Recently BillionGraves crossed the 200,000-record mark, and the number it still climbing. In light of all these available records, I thought I’d revisit some points on how to give the best you can while you’re transcribing.

The most important part about transcribing is remembering that you’re trying to make sure as much information as possible gets into the searchable fields. Our search engine can’t search images; it can only search words. The more information you get into typed-up words, the more information the search engine can sort through to help people find their families.

With that in mind, most of these points will be apparent.

  • Transcribe every part of the name and as much of a date as you can. This is going to be one of the most important things you can do because names and dates are the first way researchers will try to locate someone.
  • Transcribe the ages of the deceased individual (if it is written on the stone). Some headstones or grave markers provide only one date: either the birth date or the death date. However, many of these stones will say how old the individual was in years, and possibly even months and days as well. This information is as important as a date. It will help researchers narrow their search in other records besides the headstone.
  • Transcribe the epitaph if you can at all read it (and if there is one on the stone).* It is less likely that a descendant will be using the epitaph to search for someone. However, because epitaphs are typically complete phrases, they are sometimes easier to remember than names and dates. Someone searching for a stone they once visited might be able to remember the epitaph and not the name.
  • Transcribe any other information you can get off the stone. Any of the stone’s information could be helpful in finding an individual’s grave and in recording it for posterity. If you can read it, please put it in your transcription, even if you aren’t sure what it means.
  • Transcribe headstones in their native language. If you would like to provide a translation into your own language, you may do so in the Description field. However, the transcription information should include the headstone information as it appears on the stone. That is the primary goal of the transcription. Anything else is gravy. If you cannot transcribe the stone in its native tongue, skip it.
If you’re following those principles, other aspects of transcribing don’t matter as much. Some of you transcribe in all caps (which used to be standard in genealogy transcriptions because it saves the difficulty of figuring out what to capitalize). This is just fine, because your transcription will show up in the search just the same, and the important thing is to direct searchers to the photo. If you capitalize normally, even if the headstone is carved in all caps, that is also just fine—the transcription will show up in a search normally. The important part is to turn the headstone’s text into something the BillionGraves search engine can understand.
Thank you for all your hard work, and for pushing the records we can share above 200,000!
*Currently the BillionGraves search engine cannot search the epitaph or description fields of a transcription, but it is something we will add eventually.