Researching family history often includes a look at records of deceased ancestors. Unfortunately, these records (especially older ones) rarely show where someone was buried. Paying your respects to a deceased relative shouldn’t have to include an exhaustive series of phone calls to find a specific gravestone or cemetery. Billion Graves is a Web site dedicated to the creation of a giant database of headstones and family history with the purpose in mind of making it available to the public.

How to Find a Gravestone or CemeteryAt Billion Graves, you can search for a relative through its extensive (and growing) database of geolocated photos that have been transcribed by volunteers. Finding out where your friend or family member is located can be done easily, without the heartache of having to call around. In addition, the geographical locations provided by this database can help you find exactly where your ancestors are located in larger cemeteries.

To start a search, you’ll need to register and log in. This can be done from the main home page. Once logged in, you can access the search feature located on the upper-right area of the dashboard. Here, you can look up a specific cemetery or person by selecting between the two tabs above the search field. The only thing that’s required to look up a person is the last name, however, you are able to refine searches with their first name, year of birth, and year of death. If your relative or friend is in the database, an image of their gravestone and map pinpointing their geographical location should appear.

Billion Graves is still in its early stages, and it’s asking for volunteers to help build its database. It’s doing this in an interesting way by making the assistance you’re providing a social game similar to Foursquare. An app is available for both the iPhone and Android that allows you to easily take snapshots and upload them to Billion Graves. By taking photos of gravestones and adding them to the service’s database, you earn points and achievements. You can also earn points by helping to transcribe these findings from your desktop through the Billion Graves site. It’s a social game for a good cause, and the effort you put in could pay off in the future when you’re researching your own family history.