Cemeteries and GPS

Have you come to rely on GPS technology to help you when traveling? Have you ever wished that you could use that GPS technology when trying to find your great-grandfather’s tombstone in a sea of tombstones?

If so, you are in luck. GPS technology is available for use in the cemetery!

Some cemeteries, like the Olathe Memorial Cemetery have used mapping technology to add GPS coordinates to the burials in their cemetery. With that information, they have created the Olathe Memorial Cemetery app. Using the app, one can search for a name. If found, the app will provide a ‘map’ to the plot along with directions using those GPS coordinates.

For many cemeteries, the app Billion Graves is an excellent option. Like Find A Grave, Billion Graves relies on crowd-sourcing — i.e. volunteers to collect the data. If cemetery, or even just the tombstone, has already been added to Billion Graves, then the app will provide directions to get to the tombstone.

Using Billion Graves, my husband and I were able to use the app to locate the tombstone of a collateral relative in the Chapel Hill Memorial Garden Cemetery last Memorial Day. Thanks to the app, we didn’t have to rely of cemetery staff for assistance, nor did we have to walk a section to locate the desired stone. Not only was the app a time saver — but on a hot sticky day, it was also a ‘life saver’.

If the tombstone is not in Billion Graves, then it can easily be added. All that is required is the Billion Graves account (the free version), and the Billion Graves app (free) on a smart phone with location services enabled. Using the app, one just snaps a picture of the tombstone and uploads it to Billion Graves. (There is even a setting to delay uploading until attached to wireless to conserve on data usage.) Once uploaded the images are transcribed by volunteers, making them easily searchable in Billion Graves.


Yesterday, I was travelling to a courthouse in southern Kansas. On the way, I took the time to visit 3 rural cemeteries and one city cemetery. Using the app, I took pictures of the tombstones for my relatives. Today, after arriving home, I logged into Billion Graves to discover that all of my images have already been transcribed! THANK YOU volunteers!

For your next cemetery visit, make sure you have the Billion Graves app on a smart phone. Better, yet, make sure you have an account so you can upload images of tombstones that are not already in the app.