Unearthing the Dead with Mobile GPS

The following announcement was written by Ryan Vinson:

The dead shall never be forgotten – not if a certain smart American software engineer and genealogist has anything to do with it.

Ryan Vinson has developed an app that will excite genealogists worldwide by potentially unearthing long dead ancestors. He’s also hoping his Here Lies project will encourage users to explore local cemeteries and learn a little about their town or city – or those of a place they’re visiting.

The app works by getting individuals to catalogue gravesites around the world using mobile GPS data. Ryan is looking for anyone who uses the app to upload a pic of their favourite tomb or gravestone (or as many as they like). They should also add a name, date of birth and even any comments. By making a digital recording, that burial plot will remain recorded for ever – even if the markings on the stone fade from view over time. This, in turn, will make ancestors much easier to find, including those buried in long-forgotten small family graveyards.

The idea for the app – which works with both iPhone and Android phones – came to Ryan when he and his brother attempted to find the graves of their own long-dead ancestors.

He said: “When the Internet took off in the 1990s I used its early resources to help my brother and I hunt down the rumored burial locations for some of my ancestors. The road trips were fun, but locating burial sites often proved difficult. Some of the grave were in small family cemeteries not easily located, for instance, while others did not even have clear markers. It became very frustrating at times.

“If something like this app had existed then, and my ancestors final resting place had been recorded, our search would have been so much easier, and shorter.”

Los Angeles-based Ryan is conscious that many small graveyards become neglected when the land is bought over and that further deterioration could make gravestones impossible to identify.

He added: “While visiting other countries, I have seen small family gravesites with no names or designation.

“Solo gravesites are the loneliest though. Maybe 100 years ago someone buried their partner under a tree on their farm. What happens when the family generations later sells the farm? Who will be left to know who that person was?”

Another advantage of the app is that those searching for a particular stone in a large graveyard would not have to wait until the cemetery office opened in order to locate it – because the app would guide them via GPS technology.

Ryan hopes that individuals who encounter small family graves – or other interesting plots – while on a camping, hiking holiday etc might also feel like uploading them onto the app, making them easier for a curious ancestor to locate.

At present there is a small number of gravestones on the app but Ryan hopes that with the help of volunteers around the world, it could grow substantially within a matter of months. Those looking to add tombstones can download the app at http://herelies.io/.

Meanwhile those wishing to help with funding the project, which is currently financed solely by Ryan, can contact him via email on ryan@herelies.io.

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How is this different from Find A Grave?


    It appears to be very much the same as both Find A Grave and as BillionGraves.com. Then again, competition is almost always a good thing for consumers. Competition forces each provider to continually improve their product(s) in order to become the best of all their competitors. Having a third competitor probably will benefit everyone.


billiongraves supplies an Android app that does something very similar. I have tried multiple versions of their Android app on 2 different models of Android tablet phones, without success. Their app just made my Androids crash, not good. As far as I know, Find a Grave does not have an app like this, but their memorial pages now have labels for GPS coordinates. A workable straightforward app such as the one suggested here, might indeed fill a niche so far left vacant.

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BillionGraves also has a very polished iPhone app that does the same. I have used that app a lot and it has never crashed on me.


The Find A Grave app also adds the GPS coordinates, and works great.


Find a Grave does have an app. You can download it from the App Store. It is very user friendly. It will show cemeteries in the location you are traveling and will tell you what tombstone photos someone has requested. You can take a photo and add it to that cemetery with the app. You can also put in a name and search for the memorial any where in the country. Great app!


I love the Find A Grave app. It now adds GPS!


It would be great if you could also add more than just grave sites, but also where individuals lived,. worked, or went to school. I have so much geographical material on my ancestors, it would be fantastic to be able to do a timeline GPS walk of their lives.


Please check out the web page: kosciuskohistory.com. Find the genealogy button, then the 4th “research” button on the right, enter the cemetery project “beacon”, all 80+ cemeteries of Kosciusko county Indiana are included. The site has digital photos and the GPS mapping system. (open the map tab) This was a 3 year project shared by the county and the historical society. Enjoy


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