Sunday, December 21, 2008

Find-A-Grave: Family Linking Feature

I read on the Genealogy Guys Podcast blog that Find-A-Grave has just added a family linking feature, and being one of my favorite user-contributed websites, I had to check it out. I wonder if Jim Tipton ever envisioned the popularity and diverse uses of Find-A-Grave when he created it: from celebrity grave hunters to support groups for mothers whose children have passed away to military re-enactors to those memorializing loved pets to genealogy enthusiasts! The first thing I noticed when I visited the site today is that there are now 28 million non-famous graves entered in this database (I remember just a few years ago when there were just 7 million). I think it is the attraction to so many individuals that has allowed Find-A-Grave to explode in growth!

When I presented a hands-on tutorial presentation to my local genealogical society in November 2006, I gave some basic instruction on how to create HTML links from one family member's memorial page to another in the Biography section of each page. (If you have not had the pleasure of searching--and contributing to--Find-A-Grave, you can e-mail me here for a copy of my syllabus for that class.) Here is the page for my great-granduncle, Angelo Merrick ROBBINS, Jr. with links to his parents' and siblings' memorial pages, which I created with the above method. This view is slightly different from the view everyone else will see when visiting his memorial page, because this is my behind-the-scenes perspective as "owner" (creator) of the page, with the ability to edit the information.

Click on any image in this post for an enlarged view.

As you can imagine, creating these links was rather tedious and time-consuming, requiring a lot of copying and pasting of links and careful typing in of HTML code. Naturally, I did not create links like this on many memorial pages, although I wanted to. The new feature is so much easier! First of all, in order to link individuals, you must be the creator of the child's or spouse's page. Click on the Add Relationship Links at the bottom of the Biography section:


An edit page will load:

I opened new tabs in my browser and found the memorial pages for Angelo's parents, Angelo ROBBINS, Sr. and Mary May KIMBALL. At the very bottom of each memorial page there is now a memorial number:

I highlighted and copied the number. To do so, take your mouse and move your cursor directly in front of the first digit. Left click your mouse and hold the button down while you drag the cursor across all the digits. The number will be highlighted:

Let go of the mouse button. Now hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard and then press the C key. You have just copied the number. Go to the Edit page and using your mouse, put the cursor in the box where you wish to paste the number you have just copied. Hold down the CTRL key and then press the V key. When you enter the number, the Edit page will load the person's name and birth and death dates so that you can verify you have entered the correct memorial numbers:


You can see that you can add more than one spouse (up to five, actually). Adding the Year Married apparently orders the spouses by marriage date on the memorial page (the marriage year does not appear on the memorial page, however). Here's the page with the new feature added:


And here is Angelo's mother's page (Mary May KIMBALL) after I had added her as a parent to all her children, as well as added her father and second husband:


The neat thing is, once you start adding family members, Find-A-Grave's Reverse Relationship feature starts connecting all these individuals automatically, eliminating some of the repetitiveness of adding family members to each other's pages.

I have to admit, there are a few things that I feel could use some improvement. You can see on Angelo, Jr.'s page that his mother is listed before his father. I'm not sure why that is, and I would prefer the father's name first as that is how it would appear in most family tree documents and reports. Secondly, the children of Mary are not listed in birth order, or death order for that matter. They're not listed in alphabetical order, either, nor in order (or reverse order) of the way I added Mary as their mother. It just doesn't make sense! Thirdly, I would like to be able to add children to an individual, and not just add parents to a child. And lastly, I think other relationships should be made available, possibly user-defined: siblings, step-family members, in-laws, domestic partners, etc. I realize that these can be added to a biography using HTML, just as I originally added these family members before the new Family Linking Feature was available. Overall, I am pleased with this feature and see it as being extremely useful.

A few other changes I noticed at the site; women's maiden names are now italicized:


And you can transfer ownership:


Here's the transfer page:


I may request ownership from the creators of a couple of memorial pages of my ancestors that were probably made when someone transcribed a cemetery or obituary. When that happens, there's obviously a lot of missing information a non-family member wouldn't have. I hate to create duplicate memorial pages, so this is a good option.

Kudos to the Find-A-Grave team for continuing to develop features to enhance their site and encourage users to participate more! Now go out and play with the new toys!
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