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We’re very happy to announce that, after five years of dedicated efforts, we’ve completed our ambitious goal of digitizing every cemetery in Israel. It is now the first country in the world to have almost all of its gravestones preserved and searchable online, with images, locations, and fully transcribed records. We’ve put up all this content for free, too!The Blog post goes on to explain the background of this monumental achievement.
Back in February 2014, we teamed up with BillionGraves to launch a global crowdsourcing initiative to digitally preserve the world’s cemeteries. It is essential to digitize cemeteries, by photographing the gravestones and transcribing them, because of the key role that gravestones play in family history. They provide vital information such as a person’s name, the names of close relatives and dates of birth and death. Sometimes they even describe the deceased’s character and personality. Most of the world’s cemeteries have never been systematically documented or made available online; MyHeritage and BillionGraves sought to change this.
Age and exposure to the elements are causing the gravestones to fade, rendering them illegible. It is becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to read them and know who has been buried there. This adds to the urgency of the project. Even as gravestones continue to wither away, we can ensure that the footprints of our ancestors do not.
Our generation is blessed with the necessary tools available, and so it is up to us to preserve this valuable information. BillionGraves is a unique application, available for both iOS and Android, which allows users to volunteer and photograph gravestones. Photographs are then transcribed by additional volunteers on the BillionGraves website, resulting in searchable digital data. Besides being very easy to use, BillionGraves automatically captures the exact GPS coordinates of every gravestone when photographed. This allows others to locate, visit or re-photograph any gravestone of interest and reduces duplication by allowing volunteers to focus on parts of cemeteries not handled before.
MyHeritage employees kickstarted the effort by first digitizing Segula Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Israel. In a single day, we took 73,000 photos in order to index them shortly afterwards. A few months later, we brought friends and genealogy organizations along with our employees to digitize Holon cemetery, the largest cemetery in Israel, with over 200,000 graves. It was one of the largest events of its kind ever organized – in the world!You can read the rest of the post about this remarkable project by clicking here.