Volunteer FAQ Indexing

Indexing Cemetery Photos

  1. Before starting, please sign up as a photographer.
  2. Index your photos.
  3. Once finished, submit your photos and index at the same time.

Indexing Volunteer Requirements:

  • Enough time to index a minimum of 100 photos within a 7 day period
  • Ability to type accurately
  • Ability to use, or willingness to learn to navigate Google Drive (a gmail address is also needed)
  • Ability to use Excel, Open Office, Google Docs or similar spreadsheet software

How it works:

  1. Sign up as a volunteer using the form below.
  2. You retrieve a batch of photos to index (instructions are sent after sign-up)
  3. You index the photos and send back just the index once complete (you can then delete the photos)

That’s it!

    If you receive "There was an error trying to send your message. Please try again later." and are using a gmail address, remove your address from the 'your email' field and add it to the end of your name, then try resending. Unfortunately our forms are temperamental when it comes to gmail addresses.

    Spreadsheet software makes it very easy to create an index. Coordinators of this project use mostly Excel but ANY software that can save to .csv or .txt format can be used to index photos (including Open Office & Google Docs).

    An indexing template is available in these formats (to download: right click, save as)

    Please use these headings when creating a photo index (additional detail and photo examples can be found further down):

    Name or # of photo* (eg. DSC00565.jpg).

    First and, if available, middle name of person. Please use mixed case.

    Nickname of person if indicated on the stone. Please use mixed case.

    Title if indicated on the stone (e.g. Doctor, Sergeant, Reverend, etc.). Please use mixed case.

    Maiden names of females if known, please type it in CAPITALS

    Last name, please type it in CAPITALS

    Year of death – year only!

    Year of birth – year only!

    Age of person only if indicated on the stone (don’t include age if it’s not on the stone). Unless it’s an infant only numbers should be used (e.g. use 51, not 51 years 4 months). If it’s an infant, please use: h for hours (e.g. 2h), d for days (e.g. 3d), w for weeks (e.g. 4w), m for months (e.g. 5m).

    To be used only if both the Death Year and Birth Year columns contain no information. Indicate here if the person is a spouse, parent, sibling, child, etc. to the primary person named on the stone.

    To be used to include other information that does not fit elsewhere. If a stone is difficult to read a transcription can be typed here. (Anything entered here would be expected to appear online, private notations should go in the Note to Admin column)

    For large cemeteries that are divided into named sections, put the name of the section here.

    Note To Admin
    This is where you can leave a note for the Project administrator. Does a photo need to be rotated? Have a question? Any comments in this column will NOT be included in the final index.

    Photos do NOT need to be renamed for indexing. It’s actually easier & faster to use the name assigned by your camera. If you do choose to rename the photos consider using a numbering system in lieu of just the names in the photos, ie. 001-BROWN-John.jpg, 002-BUTTONS-Susan.jpg

    The purpose of indexing is to assist visitors in finding the photo(s) they’re seeking. A full transcript of the stone isn’t required but is welcome.

    However, if a headstone is hard to read or cannot be read from the photo and you can decipher what is written, please transcribe the headstone in the COMMENT column.

    First, index the photo, then type a transcript into the COMMENTS column. Put a / where there is a line break. Please do not put any carriage returns into the index, the transcript should end up in one long line like this:

    Phebe / relict of / Charles Gage / who died Nov 1st 1884 / aged 74 years / Mother thou art gone to rest / We will not weep for thee / For thou art now where oft on Earth / Thy spirit longed to be

    • Use the headings as listed above (a template is available in xls, txt, and csv formats)
    • EVERY person listed on a stone gets indexed (with one exception)
    • Each person gets their own line in the index (no one shares!). For example, if a stone has five names you would use five lines in the index – one for each person.
    • Each line should be accompanied by the # or name of the photo (without this information it’s impossible to tie the index to the photos)


    Photo #1 would index like this. The relationship column is used to explain why John & Mary are indexed with photo 1. They’re named on this stone, but only as parents (no birth or death dates for them).

    When in doubt, please refer to the examples below or request assistance from the volunteer coordinator.


    Index every name on every stone with the exception of living persons.

    Some are obvious to spot, there is a birth date within the past 100 years but no death date. These are usually preset stones standing in preparation for the future, or stones where one spouse has died but the other has not. You can usually tell if a stone is preset because there is room left for a death date to be added in the future.

    Some are not as obvious. For example, relatives named on a stone for someone who was born within the past 100 years. There are no dates for the relatives so some guesswork is needed to determine if they should be considered living (if in doubt, consider them as living).

    Preset Stones. These are set in advance and everyone named on the stone is living. Therefore only the SURNAME is indexed.

    Mix of living & deceased. Only the deceased is indexed as the other(s) named were born within the past 100 years.

    Reverse Sides. Many stones have inscriptions on the back that name living children and grandchildren. Do not index their first names, treat it just like Photo A and index only the surname, then include a note in the Note to Admin column.

    Keep an eye out for ‘forgotten’ preset stones. These are easy to spot – the date of birth is 100+ years ago but there’s no death date. Assume they are deceased and index as such with a ? in the DEATHYR column.

    When trying to determine whether a relation is still living, take your cue from birth dates.

    • Parents: Only index if their child was born 80+ years ago
    • Spouses: Only index if their spouse was born 100+ years ago
    • Siblings: Only index if their brother/sister was born 100+ years ago
    • Children: Only index if their parents were born 120+ years ago

    Scenery photos are defined as photos of cemetery entrances, the grounds, section markers and other ‘non headstone’ photos.

    Indexing scenery photos is very simple – put the photo name in the PHOTO# column, then a 0 (that’s a zero) in the SURNAME column. That’s it! Please leave all other columns blank.

    Foot stones are generally stones that are part of a group of stones.

    Some foot stones have only a name but are usually next to or near a headstone with additional information about the person. Where possible please try to match these stones with a headstone. If that’s not possible, put a ? in the SURNAME column.

    Two examples of how to handle a headstone with a first name only. In the first example Mary has been matched to a nearby stone with the surname BROWN. In the second example Mary could not be matched to a nearby stone and ? is used for her surname. In the DEATH column ‘footstone’ is used as there is no death date available.

    Other foot stones are part of a group that all share one headstone:

    Photo 1
    Photo 2
    Photo 3

    In this case the headstone photo # would go in the PHOTO # column, with the foot stone photo #’s going in the A1 column.

    Some stones are difficult or impossible to read but they too need to be indexed. Here’s how:

    (x1) If completely illegible: Put (unreadable) in the SURNAME column and move on

    (x2) If the name is illegible but dates are not: Put (unreadable) in the SURNAME column and the dates in the BIRTH & DEATH columns

    (x3 & x4) If part of a name is illegible, index as normal but put (unreadable) where names are illegible and ? where dates are illegible

    Not all stones are in English. If it’s a language that uses the latin alphabet like English does, then index the names as you see them even if you don’t understand the language. 

    If the latin alphabet is not used (as shown in this example), leave the FIRST NAME column blank, put (Not In English) in the SURNAME column and if possible fill out the rest of the columns as usual.

    If names are easily readable (zoomed in no more than once) then index each one as you would a regular stone.

    If names are not easily readable or require several zooms to read, index it like you would a scenery photo.

    With large monuments some photographers will take a distant photo that shows the entire stone, then a close-up of each side of the monument.

    The photo # of the distant photo goes in the PHOTO # column. The photo # of the close-ups go in the A1 column.

    Standing at an angle can help make some inscriptions stand out a bit more in a photo.

    At times the sun can ‘hide’ the inscriptions but on an angle there might be enough shadow to make the words stand out.

    At other times it’s the stone itself that creates an interesting challenge – it becomes a mirror reflecting everything nearby including you!

    Taking a photo from an angle can cut out most of that reflection.

    CanadaGenWeb's Cemetery Project
    Cemetery stones photographed at an angle

    Headings in Detail

    The Photo # is the name or number of the photo (ie. DSC00565.jpg) This is important as without a photo name/number there is no way to tie the photos to the index. Please be sure that for every name on a photo that is indexed, that the PHOTO# field is filled in.

    If indexing your own photos: If you have renamed your photos using a numbering system (e.g. 001-BROWN-John.jpg) use just the number (e.g. 001) as the PHOTO# in the index, it’ll save you some typing!

    If indexing others photos: The photos will come named with a cemetery code (e.g. CAA11000-001-CanadaGenWeb-Cemetery-Province-Locality.jpg). Use the part between the first two dashes as the photo #, in this example the photo # would be 001.

    The FIRST NAME field is for the first and middle names of each person. Please use mixed case when entering the name.

    Nicknames if they appear on the stone. Please do not include familial titles such as “Granny”, “Nana”, “Auntie”, etc. as nicknames.

    Titles if they appear on the stone. For example, Reverend, Doctor, Sergeant, etc.

    Maiden names if known, please type it in CAPITALS.

    If a woman married more than once she should be indexed under all married names. For example, if married twice she would be indexed once under her first married name, then again under her second married name. Her maiden name would be entered for both.

    Last name, please type it in CAPITALS.

    Year of death – Year only! No letters should appear in this column. No dates, no months, just the year. If there’s no death year and this isn’t a preset stone, see the relationship column for additional instruction.

    Year of birth – Year only! No letters should appear in this column. No dates, no months, just the year.

    Age of person if indicated on the stone, it not leave this field blank.

    For those over the age of 1 please enter their age as a year only even if additional information is offered. (e.g. 51 years, 4 months, 3 days should be indexed only as 51).

    For those under the age of 1, please use m for months, w for weeks, d for days, h for hours (e.g. 4 weeks would be indexed as 4w)

    The BIRTH, DEATH & RELATIONSHIP columns are used to indicate why someone is named in the index.

    The RELATIONSHIP field is used only if someone is named on a stone as a relative (if someone has a birth and/or death date skip the RELATIONSHIP column and leave it blank).
    The easiest way to figure out whether or not to include a relationship is to consider how the end result will look in the index:
    These examples indicate these names are in the index because their headstone was indexed (they do NOT use the RELATIONSHIP column):
        BROWN, John [1850-1899]
        BROWN, Patsy [?-1870]

    These examples indicate the name is there because they are named on someone else’s headstone, and why (they DO use the RELATIONSHIP column but NOT the BIRTHYR or DEATHYR columns):
        BROWN, Wally [parent]
        BROWN, William [spouse]

    Please use:
    – spouse to indicate husband, wife, relict or widow(er)
    – parent to indicate father or mother
    – sibling to indicate brother or sister
    – child of to indicate son or daughter

    Please take note of the living person exception, it also applies to relatives.

    Photo 6
    Photo 7
    Note two things:
    1. If there’s a death year, the relationship field is empty, and if there’s a relationship the Death & Birth fields are empty.
    2. How Michael Gross was indexed just once, as a spouse, even though he is shown further down the stone as a father. For this type of occurrence, choose the first known relationship (e.g. spouse over parent).

    To be used to include other information that does not fit elsewhere or would not be obvious when viewing the photo. If a stone is difficult to read a transcription can be typed here. If you have additional information about the deceased, it can be typed here. Keep in mind this will be included in the final index.

    For large cemeteries that are divided into named sections, put the name of the section here. This column can also be used for Plot and Row numbers as long as it is noted with the information.

    This is where you can leave a note for the Project administrator. Does a photo need to be rotated? Have a question? Want the admin to take a second look at the photo? Any comments in this column are NOT placed online.

    Indexing goes faster when you can see both the photo and the index at the same time.

    To do this using one computer: Minimize the window with the index and put it in front of, beside, or below the photo. You can then type while looking at the photo.

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