Smartphone Cemetery Activity

This activity allows the youth to photograph headstones in cemeteries using the BillionGraves smartphone app. These records are made available for free on and Carrying out a cemetery photography project with BillionGraves is simple:

  1. Download the app
    • Search for “BillionGraves” on Google Play or the Apple App Store from your mobile device, download it and register for free by following the instructions.

  2. Identify a cemetery
    • Go to to find a cemetery that hasn't already been done and check the cemetery map (zoom in on your location on the map).

  3. Start taking pictures
    • Clear off any debris before you take the picture and make sure the lighting is right. Take a moment to frame your photo well. Fill your screen with entire headstone and at the right angle.  Remain steady to avoid blurry photos.  Make sure things like fingers or feet aren’t in the shot.  

    • If there are family members buried next to each other or there is information on multiple sides of a headstone, be sure to link the images. 

    • It is best to review your images before you leave the cemetery in case you need to retake a few.

  4. Organize a group
    • Go out and take a few pictures before you take a large group to the cemetery so that you will be better able to answer questions

    • Have your group register and install the app before going to the cemetery. Often internet access at the cemetery is limited.

    • Teach your group how to take pictures, link successive images, and upload images.

    • During the main project, the leader should NOT take pictures. He or she should organize the group and be available to answer questions and direct traffic.

  5. Transcribe images
    • Visit the Transcription Page

    • Enter names, dates, and any other information on the headstone into the fields provided

    • Headstones can have information for many individuals. Make sure to add information for each

    • Photos will then be available from the search page

  6. Search for family
    • Go to and select “Search” to find the individual you are looking for

    • Enter as much information as you can (names, birth year, death year, location)

    • Click search to see results

    • You can also search within the app and be led directly to where an individual’s headstone is based on the GPS coordinates.

  7. Resources:
    • Refer to the Youth Activities page for more information on photographing a cemetery activity using BillionGraves.

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