Are You Ready to “Super Charge” Your Cemetery Research?

Take advantage of this amazing deal on BillionGraves Plus and get ready to "super charge" your genealogy research!

Are you struggling with cemetery research when it comes to genealogy and family history? What about locating graves for those who are family members but the headstone simply says “Mother” or “Infant”? And can’t there be an easier way to locate nearby graves?

Recently I made the move from a “well known” grave location website to BillionGraves (click here to set up a free account and get instant access!) and I’m amazed at what I’ve found for my own research. In addition, the sense of “community” at BillionGraves is more in tune with the way I share genealogy information with others: we’re all working towards a common goal of documenting all the graves worldwide!

Announcing BillionGraves Plus – “Power Up” Your Research

Normally, I will use the “free” version of a genealogy website when I can. But recently, I took the BillionGraves Plus premium feature for a test drive and all I can say is: YES! And if you ask me is it worth the yearly subscription price? Again, a definite YES!

Read my recent review here of how BillionGraves Plus works and why it can help you work smarter when it comes to cemetery record research.  Wouldn’t it be great to take advantage of features like these?

  • Family Plots: 70% of all people are buried in Family Plots. This feature shows you where they are!
  • Nearby Graves: Family members that do not share the same family name are most likely found near other family graves. This feature allows you to see those headstones, sorted by distance from the one you selected. An example might be a headstone that is labeled only as “Infant”, “Mother” or “Father”.
  • Global Family: See everyone that shares the same family name on a map sorted by city, county, state, country or even the whole world. You can then zoom in and see the specifics.
  • Family Notifications: You will be notified immediately ANYTIME a NEW RECORD comes in that matches the name and location you have selected. You don’t have to search. We search for you.

billion graves notifications

A Special Offer from BillionGraves

The normal price for a one year subscription of BillionGraves Plus is $59.95. I have worked with the folks at BillionGraves to put together this amazing deal – one of the lowest prices EVER! You can get one year of all the premium features for just $39.97. You MUST use this link and already have a BillionGraves free account (if not, visit http://billiongraves.com to set one up).

And this offer expires on Monday, March 14th at 5:00 pm Mountain time! Don’t let this opportunity to research “smarter” pass you by!

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Review: BillionGraves Plus

Genealogy educator and author Thomas MacEntee takes BillionGraves Plus for a test drive and shares why the upgrade is well worth the price!

Recently, as part of my own Genealogy Do-Over, I have spent more time researching death record information, specifically gravestone images and related data. Normally, I would use the Find-A-Grave site since I have been using it, well since forever. I also decided to start using BillionGraves and after setting up a free login and using its basic functions, I wanted to know more about the premium version, BillionGraves Plus.

The folks at BillionGraves have given me a behind-the-scenes look at BillionGraves Plus and after putting it through several tests with my own search criteria, I can say that going premium is definitely worth the price! (Note: see my special offer at the end of this review to get a HUGE discount on BillionGraves Plus!)

BillionGraves Plus Features

So what do you get when you sign up for BillionGraves Plus? Here is an overview:

  • Family Plots: 70% of all people are buried in Family Plots. This feature shows you where they are!
  • Nearby Graves: Family members that do not share the same family name are most likely found near other family graves. This feature allows you to see those headstones, sorted by distance from the one you selected. An example might be a headstone that is labeled only as “Infant”, “Mother” or “Father”.
  • Global Family: See everyone that shares the same family name on a map sorted by city, county, state, country or even the whole world. You can then zoom in and see the specifics.
  • Family Notifications: You will be notified immediately ANYTIME a NEW RECORD comes in that matches the name and location you have selected. You don’t have to search. We search for you.
  • Ad Free: No Ads. No distractions. Faster search results, bigger photos, and larger maps.
  • Priority Support: Click on the support link in the footer of any page and submit your question. Your question will be moved to the top of the support queue.

Overall Impression of BillionGraves – It’s the Community!

Being an accomplished user of Find-A-Grave, I figured I had all the features I needed for locating gravestone images with their site. Boy was I wrong. Not only does BillionGraves provide you with accurate GPS location information, but also the sense of community is much different from other sites.

I have had many issues with several contributors at Find-A-Grave in terms of “ownership” of memorials and images. The frustration level has been so much that many times I don’t think it is worth it to use the site. Genealogy should be enjoyable and not stress you out, right?

Well at BillionGraves, there is a better sense of community and “stewardship” for the content contributed. Every member is working towards the same goal: to document every gravesite in the world with accurate information that is easy to access and share.

Family Plots

I have several family members buried at the Grahamsville Rural Cemetery in Grahamsville, New York. So using BillionGraves Plus I was able to see plots grouped by families:

I have several family members buried at the Grahamsville Rural Cemetery in Grahamsville, New York. So using BillionGraves Plus I was able to see plots grouped by families

Nearby Graves

The Nearby Graves feature is different from Family Plots in that it includes those family members who have married or do not share the same family name. This is excellent for locating those headstones that say “Mother” or “Father” or “infant.”

The Nearby Graves feature is different from Family Plots in that it includes those family members who have married or do not share the same family name. This is excellent for locating those headstones that say “Mother” or “Father” or “infant.”

Family Notifications

As genealogists, we continue to have increasing access to large amounts of data, to the point where we can feel overwhelmed. So the Notifications feature in BillionGraves is a valuable way to manage genealogy data – just enter your search criteria and when other users add new data, you receive an email notification.

billion graves notifications

Here is how the Family Notifications feature works:

  • No more searching day after day looking for a particular ancestor! Let us do the work for you!
  • Set up an on-going search that notifies you the second your results are available! No need to keep searching again and again.
  • We’ll email you a photo and a link to the headstone details as soon as it is available.

Conclusion

After using BillionGraves Plus, I don’t think I could possibly use the BillionGraves site without these features. I can’t tell you the number of hours that features like Nearby Graves has saved me in terms of research. In addition, Family Notifications is worth the price alone since I can receive updates for my family names via email. The BillionGraves Plus feature enhances the experience of using the BillionGraves site and makes it easier to find the information I need for my family history research.

Special Offer from BillionGraves

Right now, BillionGraves is offering one of the lowest prices EVER for their BillionGraves Plus upgrade! This is an exclusive offer for readers of GeneaBloggers and instead of the normal $59.95 a year price, you pay just $39.97! You must use this link to take advantage of this offer, which expires on Monday, March 14th at 5pm MDT!

Power up your genealogy research using BillionGraves Plus and see how much progress you can make with headstone and death record research!

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Six Reasons Why a Human is Better than Google Translate for Genealogy Documents

Katherine Schober, a German translator specializing in genealogy, offers her advice on the pitfalls of using automated translation programs.

Katherine Schober is a German translator, specializing in genealogy. After living in Austria for four years, she recently moved back to the States to be closer to her family. She works with old German handwriting in letters, certificates, church registers and other documents. Check out her website at sktranslations.com for more information.

In this day and age, we have everything at our fingertips. Want to know the score of a baseball game? Google it. Curious about a new restaurant in town? Look it up online. Want to know a word in a foreign language? Google Translate.

While it’s wonderful that everything is so easy nowadays, sometimes we need to be a little more careful. With the Google Translate tool in particular, you must ask yourself if it can really provide you with the information you need. Although the site is relatively decent at translating individual words, Google Translate is not recommended for anything more than that, especially in the field of genealogy. Why not? Check out these six reasons below:

#1: Many genealogical documents are handwritten.

This first point is rather obvious, but it should nevertheless be discussed. While the technology behind Google Translate is advanced, the site is simply unable to turn handwritten documents into translated text. “Well,” you might say, “why can’t I just type everything from the document into Google Translate?” My answer: In addition to the problematic translation results you may receive (see below), the handwriting in old documents is often very difficult to read. In German, for example, the script used in documents pre-1950 is completely different from the handwriting used in Germany today (so different, in fact, that most German-speakers themselves are unable to read it!).

Katherine Schober, a German translator specializing in genealogy, offers her advice on the pitfalls of using automated translation programs.

#2: Many genealogical documents contain outdated words that Google Translate does not recognize.

Just as English speakers don’t walk around exclaiming, “Thou art lovely!”, words in other languages have evolved as well. Unfortunately, Google Translate is simply unequipped to deal with the old-fashioned foreign words so common in genealogical translations. This is also true for occupations that no longer exist. I recently translated an 1882 marriage record in which the father was listed as a “Wagner” (the German word for ‘wagon-maker’). Type “Wagner” into Google Translate, and it simply remains “Wagner,” leaving you merely guessing at your ancestor’s profession.

#3: Google Translate often translates idioms and phrases literally, leaving you wondering what in the world your ancestor could have meant.

Some Google-Translate Examples of Idioms:

German Idiom English Meaning Google Translate
Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof. I don’t understand anything. I understand only station.
Wo sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht sagen In the middle of nowhere Where fox and hare say goodnight
Mit der Kirche ums Dorf fahren To make something more complicated Take the church around the village

And, if you put these three idioms together, you get this:

genealogy translations 02

Actual Meaning: Why make things more complicated? I am in the middle of nowhere and can’t understand anything.[1]

You can imagine your bewilderment if you are trying to translate a letter and believe your ancestor was somehow trying to accompany a church around an entire village while cavorting with polite woodland creatures. Makes no sense!

#4: Many genealogical documents contain obscure abbreviations that Google Translate ignores.

I recently translated a 1940 list of documents a bride needed for her wedding. As this was a list that she simply wrote for herself, she used many abbreviations throughout the text. When I type one such example into Google Translate, it looks like this:

German Document English Meaning Google Translate
Abstammungsnachweis b. Großelt. Certificate of Heritage from both grandparents (beider Großeltern) Pedigree certificate b. Großelt. (does not translate the two abbreviations)

Again, if you did not speak German, Google Translate would leave you guessing at what your ancestor had written down.

#5: A word in your document can have multiple meanings and Google can only pick one of them.

Take the English word “run.” “Run” can mean jog quickly (She runs in the park), manage (She runs a business), a tear (a run in your stockings) and so on (English With a Twist). How is Google supposed to pick the exact right meaning of the word for your document? Just as English words have multiple definitions, other languages do as well. One such word is the multi-meaning German pronoun “sie”, which, if Google chooses the wrong translation, can either change the meaning of your document or simply cause you a great deal of confusion. Such confusion is (correctly) illustrated by Mark Twain in his essay, “The Awful German Language“:

“the same sound, sie, means you, and it means she, and it means her, and it means it, and it means they, and it means them…think of the exasperation of never knowing which of these meanings the speaker is trying to convey. This explains why, whenever a person says sie to me, I generally try to kill him, if a stranger.”

#6: Google Translate can make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Here are real examples of what Google Translate did with actual sentences I’ve translated from old letters:

German English Meaning Google Translate
Wenn ich Zeit zum schreiben hatte, so musste ich nach Frankfurt zu meiner Schwester, die mir Vorwurfe macht dass ich sie so wenig besuche. When I did have time to write, I had to go to Frankfurt to see my sister, who accuses me of not visiting her enough. If I had time to write, so I had to Frankfurt to my sister to give me reproach visit from me following so little.
Noch musste ich bemerken das in Ostpreussen eine Hungersnot ist, wofür in allen Städten und Dörfen Geld und Nährungsmittel gesammelt werden. I still need to mention that there is a famine in East Prussia, for which money and food are being collected in all cities and villages. Yet I had to remember this is a famine in East Prussia, are what is collected in all cities and villages of money and Nährungsmittel

If you only look at the Google Translate column, these translated sentences often make no sense or provide the completely wrong idea. For example, “this is a famine in East Prussia” sounds like the writer is part of the famine, when in fact she is just explaining that there is one in another part of the country. Not to mention the “villages of money.”

In conclusion, I do believe that Google Translate can help you with the meanings of individual words here and there. However, if you are serious about your genealogical research, value accuracy and want to learn as much as you can about your ancestors from the documents in your possession, hiring a translator is the way to go.

[1]  This is a very unlikely sentence, but was used to show how Google Translate deals with idioms.