Gravestone Photographic Resource

The Gravestone Photographic Resource project is an attempt to provide a much needed on-line resource for family historians.

Project Aims

The project aims are as follows:

  1. to digitally photograph grave monuments worldwide that are currently legible
  2. to extract all legible personal information (name, age, date of birth, date of death, relationship) from each image
  3. to publish all legible personal information on an internet database and make this data freely available
  4. to make available copies of any grave monument image free of charge to anyone requesting a copy
  5. to lodge at appropriate public record offices collections of images appropriate to that area
  6. to encourage local groups to maintain, photograph and record grave monuments
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Photographs held by the GPR

The GPR now holds over 1500Gb of grave monument photos within its archive.

It should be noted that in some cases where the legibility is poor, names and dates shown on the online database may not be accurate.

Monuments become illegible because of a number of different factors:

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Help Needed

Because so many grave monuments are being lost every year it is becoming more and more important to record those that still exist. This is why the Gravestone Photographic Resource needs volunteers. Please try and help!

It is hoped that the project will eventually be self-financing by income from donations or the Google ads on the site. At present the costs of the project not covered by either donations or Google Ads are met by projects founder Charles Sale.

The project initially started in East Anglia, England where its creator Charles Sale was based. He initially indexed both church and municipal cemetaries in Norfolk and Suffolk as well as a number of other English counties. Other volunteers have extended the scope of the project which now covers a number of countries beyond England. It now also includes war and other memorials.

The timetable for other cemeteries will be very dependant upon where other volunteers are based and how much time they can give to the project.

When the project first started, all the monuments in a burial ground of people born before 1901 were photographed. Now all monuments are photographed and indexed. These images are then used to extract all names and details from each monument. Once all the images have been processed, the information is added to the internet database.

In some cases we have been able to use earlier text based surveys of churchyards. These have allowed us to record information about grave monuments that have either become illegible or can no longer be found. In these particular cases no images are available.

A comments/feedback/help request feature now provides a notice board on which visitors can place details of the families they are researching.

You can help by:
  1. Becoming a volunteer
  2. Encouraging others to become volunteers
  3. Making a donation
  4. Tell other people about the Gravestone Photographic Resource

It is hoped that in the future schools will get involved with the project as it can cover many aspects of the curriculum.

The main reason why the Gravestone Photographic Resource does not charge for images is that it needs volunteers to help with the huge task of photographing grave monuments. Please try and help.

About the Project

The gravestone photographic resource project was set up in 1998 by Charles Sale to photographically record grave monuments and make the information they contain publically available via the internet. Because of the huge scale of the project Charles decided at the outset to restrict the photographs to just those monuments that contain details of people who were born before 1901 but this has now been extended to all monuments.

There were a number of reasons Charles decided to start the project:

  1. there was not a central resource of grave monument images
  2. information from grave monument images was not available for general access
  3. every year more and more monuments were being lost because of a variety of reasons such as weathering and vandalism
  4. the information contained on a grave monument is often not available from other sources

From the very beginning Charles decided that the resource should be free. A major reason for this decision was that Charles felt that because of the size of the project he needed to encourage others to also volunteer their time to take grave monument photos in their own neighbourhood. This has be partly successful in that during the first eight years the project was running there was about one volunteer a year who has taken photos for the the project. For the last four years there have been a small number of dedicated volunteers who have regularly added images to the resource. However, during the last year there has been a great increase in the number of volunteers from all over the world.

Initially the vast majority of the photographing and indexing grave monuments was carried out by Charles alone. However now about 50% of the images and indexing has been done by volunteers. If you would like to know more about becoming a volunteer then please have a look at our volunteer page.

On the initial website started in 1998 visitors could download copies of the images directly. As the size and number of images increased the cost of this could not be justified. Now visitors to the site use a web form to order images which are emailed back to them usually within one or two days.

Because the project size has increased so much, the website is now on its own dedicated web server. This means that the GPR can now store images on this web server and make them immediately available to anyone requesting them.

Although the images taken in the early days of the project were quite small, they are now often up to 10Mb. The new dedicated web server has 2000Gb of fault tolerant disc storage but this is not enough to hold the entire GPR archive. Thus all images are resized to about 400Kb before they are added to the web server.

The project website and its associated database has been designed and write by Charles. An important aim of this development was to ensure that the website was easy to use and accessable to all. To this end it has been written in such a way that search engines such as Google are able to index every page. This means that visitors searching for a specific ancestor are easily able to find them within the Gravestone Photographic Resource. Indeed Charles now normally has to deal about a hundred requests each day. These requests for images come from all around the world.

Because the project has been running for so long, there are now often times when an image is requested that has also been requested in the past. On these occasions, if the visitor requesting the image has said "yes, I want my details sent to anyone else who has requested this image" the system will now automatically forward their details onto any other person who has also ticked the "sharing" box. In many cases this has meant that distant relations have been put in contact with each other.

Although in the early days of the project only about one in ten people bothered to write and thank Charles for the free service he provides, in recent years nearly 50% now write and thank him.

Apart for the time given to the project by Charles and volunteers, the project has now almost become self-financing by income from donations or the Google ads on the site.

A number of visitors to the site have suggested ways to improve or increase the profile of the resource. One of these was the use of "Google ads" which now helps to cover the cost of the web hosting. Other suggestions have been to charge for images but as mentioned above, this goes against the ethos of the project. There have also been a number of suggestions that the project should be nominated for awards for what is being achieved. Some of these suggestions have mentioned the UK Honours website.

If you think that the project is worthwhile then you can also help by:

  1. Becoming a volunteer
  2. Making a donation
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© copyright Gravestone Photographic Resource 1998 - 2017