I’ve been horrified, as has any sentient being, about the massacre in Uvalde, Texas.
I’ve also been increasingly furious these past few days because the practice of awarding “points” by Find a Grave, owned by Ancestry, to people who create memorials is making an already horrific situation much worse for traumatized families whose members perished.
THESE CHILDREN AREN’T EVEN BURIED, yet a non-family member rushed to create memorials for them, including photos and other family details lifted from news articles and other sources! We won’t even mention the copyright violations that Ancestry/Find a Grave consistently chooses to ignore.
This vampiristic death-gathering and memorial-creating behavior isn’t limited to the Uvalde massacre, it’s Buffalo and other victims of mass killings in addition to people who die of natural causes every day.
The same thing happened with one of my immediate family members a few years ago, and I still remember the shock of discovering her via a “hint” in the midst of grief.
Before I continue, I’d encourage you to read Judy Russell’s blog article, Ancestry, this one’s on you, but come back here when you’re done. Judy is on FIRE about this one, and with good reason.
Ancestry’s Failed Policy
Ancestry’s supposed policy of showing limited information about a memorial unless the creator is an immediate family member obviously had a major fail given that Judy was able to take screenshots of the memorial of this recently murdered child.
After a rather loud and persistent outcry from the community, back in January Find a Grave decided to redact some information for 3 months after a death. Yet, the memorial remains in place for the family to find. Ancestry does NOT prevent the creation of these memorials for bounty points.
This situation should never have happened in the first place and has been ongoing with incredible foot-dragging by Ancestry FOR YEARS! It’s just in our faces again with the Uvalde and other recent high-profile mass murders.
Even with the photo and some information hidden, for now, the Uvalde victims’ memorials are still listed. The one above is the same child’s memorial as in Judy’s article.
Even after eventually transferring the memorial to a family member, the original creator is always still listed. Unfortunately, this practice of awarding points and forever listing the “creator” by Ancestry encourages and incentivizes “trophy hunting.”
Here’s an example from one of my immediate family members.
You can then click on the name of the creator or the “maintainer,” which is me in this case, and see their stats. Here’s mine.
Notice that in Judy’s original screenshot, you could see the Find A Grave identity of the person who created that child’s memorial. However, Find a Grave has chosen to “protect” that person in the redacted version by not showing the creator’s identity. So we don’t know who collected that bounty point.
This is not a new issue. Ancestry/Find a Grave has not and is not acting expediently to resolve the situation. In fact, the “situation” doesn’t have to exist at all.
Take a look at this complaint board about Find a Grave. These issues pepper the genealogical community on social media, day after day after day.
Why Is This Happening?
This occurs because Ancestry displays the number of memorials created by volunteers. Some people spend their time finding obituaries and death announcements and creating memorials for people as soon as they die in order to rack up points, like a game.
The problem is that finding your loved one’s memorial, often with incorrect information, created by a stranger is unexpectedly jarring, at best. Especially to discover that your family member was only a trophy harvest whose memorial was created hours after they died. Then, having to ask (sometimes beg an unresponsive person) for the transfer of their memorial to you, only to have the creator’s name forever associated with the memorial adds insult to injury.
I’m not referring here to a volunteer who lives locally and “takes care” of local cemeteries, like the person who created memorials for my parents months after they were buried, not hours after they died. Most of those people are respectful, kind, and pleasant to deal with. They provide their services out of the kindness of their heart AFTER giving the family a respectable amount of time. Those ARE NOT the people I’m referring to.
Those lovely local volunteers aren’t the mega-harvester people searching online funeral home listings morning and night for new points to score. That is NOT a service to anyone except themselves, and oh yea, Find a Grave/Ancestry who can then serve up hints to Ancestry subscribers and garner page views.
Ancestry clearly wants to keep those harvesters engaged but to the detriment of the actual genealogists who subscribe to Ancestry’s services. That’s a mighty high price leveraged on the backs of their customers. And let’s face it, sooner or later, everyone’s parents, siblings, or (God forbid), children pass away. Ancestry is rewarding people to further torture the grieving. Every grieving person needs a respectable amount of time and space. Ancestry, of all companies, should be sensitive to this.
What Needs to Be Done?
I’m not privy to any inside information, but I believe that originally Find a Grave, before it was purchased by Ancestry, began listing memorials and other stats to encourage volunteers to document and photograph cemeteries to assist genealogists. That was the original purpose.
However, that purpose has morphed into something very different. Ancestry has the agency, and responsibility to put the brakes on.
Ancestry needs to:
- Stop awarding points like trophies, at least publicly.
- Remove the name of the original creator when the memorial is transferred to a family member.
- Prevent anyone except close family members from creating memorials for minimally 90 days and I’d suggest a year.
I wasn’t done with my mother’s estate for at least a year and wasn’t ready to deal with seeing her photo and obituary online until then.
And if that was my child, OMG.
Who in their right mind would think that entering those massacred children into Find a Grave immediately was acceptable by any criteria? Any standards of decency? And why would Find a Grave tolerate this for even a minute? Death is traumatic for family members under the “best” of circumstances and it only goes downhill from there.
And this is clearly the worse of circumstances.
While the individuals who created those memorials before the bodies were even cold were insensitive, and that’s the best spin I can put on it, Ancestry is the only one who can, should, and has the responsibility to stop this. And they have, so far, been unwilling.
It’s time for every single one of us to speak up. Bloggers and influences as well as the rest of Ancestry’s customers. We can all be influencers.
Use Your Outside Voice
Ok, bloggers and social media people – use your voices. We have even more influence cumulatively, together, as a chorus, than individually.
I do need to provide a word of warning though, especially to bloggers and other professionals.
Ancestry is punitive if you don’t always write positively about them. They will pull your affiliate account if you have one. They will exclude you from influencer calls, meetings, and related events at conferences. I’m guessing Judy and I will be enjoying snacks in the restaurant while those meetings are taking place. I encourage you to join us. It’s worth it to do the right thing.
You don’t need to be a blogger to have an influence. Everyone has a voice. Here are several things everyone can do.
Deborah Liu was named Ancestry’s CEO in February 2021. She can fix this with one call or email.
- Deborah Liu at Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/deborahliu
- Deborah Liu on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/debliu
- Deborah Liu on Twitter – Deb Liu (@debliu_) / Twitter
This would be a good Twitter thread to reply to:
Based on Deborah’s social media photos, she has children. Ask her how she would feel if her children were massacred, and some unknown trophy hunter created their memorial as soon as their name was available. Would she feel violated? Crushed? Robbed of the opportunity to provide that caring act for her precious family member when she was ready?
God forbid this would ever happen to Deborah or her family, but if it did, this problem would be remedied in about 30 seconds.
Deborah may be “mourning with them,” but she is increasing the grief of countless people by failing to remediate Ancestry’s company policy. Furthermore, she, assuredly, is not following the Golden Rule by “doing unto others.” As if just doing the “right thing” isn’t enough reason alone.
Here’s the Biblical reference, if she needs it:
Matthew 7:12 (International Version), “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Perhaps Deborah didn’t know before, but let’s make absolutely positively sure she knows now!
Here’s a list of other places you can place comments and make yourself heard!
- Find a Grave on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/FindaGrave/
- Find a Grave on Twitter – https://twitter.com/FindaGrave
- Find a Grave on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/findagrave/
- Ancestry on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AncestryUS/
- Ancestry on Twitter – https://twitter.com/ancestry
- Ancestry’s Corporate Phone number – 1-800-615-6560
Let’s be that squeaky wheel and get results. Be respectful, but be sure to remind Ancestry that you are a PAYING customer when you call.
Ancestry, it’s way past time to step up.