Findagrave for Dummies

In the world of family history, there are a nearly unlimited amount of toys to play with–from family tree creators to DNA painters to “search engines” to aid in research. Of course, the problem is finding the time to adequately learn and use each toy.

One of my favorite toys is Findagrave, but I have barely used it (time constraints, you know). Since I don’t know much about it, I had to title this post Findagrave for Dummies because if you are ignorant of the site as I am, the little I’ve recently learned might be useful. If you know more about Findagrave, please chime in with a comment!

Every dead person is entitled to a memorial page on Findagrave. Even if somebody has no actual grave, there is a solution. This is what their FAQs page says about cremation.

 What if someone was cremated or does not have a traditional ‘grave’?

Find A Grave supports common alternative dispositions to traditional burial. This includes cremation, burial at sea, and donated to medical science. In these cases, select the ‘Not buried in a cemetery’ option on the ‘Add a Memorial’ page. If there is an existing cenotaph within a cemetery for someone who had a alternative disposition, do NOT add another memorial under the alternative disposition.

What’s more, not only is every dead person entitled to a memorial page, but so is every pet buried in a pet cemetery (I kid you not).

A memorial page can be created with very little information. It might only be the knowledge that there is a grave in a specific location with the name of the deceased. But as soon as possible, it’s nice to include the birth and death dates, all correct name information, as well as a photo or two of the individual and a photo of the headstone. You can also add a transcription of the headstone, a short bio, and links to family member’s Findagrave memorials.

The first service I began using almost from the beginning was that of requesting photos of headstones. When a memorial had been started, but the headstone photo was not loaded, I would request a volunteer to take a picture. This is invaluable if you are looking for specific dates, for instance, that might be engraved on the stone.

For a few years I’ve added info to memorials in a hit or miss fashion. I had to submit additions and corrections to what I thought was an unseen administrator for approval. It took time to hear back.

I’ve also sponsored memorials for many family members, even ones that weren’t particularly close relations. This is a one time $5 fee that removes all ads from a memorial. I couldn’t bear seeing ads cluttering up memorials of the deceased.

But it was only this weekend, through spending a bit of time with the updated Findagrave website, that I discovered that although I had sponsored a lot of memorials, I only managed six. What did manage mean?

The answer wasn’t readily available, but what I figured out is that the person who adds the person is an automatic manager of that memorial. It can be a complete stranger who, as a volunteer, adds in some cases many graves to the site. This is understandable. It’s what made it easy for me to find people on the site to begin with.

But that is why I had to get permission when I was asking to edit dates and names and other information. I was asking permission of  the manager–most often, a complete stranger with no knowledge of the family. When I first gave birth info on Isidore, the manager accepted it. When I edited it with corrected information once his birth record was found, the manager wanted documentation of the correction. Hmm.

So then I read up on taking over management of family memorials so that I could make sure to put up correct information and that I wouldn’t need to get permission from someone who, hypothetically, might not give it to me.

This weekend, I put in a request to take over management of a whole lot of memorials.

In the meantime, here are the links to the memorial pages of Celia, Isidore, their son Murray, and daughter-in-law Diana.

33 thoughts on “Findagrave for Dummies

  1. Unfortunately my last experience with FindAGrave has made me a skeptic. I have never really relied on it alone for information about births and deaths, but it can be a useful first step to finding real documentation. But I assumed that it was at least accurate as a source of the location of someone’s burial. After my experience with Milton Goldsmith, I am no longer sure I can rely on FindAGrave at all. (The manager still has not responded to my inquiry….)

    Liked by 3 people

    • What happened to you prompted me to look closer at FindaGrave. I really had the wrong understanding of it. I think it is useful in the way that Ancestry itself is useful. Hints (info you find) and help (requesting headstone photos), but taking all with a grain of salt. All the more reason, in my opinion, to manage our “own” memorials. That way others can’t put up misinformation! It gives me a bit of a stomach ache when I see wrong info on relatives memorials. I have not heard from anyone yet who manages those memorials (the ones I requested turn them over to me). If I don’t, after a reasonable amount of time, I will have to contact the company and demand they are turned over to me. According to their FAQs, I have that right.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have been struggling with Find A Grave a bit this week trying to get memorials someone else created corrected. They had wrong parents for my GGGrandparents. I has been a fiasco and I have been able to resolve some of the issues. I have found the “” contact useful about half the time. I have used the site since the beginning of its launching. The site is not perfect, however, it has been an invaluable resource to me with my genealogy. Being able to request a photo for a gravestone to be uploaded is very helpful in researching birth and death dates as long as you don’t rely on the dates of gravestones as entirely accurate.

        Sometimes you run into issues such as the case I had with my Aunt and the gravestone in our family plot for my great grandfather. She said the date on the stone is incorrect – put there by my grandmother and my mother. I know from other documentation, the date is, indeed incorrect. But, at least, if I did not have the documentation, I would have somewhere to start searching for validation of that date, which is what I’ve usually done anyway.

        I could go on forever, because this past week has proved to be more learning experiences with Find A Grave. I am frustrated when find inaccurate information on FAG and cannot replace it with accurate information even after going through all the recommended suggestions. I am very grateful, however, to have FAG as a tool in my genealogy work. As long as folks don’t depend on the information there as gospel! It is a starting point for many genealogists to compare and contrast already known information in a family tree.

        As long as is linked to FAG, people are going to use both sites as validation of each other, without doing much homework on their own. They’ll take the quickest easiest answer to a genealogical question because it is the nature of our culture these days. But, the more folks who use both sites, the more genealogical info is available, even if it is dubious info at times. Both sites are huge databases, bulky and a bit difficult to navigate depending on the info you are hunting. Good, bad or indifferent both sites have contributed greatly to my work.

        Luanne, this post came today just as I’d finished a discussion with my husband who is a big user of both FAG and Ancestry, an avid genealogist. I was all fire up about a big mess on FAG, so it is funny your post came up in my e-mail first and I clicked right away to read it. Thanks for posting about it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank yo so much for sharing your story on here. I need to get back to Find-a-grave because there are individuals I want to manage where I was not able to get any satisfaction, and I need to “fight harder.” It’s a shame that the info is so flawed, as on Ancestry, but yes, I don’t know how I could have done what I HAVE done without them. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Sharon, I highly recommend you try to become the manager of your family members’ memorials unless family is already doing it. I am concerned that because those of us doing the research don’t know to do that that more and more misinformation is going to be passed on. Read the comments here for the drawbacks, but over all, I think it’s important to engage with FindaGrave in a “safe” way and to clean up what we can on there ;).

      Liked by 2 people

      • I could not find an answer anywhere else, so, I wonder if you might know. If you do sponsor a sight, are you able to manage it without the creator having to give permission? I continue to attempt to get management rights to a couple of my great great grandparents. Dealing with FAG is beginning to be a real drag at this point, because they try to get you to keep working with the creator of the memorial with the errors on it. If I sponsor the memorial, may I change the inaccuracies? Has this been your experience?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sponsoring it to get rid of the ads? Is that what you mean? Because if it is, NO, all it does is remove the ads. I think the only way you can get mgmt is if the manager relinquishes it to you or FAG forces them to do so.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting post Luanne, but I am with Amy; I do not take a FindAGrave into a tree if I do not have the documentation. I treat all people generated web pages as “reference only” DO NOT Trust and verify, twice. I used to bring in the Find A Grave pages but on one tree it brought in the whole family with many wrong names and dates, so I stopped doing that. I look at the FindAGrave to give me a location as Amy said and to see if there is an obit or official document on the page. I have also started putting on the page, the obit’s that I find and for that I don’t need permission. The Admin can always take it down, but I did my part.
    As far as getting replies from the Admin, you might cut them some slack because they might have their own memorial page; that is they died. I’ve seen many Admin’s who say on their profile page something like this: “I am not Carl, I am his niece, Carl died and I am now trying to take over his grave sites he managed.” That is the same problem with the Ancestry dot com trees, or I suppose any family tree site… If the person who created the tree is no longer alive then no amount of messages will get them to reply. The company who runs the site does not automatically know that a person had died so their site and ID remain on the web forever.
    There are several FB group pages that deal with FindAGrave site; some are good and some are not so good. There is one that I joined that turned out to be a complaint group for all things FindAGrave… everyone posted their nightmares about the site… I had to get off of it because it was really depressing to hear all the moaning about the site.
    There is one group site that is called “Obituaries” which is a good site. One of the guys on it gave a whole lecture on how FindAGrave worked and the benefits he got from being a volunteer. He is a salesmen from Canada and travels all over North America and on his travels he stops by cemeteries and documents… He said he had like 20,000 headstone photos. You might want to check it out.

    Thanks for the great post.
    Jose from Clarkston, Michigan

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thanks for such a wonderful, detailed comment, Jose. Even with all the flaws in FindaGrave, I find it to be a good service that is offered. The memorials are not like Ancestry profile pages of individuals, but offer something different. That said, using it to gain information (other than asking volunteers to take photos) is no different from “hints” from other trees on Ancestry. Interesting and possibly leads to follow, but NOT to be taken as documentation. That shows why it is important to take over management of your own family members’ memorials. That way they are accurate and misinformation about these individuals won’t be passed on to others. Thanks for the Facebook tips.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This is extremely interesting. I have a love-hate relationship with that site. The information on my great-grandmother’s headstone is incorrect. The headstone was put up years after her death. No one could remember exactly when she died (these were the days before Google) so they guessed. My grandmother (her daughter) told me that story. I can remember standing in the cemetery with her while she pointed at the headstone and told me that the year of her mother’s death was wrong. She knew that she was 4 – not 3 – when her mother died. I later found the death certificate proving my grandmother was correct. I contacted the manager of her headstone, explained the story and was told, sorry, but that I was wrong. I didn’t realize that I could ask to take over management of her headstone. As far as I know, the current manager isn’t related to us – although, given his/her stubbornness, he/she very well could be!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read your comment right away on my iPhone and then forgot to respond to you! That is sort of an awful story because the thought of wrong information being perpetuated like that is so frustrating. I had to laugh so hard at your last sentence here!!! So funny!
      Yes, definitely try to get management. Of all the ones I requested, the only person who has relinquished them to me so far had those of my MIL and FIL. I don’t even have management of my own father’s yet! You reminded me: I just sent another request! Good luck with trying to get management!!!


  4. Fascinating! I’ve used Findagrave to locate relatives but didn’t know all this. On the subject of incorrect info being perpetuated, I once found a woman whose birth date was 8 years before the birth date of her child. This had been copied over a half dozen websites. Apparently no one had done the math!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If they do not relinquish control of the grave / memorial and are not a direct descendant, you can appeal to F-A-G to have it forced. Usually, this does not occur, but there are a number of protectors of their numbers that will not let actual family members manage the graves. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Pat! I did manage to get my dad’s memorial, but there are others that are my direct ancestors and nobody responded to me, so I will have to press the point with Findagrave!


  6. Thanks for this informative post. I was considering whether to add information to Findagrave, and have yet to find anything on the site. Wouldn’t it be great to have a way to virtually tour a cemetery?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Luanne, thank you for a great article on Find-A-Grave! I have always found the sight helpful, but I only use it as a source of clues. The others here raise interesting concerns about the site. In the end, it’s always a bit of detective work to solve the case by thoroughly examining and analyzing the clues from Find-A-Grave and other useful sites. Appreciate your blog tremendously!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting comments. A few thoughts: 1.) FindaGrave is a database of graves, not a database of people. So, if the grave has a name and date, the database should have that name and date, even if the person didn’t. 2) You are always welcome to request a “transfer” of a memorial, and sometimes the manager will be happy to make you a manager. But there are good reasons to *NOT* be the manager. if you take on a memorial, it means you agree to learn the rules of FindaGrave, to fill in and update the memorial, and to sign in every now and then to respond to any questions or concerns about it. If you’re not willing to do that, please don’t ask for the transfer. Just send updates to the manager through the edit function. If you still want to manage the memorial and the current manager says no, you can appeal to FindaGrave if you are “siblings, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.” Remember, if the current manager is also a relative, you might not win your appeal.3) Please don’t abbreviate the site name. That’s a slur, and is offensive.


    • My own experience is that most of the people who manage graves of my relatives are NOT relatives, and they ignore my requests to take over. I find this to be very disrespectful, and as time passes I have become very dissatisfied with the whole process because of this. I don’t believe I abbreviated the title in my post. I responded that way to someone who was doing so in their own comment, but didn’t even think of it being a slur. Thank you for pointing it out.


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