Transcription Help

Many transcriptions are simple, but some headstones may have some tricky bits or snatches of great information that don’t correspond to any of the normal fields. If your question isn’t answered, please contact us, reference the headstone photo you’re having trouble with, and we’ll design a solution together.

What do I do with a maiden name?

The basic transcription form has fields for a prefix, given names, family names, birth date and death date. In the lower right corner there is also an option for “add additional info.” Clicking on this option will open up a maiden name option and a marriage date option. If there is any doubt about the maiden name... enter it into the family names box.

What if more than one person is buried under the same headstone?

Many headstones serve more than one person—married couples especially are often buried together. The basic transcription form only allows for one individual, but you can easily add individuals to the form by clicking the blue “Add Individual” tab underneath the yellow transcription form. This will add fields for a second person (if you need more than two, click “Add Individual” until you have enough fields). You can also add an individual by pressing CTRL + I on your keyboard.

What if only one date is listed?

If only one date is listed and it specifies whether it is the birth date or death date, enter the solitary date in the corresponding field and leave the other blank.  If the individual with only one date listed is on a headstone with another person that has two dates listed, it is likely that the one-date individual is still living. Record the one date as a birth date and leave the death date blank.

Sometimes newborn babies who do not survive their first day will only have one date listed on their headstones because they only had one day in this life. If you believe the headstone belongs to a newborn death, record the single date as both the birth and death dates.

What if only the death date and the age at death are listed?

Since knowing the age at death does not necessarily mean the birth date can be calculated, enter the death date and leave the birth date blank. You can enter the age at death by clicking the blue “Add Description” button beneath the yellow transcription form and putting the age at death in the “Additional Information” field. Then all the information on the headstone is recorded and no birth date has to be invented.

What do I do with a marriage date?

Follow the same steps as you would for adding a maiden name: click the “add additional info” option in the lower right corner of the yellow transcription form. Fields for a maiden name and a marriage date will appear.

Can I record the epitaph?

If you would like to record the headstone’s epitaph, click the blue “Add Description” tab underneath the yellow transcription form. Two new fields will appear for the epitaph and for any additional information the headstone may have. Type the epitaph into the epitaph field.

Where do I record children‘s names?

Some headstones record the deceased person’s children’s names—great information for family researchers. To record the children’s names, click the blue “Add Description” tab underneath the yellow transcription form. Two new fields will appear for the epitaph and for any additional information the headstone may have. Type the children’s names into the additional information field.

The headstone has information on it that doesn’t fit any of the regular fields: what should I do?

Many headstones have information on them that isn’t standard to other headstones. To record this information in the transcription, click the blue “Add Description” tab underneath the yellow transcription form. Two new fields will appear for the epitaph and for any additional information the headstone may have. Type the extra information on a headstone into the additional information field.

Are there any keyboard shortcuts for the transcription form?

Yes. Here are the ones we currently have. If you think there is another function that needs to be added, let us know.
  • Add an Individual: CTRL + I
  • Open the Description Box: CTRL + D
  • Rotate the Image: CTRL + R (rotates the image 90 degrees clockwise)
  • Zoom In on Image: CTRL + + (you can zoom in multiple times)
  • Zoom Out from Image: CTRL + - (you can zoom out multiple times)
  • Scroll Image Up: CTRL + Up arrow
  • Scroll Image Down: CTRL + Down arrow
  • Scroll Image Right: CTRL + Right arrow
  • Scroll Image Left: CTRL + Left arrow
  • Save the Transcription: CTRL + S
  • Go to Next Image: CTRL + M

What should I do if I can’t read the headstone?

Report the photo by clicking on the red “Report Image” button under the photo frame (see “How do I report an image?” below). Once the photo has been reported, we will design a solution suited to it.

What if I can only read part of the headstone?

Some headstones may be legible in some areas, but not in others. Fill in all the information you can, but if you can't fill out all the basic transcription information (given and family names, birth and death dates), report the image by clicking on the red “Report Image” button under the photo frame (see “How do I report an image?” below). Once the photo has been reported, we will design a solution suited to it.

What do I do with the FamilySearch ID field?

The FamilySearch ID field is available for FamilySearch users. If you find a relative’s grave here on BillionGraves, you can insert the FamilySearch ID you have for that individual on FamilySearch. Then any of your fellow descendants who stumble upon the grave can find that individual from their own FamilySearch account using the ID. The FamilySearch ID is for convenience only, and is not essential for any record.

What if the headstone only says “Father,” “Daughter,” or something similar?

If the headstone only has a relationship or some other non-specific title on it, transcribe the title as the person’s given name and save the transcription. Since this is all the information the headstone provides, you will have recorded everything of use.

I see multiple thumbnails for one transcription sometimes. What does this mean?

Images that have been linked together (a multi-sided stone, for example) appear together on the transcription page. After you transcribe all the information on one image, click the next thumbnail and continue to transcribe the information on that image. All of the information associated with that headstone is now included in one transcription.

How do I report an image?

You can report an image by clicking the red “Report Image” button under the photo frame. Once you’ve clicked it, you’ll be asked to identify why you’re reporting the image. You can report the image if the photo is blurry or poorly taken, if the headstone itself is illegible, if the photo is of something other than a headstone, or if the photo contains no transcribable information. There is also an “Other” category if your reason for reporting the photo does not fall into one of the others. (Note: Before marking a headstone as illegible, please realize that while many photos will not be easily legible, photos that aren’t ideal can still be read and provide useful information.

Blurry or unreadable image




Illegible headstone



Not a headstone



Non-ideal, but still legible headstone





Have more questions? Contact Us.