February 23, 2015

Think before you post that headstone photo

Like most genealogists, I love Find-A-Grave. It's a great site and service, allowing people to find graves of ancestors, family, and to request/give help obtaining headstone photos.

While many Find-A-Grave volunteers are only interested in members of their own family, there are others who take photos and create memorials for entire cemeteries or sections.

Awhile back, I came across a photo of my mother's marker. I live near the cemetery, and I had purposely chosen not to put a memorial on Find-A-Grave. However, a stranger-- no doubt well-meaning-- created a memorial. I sent her a message thanking for her intentions and asking that she transfer the memorial to me, which she did. Honestly, seeing that memorial, posted by a total stranger, felt unsettling and invasive.

Recently a Find-A-Grave volunteer complained that she received a message from a lady asking her to take down the memorial the volunteer had created of the 3 month-old son she had lost-- the message was along the lines of "Who are you and what right do you have to post this? Did you ever consider the feelings of relatives who might come across this?"

This volunteer said that the baby had died twenty-six years ago... insinuating that the woman's feelings and request were unreasonable.

While I certainly don't think volunteers have to limit themselves to their own families/ancestors, my suggested rule for posting unrequested memorials is, don't do so for anyone who lived recently enough that they could have siblings, children, or parents still living. Especially those who died as babies.

Chances are that the mother coming across a photo of her deceased three-month-old baby is not going to be happy about it-- and no, it doesn't matter if it happened 26 years ago, she will probably feel disturbed and violated. "Who are you? Please take this down at once" is not an unreasonable reaction, and for a volunteer to suggest that the mother had no right to be upset is pretty damn insensitive.

The volunteer said that she posted this because she wasn't sure what to do in response to the message. Um, how about apologizing to the lady for upsetting her and taking down the memorial immediately, as requested? What else would one consider doing, seriously?

Please, think before you post that headstone photo. Respecting the privacy and feelings of the deceased's family trumps getting all 16,345 graves in Garden Of Memories put online.

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