Israel just became the first country in the world to have all of its cemeteries completely digitized, thanks to the hard work of MyHeritage, a website that helps users create their family tree online.
Nearly all of Israel’s gravestones are now preserved and searchable online, including free images, locations, and transcribed records. MyHeritage believes that digitizing cemeteries is essential to preserve family history. Gravestones hold vital information, such as a person’s name, dates of birth and death, and names of close relatives, which is highly important for those looking for their roots and to understand their family history. Many gravestones, however, are subject to fading or damaging due to time and weather, rendering them difficult or impossible to read. Because of this, many are simply erased from history and memory.
For the digitization project, MyHeritage teamed up with BillionGraves — an app for iOS and Android. The app allows users to upload photographs of gravestones, which are then transcribed by volunteers on the BillionGraves website, resulting in searchable digital records with GPS coordinates. In Israel, the project has covered 638 different cemeteries throughout the country, with 1.5 million gravestones photographed.
“Even as gravestones continue to wither away,” said MyHeritage, “we can ensure that the footprints of our ancestors do not.”