Ogden company photographing gravestones by the thousands

Apr 1 2013 - 8:46pm

Images

Devin Taylor photographs headstones for A Billion Graves on Friday at the Ogden City Cemetery in Ogden. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Hudson Gunn photographs a headstone for A Billion Graves on Friday at the Ogden City Cemetery in Ogden. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Hudson Gunn photographs a headstone for A Billion Graves on Friday at the Ogden City Cemetery in Ogden. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Devin Taylor photographs headstones for A Billion Graves on Friday at the Ogden City Cemetery in Ogden. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Devin Taylor photographs headstones for A Billion Graves on Friday at the Ogden City Cemetery in Ogden. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Hudson Gunn photographs a headstone for A Billion Graves on Friday at the Ogden City Cemetery in Ogden. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Hudson Gunn photographs a headstone for A Billion Graves on Friday at the Ogden City Cemetery in Ogden. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Devin Taylor photographs headstones for A Billion Graves on Friday at the Ogden City Cemetery in Ogden. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)

OGDEN -- A locally run company, Otter Creek Holdings, is working to make it easier and more efficient to find a gravestone and tie the information into genealogical history -- from your living room, rather than going to the cemetery.

And the company is also making finding family history information just as simple as standing next to an ancestor's gravestone.

The website BillionGraves.com, a venture of Otter Creek Holdings, is quickly becoming the largest online collection of gravestone photographs in the world.

With partnerships with genealogy companies around the globe, it's also seeking to become the simplest way to do genealogical research.

And the best part about all of it is that it's free.

"We wanted to keep it accessible to the general public," said Devin Taylor, manager of Otter Creek Holdings and the president and founder of American Granite and Memorials Inc., a top producer of handcrafted gravestones.

Taylor said hundreds of volunteers are uploading pictures of gravestones every day onto BillionGraves.com.

"We continue to grow with the enthusiasm of our volunteers that are now in countries all over the world," Taylor said.

Taylor now is looking for Boy Scouts who want to earn their Eagle awards to help in the venture.

Any Boy Scout who successfully uploads 10,000 gravestone photos will receive a handcrafted granite plaque in addition to receiving credit for his community service as required for his Eagle award.

Hudson Gunn, vice president of business development for three ventures of Otter Creek Holdings, said photographing 10,000 gravestones is easily doable in 30 hours as required for an Eagle Scout project.

Taylor, Gunn and a man who was photographing gravestones for the first time uploaded about 1,000 photos of gravestones in one section of Ogden City Cemetery in just one hour Friday.

Chase Jensen, who has been an account manager with billiongraves.com for a few weeks, was doing the groundwork for the first time.

He said the process of photographing and uploading pictures of headstones was even easier than he had thought it would be.

"You can go through it really quickly," he said. "I felt like I was a real photographer."

Jensen said he also felt the joy of service through his efforts.

"It helps a lot of people," he said. "Some are covered up. We removed a lot of debris. You could walk right by even if you were looking for them."

The photographs are submitted automatically as they are taken on a smart phone or other device, using a free Billion Graves application. More than 10,000 people already have uploaded the application to their smart phones.

When multiple pictures are taken of the same gravestone or when it is clear that gravestones represent a family group, pictures may be linked together with a touch of a button on the application.

Gunn said the latest pictures of a particular gravestone are put at the forefront on the application to account for changes over time, such as the death of a spouse.

And all the pictures then become part of Legacy Mobile, also a free application under the auspices of Otter Creek Holdings that allows genealogical partners to share information in their databases. The information from gravestones is only one type of information that can be shared through this effort.

Legacy mobile now is available on the Apple ITunes store for mobile devices. Gunn said the application soon will be available for other devices.

"The very low barrier of entry is you don't have to know your whole family history to get started," Gunn said, showing how a person starts the process by entering just their own information.

While in the cemetery Gunn showed how Legacy Tech, one part of Legacy Mobile, allows a person to take a picture of a gravestone that has already been uploaded and then link immediately to that person's genealogical history.

"Just by taking a picture, we are able to pull up information on them," Gunn said.

But you don't have to be in a cemetery taking pictures to upload anyone's family tree.

"Our ultimate goal -- in one location, you'll have all the access to the records," Gunn said.

The effort already has partnerships with FamilySearch, My Heritage, Mocavo and 15 other of the world's largest genealogy companies, Gunn said. The company is working on partnering with others.

While company managers are thrilled with the amount of information now available, they are ecstatic about what will be available in the near future.

"As we continue to work with genealogical partners, we are able to automatically find them without a family member making a manual link," Gunn said.

The corporation also holds a patent on an application of a QR -- for Quick Response -- code called My Legacy Memorial that allows people to attach a stainless steel QR code to their loved one's gravestone.

When that code is scanned, visitors to the grave will be able to upload a limitless quantity of information, videos and photographs featuring the person buried in that location.

For information about any of the products or programs of Otter Creek Holdings, call 888-975-1398 or visit BillionGraves.com or MyLegacyMemorial.com.

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