MyHeritage has referred 33,400 new volunteers to BillionGraves. Those users have taken 3.5 million photographs and contributed 3.2 million transcriptions.

In Israel specifically, we found it necessary to recruit full-time employees to complete the work. We hired 5-6 full-time photographers and several dozen transcribers, and have invested more than one million dollars on this important and time-sensitive project. All told, we photographed 638 cemeteries throughout Israel. 2.1 million photos were taken of 1.5 million gravestones, resulting in approximately 1.4 photos taken per grave. This kind of project is never 100% complete because there are constantly new burials, and we’ll need to develop a strategy for handling them in the future.

Notable gravestones

During our mission, we were honored to digitize the photographs of many notable individuals who had an enormous impact on historical events. Here are just two examples.

David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) was one of the primary founders of the State of Israel and its first Prime Minister.

Israeli singer, songwriter and composer Naomi Shemer (1930-2004) was commonly known as the “First Lady of Israeli Song.”

How to access the gravestone records

On SuperSearch, we’ve created a collection 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. The same data is also available on BillionGraves.com for free.

Join our initiative!

Preserving cemeteries is a significant project, which we’re committed to carrying out worldwide. We invite you to join our initiative by helping us digitize the cemeteries of the world. You can help by photographing gravestone in your area and transcribing your photos or those taken by other volunteers. We encourage MyHeritage users to contribute to the future of family history research and to help preserve their own family legacies, as well as the legacies of others.

Using the free BillionGraves mobile application, anyone can take photos and document gravestones. All gravestone photos are transcribed by volunteers using the BillionGraves app or website, and the records are then added to MyHeritage SuperSearch and BillionGraves — where they are made available to users for free. MyHeritage Record Matching technology automatically notifies users on MyHeritage and Geni whenever a gravestone has been added for one of their ancestors.

Conclusion

Completing the project of digitizing all of Israel’s cemeteries is a milestone worthy of celebration and a tribute to our commitment to preserving valuable family history information for future generations. We hope that this effort will help members of the global genealogy community discover their family history and the final resting place of their ancestors.

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  • Yohanan Loeffler


    March 4, 2019

    Hi, this is an amazing great project! Kol hakavod.
    Are all the graves online already? I am missing some graves from Newe Yam cemetery.
    regards

  • Pam


    March 5, 2019

    I prefer Find a Grave – I get almost no results when searching BG — perhaps that might change in time but Find a Grave is a wonderful collaborative Free service to researchers.

  • Andrew Fleming


    March 15, 2019

    About 20 years ago I found a record on line for the Christian Cemetery in Jerusalem for Maria Katharina Thiel d 1862 (born Grosssteinbeck) and some of her children, and my current search shows no result. I lost the details I had due to a hard disk crash. Has the Christian cemetemery been included?

    • Esther


      March 19, 2019

      Hi Andrew, It should have been.
      Best, Esther / MyHeritage Team

  • David Peters


    March 19, 2019

    What about Har Herzl military cemetery?
    I can’t find my brother-in-law.

    • Esther


      April 14, 2019

      Hi,

      It’s possible that some cemeteries were photographed a few years ago, before additional graves were added, or that some were left out.

      Best,
      MyHeritage Team

  • Allan Kirson


    March 19, 2019

    My parents are not found in your database. Both are buried in Ramat Hasharon.

  • AM Mahomed


    March 26, 2019

    Amazing achievement.
    Hope this was an all inclusive project and has digitised all the Palestinian graves as well, as they also are citizens of Israel.