Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bogus Grave Memorials on Find A Grave

No tombstones today - I thought instead I would get on my soapbox in regard to the current abundance of bogus grave memorials on Find A Grave. I have always felt that Find A Grave was a wonderful resource and have submitted all of the cemetery photos I take to that site. I also search Find A Grave in the course of researching various individuals. It’s a great source of birth and death dates for those who lived long before birth and death certificates existed.

However lately I see more and more bogus grave memorials entered there. Yesterday I discovered a fictitious grave memorial for a great great uncle. One of his descendants had previously submitted a photo of his gravestone and entered a memorial for the cemetery where he is actually buried which is in the same county. There was another bogus memorial in the same Kentucky cemetery by the same person (not a descendant) for another great great uncle from the same family who had actually died in another state.

Am I the only one who is concerned about this practice and how rampant it is becoming on Find A Grave? Find A Grave doesn’t seem to care and apparently has no restrictions as to whether entering a memorial should require the presence of a legitimate grave in the cemetery. They also don’t make it very easy to contact them to complain – hence my post here.

It concerns me that these practices will eventually ruin the site as a tool for researchers if they haven’t already. I’m not sure whether I will stop submitting my photos there but I may investigate the new Cemetery Transcription Project of the US GenWeb Archives as an alternative to Find A Grave.

Anyone else have an opinion?

January 2014 - Update
This week I've encountered another incident concerning a bogus Find A Grave memorial. I received a message through Find A Grave requesting that I add a relationship link to the memorial I had placed several years ago for Thomas Slayden at Maplewood Cemetery in Mayfield, Kentucky. The link was supposedly to his father Stokley Slayden, memorial number 123010442, at a cemetery in Weakley County, Tennessee. Several years ago a memorial (84242079) had been entered for Stokley Slayden at the Baltimore Cemetery in Graves County, Kentucky where both he and his wife Nancy are buried. The person who made the duplicate memorial in Weakley County had copied the photo from the legitimate first memorial and used it for the bogus one. I wrote the person and nicely told them that I had linked the grave of Thomas Slayden to his father's actual grave in the Baltimore Cemetery and that they should delete their duplicate. Today I see that they have now added their duplicate memorial along with the purloined photo to the Baltimore Cemetery.

There are genealogists who praise Find A Grave and promote it, but I personally have serious misgivings about the entire site based on the numerous incidences of fraudulent memorials.

I have to wonder how many people have made trips, possibly from some distance, to visit a cemetery where the grave as listed on Find A Grave doesn't exist.


  1. I, too, have noted several bogus memorials. However, I think the abundance of correct material far outweighs those who do not use proper research technique, and therefore, "Aunt Betty said that's where they were buried!" I don't believe it is intentional, but the submitter's actually believe they are doing a service.
    That being said, when just a memorial is listed, without photo proof of the stone, I never utilize it as a source, but will instead try to either prove, or disprove the listing. If I cannot, then I make a note of it for further research.
    I, too, utilize the US GenWeb project.If it corroborates a memorial on FindAGrave, how cool is that!
    I've never had a problem reaching anyone on FindAGrave [knock on wood!], but have read multiple complaints about that. It would be nice to be accessible by their users!
    Plese don't stop submitting your photos! Don't let the few ruin the greater good of the site!
    Many thanks for your blog and all that you do!
    Cyndi Beane Henry

  2. I've also noticed memorials for people whom I know are still very much alive. Most of these do have headstones already, which list a date of birth, but not date of death. Usually their spouse is buried there, but in one case my distant cousin and her husband are just well-prepared. They're in their eighties, so they know it's coming, but they're "not dead yet."

  3. It seems to me that there are a lot more people doing genealogy in the last few years and have found Find a Grave to be a site to build their own tree, regardless of whether it is accurate, or even if the information is already on there. Bogus memorials, burial unknowns, and duplicates are all enough to make me take a break from the website. I also thought of the Tombstone Project at genweb, but I found a whole bogus cemetery there, so I don't know that it's too much better.

    1. Marti,

      Thanks for your comments. Like you, I have taken a break from Find a Grave. I liked it much better when you actually had to "find a grave" to enter the memorial.


  4. Awesome post! I've had ongoing problems with FindaGrave which I've detailed on my blog. You can also find a lot of disgruntled users in a couple of Facebook groups.

    I had one lady write me last week to say she had only been on the site for a couple of weeks with about 40 memorials. An admin got mad at her, deleted her memorials and blocked her account. This user's brother then decided to add a few of their family members back in to his account (he lives in a completely different state). The next day he found that his account had also been deleted.

  5. Billion graves is great!!!

    1. Anita,

      After you commented, I went to Billion Graves and looked around. I still haven't warmed to the idea of taking all the photos with my phone but I understand that they want to be able to have the GPS coordinates which is a great help in finding cemeteries. I'm just used to using my camera and I have lots of photos that can't be contributed because they weren't taken with the phone.

      I really like the fact that there is a photo of a gravestone for each memorial. This system would prevent all of the memorials from dubious sources and there would only be a memorial if there actually was a grave. I much prefered Find A Grave when a memorial was created because you actually went to the cemetery and "found a grave" and hopefully took a photo of it.

      Thanks for your comment - I'll probably give Billion graves a try.