A 90-day moratorium at Find A Grave

It happens over and over and over.

A grieving family struggles to cope with a loved one’s death. There are so many arrangements to make, so many people to be notified, so many things that have to be handled.

At some point in that process, the family genealogist reluctantly heads over to Find A Grave to add a memorial to the loved one who’s been lost. Wanting deeply to perform this last act of family love for the lost one.

And finds it’s already there. Complete with photo and obituary.

Posted by someone who never even heard of the deceased before finding the information online or in the newspaper.

Find A Grave

What that someone apparently doesn’t understand is how violated the family can feel at that point. Someone else — someone unrelated and unconcerned — has essentially crashed the funeral. Interjected himself or herself into the family’s private grief.

And because that someone else isn’t family and doesn’t know the deceased, all too often the information posted is wrong. Wrong in big ways. Or just wrong in small details.

And then — in way too many cases — the fight begins.

The family has to try to use an internal messaging system to contact the person who put up the memorial, and now controls it.

All too often that person doesn’t respond, despite multiple requests.

The family then has to persist to contact the site administrators.

Eventually, in most cases, control over the memorial will be transferred to the family — but it often takes months.

And every day the family gets angrier and angrier, and feels more and more hurt.

If you don’t think this is a problem, you haven’t been paying attention. Right now, on Facebook, in a genealogy group, genealogist after genealogist is telling the story of this happening in family after family:

“My father recently passed … To my surprise someone had added a memorial for him before he was buried. … I was really upset. This stranger did this without giving family time to grieve and handle things on their own.”

• “This happened to my uncle and I asked for transfer three times, nope nothing been almost a year.”

• “I went on Findagrave after my dad passed away in 2013 (but wasn’t yet buried) and found that someone had already created his memorial.”

Why in the world do we allow this?

Why isn’t there a rock-solid-no-exceptions rule that only the immediate family can post a memorial within a fixed time after a person’s death?

Why can’t we all wait 90 days to give the family a chance to post its own memorial to their own loved one?

How about it, Find A Grave? How about a rock-solid-no-exceptions rule that only the immediate family can post a memorial within 90 days?

Let’s give every grieving family a little bit of time to grieve in its own way.


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “A modest proposal,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 5 Aug 2019).

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