Tombstone Tuesday Tip: Transcribe On Site

Gravestone Photograph Tip: Transcribe On Site

For some of us, Spring is here! And for some of you, you're ready to go to their nearby cemetery and snap photos for FindAGrave or BillionGraves. There is one very important tip to remember.

Transcribe the stone on the spot!

Ellen Hemler
Photo by Devon Lee
Ellen S Hemler
Green Lawn Cemetery
Find A Grave Memorial # 70003900
Trust me when I say, many stones do not photograph as well as you think. You bet you're going to get home and know what the stone says when you upload it to  You're certain it's clear enough for transcribers at You think you'll be able to remember it later when you edit the description of the photo for Memories.

But looking at this stone, it's truly difficult to read in a photograph but it was easier to understand when standing in front of the organic growth covered stone in Green Lawn Cemetery.

There is a top carving above Ellen's name. Is it a letter T or a letter I? Is is something completely different. Is this a critical clue to Ellen's family?

The stone has a death date given and the age at time of death presented in years and days. You can calculate the birth date from this information using a If you need a calculator to determine the birth date from the death date, try this handle resource Birth Date Calculator.

The hardest thing to read is what comes below the death date and length of life. It was easier to read on site as well. Now, it's a challenge. Someone could probably read it but their frying a lot of brain cells to do it.

So, don't make the same mistake I did. Slow down and record the inscriptions on the tombstones.  Use paper and pen or voice notes. If you're able to key in the information during a bright day on your smart phone, you'll have to share your secret with me. I can't see my screen unless there's some sort of shade. Thus, I use the paper and pen or voice note method.

So have fun photographing as a volunteer or while working on your family lines. Just remember this one critical tip: Transcribe On Site!


  1. Great tip! I haven't run across any headstones like this in my family yet but I know they are out there. I will definitely remember this on my next cemetery visit.

    1. Anna. So glad you haven't run into the difficult ones yet. Glad I can help you plan ahead for those when you do.

  2. Now that is an excellent tip, thank you.

  3. Great tip Devon! Love the idea of recording voice notes.

  4. Devon,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!


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