BillionGraves – Great concept if it works…

For a while now I’ve had the BillionGraves app (Version 2.2.2) on my Android – which is an Acer A100 tablet running OS 4.0.3 – better known as ice cream sandwich. Yesterday I finally had the opportunity to test it out at a cemetery. At this point the results are disappointing, but I’m hopeful the problems can be fixed.

My first hint that there may be compatibility issues between my device and the app came when I tried to find and adjust the settings. From reading the BG website and the blog I knew that there were settings within the app to control such things as automatic upload  and automatic deletes. I wanted to see if I could also set where the app would store the photos since I wanted them on my external SD card instead of the internal memory. But tapping the 3 vertical dots icon (which is normally the settings button within an app) doesn’t work – nothing happens, no screen pops ups, nothing. There’s just a short buzzing noise and that’s it.

While disappointed that the settings didn’t work, I decided to plow ahead and see if the photo taking part of the app worked. Once the GPS got an “accurate” reading, I started snapping away. In a short amount of time I had about 175 gravestone photos.

I then went into the photo viewing part of the app. I tried scrolling through the photos. After a couple of swipes the app crashed. (And each and every time I have tried this since, the app has consistently crashed. Every time.) Although I was disappointed that I would not be able to quickly review the photos before uploading, I went ahead and uploaded them anyway. The bulk upload “appeared” to work. On the BG website, I went to MyPhotos and they were there – and they were linked to the correct cemetery. (See screenshot below –  not sure why some were assigned to 8/4/12 when all were taken on 8/3 – at least in my time zone.)

I then started to transcribe a few of them. I wound up adding 29 transcriptions. At this point, I decided to search for one of my newly transcribed records. (I used to be a software developer and I have this irresistible urge to test functionality as I go along.) To my dismay, my newly transcribed record was not  found. Not only that, when I went to the home page for the cemetery, BG says there are 0 tombstone photos! Weirdly, it does have my 29 transcriptions and the photo locations are plotted on the map. (See screenshot below.) I have an email into BG support, but I can only guess that the upload didn’t completely register.

Hopefully this will turn out to be a “minor” problem and will be fixed soon. I am also hoping the folks at BG (or anyone else for that matter) can tell me how to access the images directly on my Android – not via the BG app. I’ve looked in the Gallery as well as searched the file system through ES File Explorer, but can’t seem to find them. Some of the images I would like to be able to save on my computer and attach to people on my family tree. I’ll like BG a whole lot better once these issues are resolved!!

P.S. For further information on BillionGraves, check out their website [link].

UPDATE 1: It’s now been a couple of hours since I published this post and (miraculously) the cemetery photos that I uploaded yesterday are now available on BillionGraves. And as was I writing this update I got an email from BillionGraves support stating that it may take up to 24 hours for uploaded photos to become available – which in this case was spot on in that it has been almost exactly 24 hours since the upload. So I guess I just wasn’t patient enough.

UPDATE 2: Ok, I finally found the settings menu. It is not accessed by the standard three dot icon. It is accessed from a gear icon which only appears on the dashboard screen. I had to tap it repeatedly to get it to work. Sadly, there is no setting to tell the app to store the photos on the external SD card.

PA Probate Records on FamilySearch — YEAH!

CRASH! BANG! That’s the sound of another brick wall breaking down!  Last evening, after clicking send on an email to two cousins who also descend from Thomas Dilliplane and his wife Mary, I went to my GoogleReader and saw the Genea-Musings post from Randy Seaver on a new database available on the website [link]. I was absolutely stunned to see that Pennsylvania Probate Records are now online since the email I had just sent was regarding getting a hold of the Berks County, PA estate file of Adam Swavely. We were suspecting that Mary was a daughter of Adam and were hoping that she would be named as such in the file.

Talk about pay dirt – this was the genealogy equivalent of hitting the lottery! Despite the Probate Records being browse-only, it was fairly easy to locate Adam Swavely’s file – all 25 pages! And yes, we now know that Mary Swavely, daughter of Adam and Esther, was indeed the wife of Thomas Dilliplane. (See my previous post on this topic [here].) And as if that wasn’t enough, since Mary died before her father, we also know the names of all of Mary’s children. There were actually twelve — which was a few more than previously identified.

And the best part is that with these probate records now available online  I am positive that additional brick walls and uncertain linkages will be confirmed and sorted out!

If you also have PA ancestors, you are going to love having these records online! Here’s the [link].

Thank you FamilySearch for hosting these records and thank you Randy Seaver for posting about them the first day they went online!

Tuesday’s Tip – US Dept. of Veterans Affairs Nationwide Grave Site Locator

By now I think everyone must know about Find-a-Grave. It’s the go-to site for death/burial data and potentially even biographical information. But suppose the person for which you are searching has no memorial on find-a-grave — yet. If he/she served in the military or was a dependent of a military vet, you may want to try the Nationwide Grave Site Locator hosted by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs [link].

I stumbled upon this site a couple of days ago and found missing death and/or burial information for several people in my genealogy database. I was originally looking for confirmation that my Mom’s cousin was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. After finding him, I ran a few more searches on some of the surnames I search. I was lucky enough to find several more (distant) relatives in various cemeteries throughout the U.S. – especially those who died relatively recently.

According to the Grave Locator website, here’s what you can expect to find: “burial locations of veterans and their family members in VA National Cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, various other military and Department of Interior cemeteries, and for veterans buried in private cemeteries when the grave is marked with a government grave marker.”

So if you haven’t already, here’s another site to add to your genealogy research tool box.


Did Mary Swavely marry Thomas Dilliplane?

For a very long time had I nary a clue as to the maiden name of my third great-grandmother Mary Dilliplane. Even learning her first name was hindered by the fact that she presumably died before 1850 and so was never enumerated in the US Censuses by name. The only record of  her first name that I have found is contained in the death record of her son Joshua (presumed brother of my ancestor William). This is also the only source cited in “The Delaplaines of America” by Marvin G. Delaplane – which also only provides her first name.

But now I have a working theory as to her maiden name and parents – a hypothesis. I think that there is a chance that she might be Mary Swavely, the daughter of Adam Jr. and Esther. So far, the facts I’ve found regarding Mary Swavely are consistent with what little is known about Mary Dilliplane. (For more details see my website [link].) I am hoping definitive proof – one way or the other – lies in the estate file of Adam Swavely Jr. He died in November of 1842 and the Berks County, PA Register of Wills online index shows that there is a 25 page estate file. My next step in this process is to check out that file.

A Must-See Webinar if you have German Ancestors

Genealogy webinars seem to just keep growing and growing in popularity – and I have watched quite a few over the last year or so. The folks over at Millennia, makers of LegacyFamilyTree, have an ongoing series in which the live broadcasts are free. Then, depending on the presenter, recordings are free with no expiration or free for a limited time, after which you can purchase a CD. I’ve watched quite a few of the Legacy webinars and almost always pick up at least one or two tidbits (or more!). But I have to say that yesterday’s webinar “Researching Your German Ancestors” by Kory Meyerink was one of the most informative and relevant to my research. I have many German-speaking ancestors who arrived in America throughout the 1700s. If you do too, you really should check out this webinar. It’s available to view for free until June 18 at this link.