Church’s service project will help genealogy researchers connect with family history

Despite being a soggy morning, members and volunteers with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met on Saturday to record gravestones for the website BillionGraves.com as a community service project.

Drew Millar, of Lexington, was on hand helping to organize and oversee the project where 30 to 50 adults and children were at the National Cemetery section of Bellevue Cemetery Saturday morning. He said many more volunteers were at Camp Nelson Cemetery working on the same project at the same time.

While some volunteers worked under umbrellas, others were covered with rain jackets and rubber boots, and some ignored the rain altogether.

Once the military graves were recorded using the BillionGraves app, everyone began spreading out into the older section of the cemetery to continue the project.

Millar said using their smartphones to photograph each grave, the special app also records the longitude and latitude of the grave and automatically uploads the information to the BillionGraves website where it can be accessed by anyone all over the world.

Michael Ison of Danville said anyone who uses the app “can drive right to the grave,” and not have to search through maps and old records.

Sarah Cravens who helped get the word out about the service project, said in an email, “This is not a service activity that the Church is organizing on behalf of BillionGraves, nor did they approach us to do so; it is simply a way for us to be involved in making sure Kentuckians (especially Kentucky soldiers in this instance) are recorded in a database that has become one of the largest and most well-known GPS based genealogical databases.”

Cravens explained, “The Church and Just Serve, its community non-profit, regularly look for ways to enhance the communities around us through service. Connecting families through genealogy and historical information is something many of us love to do, and we find that many of our neighbors and communities are interested as well.” She added, “We’re always looking for service opportunities. We have regularly scheduled blood drives with the Red Cross, organized teams of volunteers to help clean up after the recent flooding, had thousands and thousands of pounds of food and cleaning supplies shipped in to distribute to those in some of the harder-hit areas,” among other services.