Instructions for Photographing Grave Markers

For people interested in photographing grave markers, these instructions will guide them with the photography and also with the recording of the data into a database.

The instructions standardize and simplify the conversion of the data for the database maintained by the Genealogical Society of Finland at

The instructions are given for digital cameras, but may also be used for film cameras or for slides.


The Genealogical Society of Finland offers server capacity at for photos of grave markers. Anyone can submit photos for permanent and public storage at the server.


The photographer always owns the copyright to the photos. The copyright can also be transferred to the Genealogical Society of Finland.

Photo Texts

The photographer writes the texts in accordance with the instructions below.

Choose a Cemetery

All cemeteries in Finland and cemeteries outside Finland with Finnish graves may be included. Cemeteries in poor condition, or cemeteries in danger of destruction should be given priority when choosing a cemetery to photograph.

Choose Grave Markers

Grave Markers may be chosen according to different criteria. The criteria is always told at the cemetery site. Examples of criteria are: "all markers", "markers made before 1900", "wooden crosses", etc.

Permission to Take Photos

No permission to take photos is needed. Artistic grave monuments at cemeteries in Finland may be copyrighted, but should not cause any problems because the photos are taken for a non-commercial project. The photographer should photograph gravemarkers carefully and not cause damage or harm to the marker or grave itself.

Photo Standards

Digital cameras can save photos in different formats. Photos published at the web use the formats JPG or GIF. It is easy to convert photos from one format to another.

Size of the Photos

Photos are at the moment published with a maximum width of 640 pixels. The height of a photo depends always of the width. Photos should always be taken with a width of at least 1000 pixels because the resolution of the screens are improving all the time. The width is reduced, if needed, by the Genealogical Society of Finland before photos go public. The original photos are saved and re-published with a larger width in future when screens get better resolutions.

Naming the Photos

Use the names of the picture files given by the digital camera. Do not rename the photos before sending them to the Genealogical Society of Finland. Never name the photos according to the names found on the grave markers. Do not include spaces in the file name.

Every photo has an unique file name. The file name consists usually of some letters and some digits, and an ending showing the file type, as pict345.jpg, pict346.jpg, dscn8678.jpg, dscn8679.jpg. The file name can be written in either upper or lower case, or in a mix of them.

It is a waste of time to rename files before they are sent to the Genealogical Society of Finland.

Camera Options

Do not allow the camera to copy date, time, or file name on the photo.

Submitting Photos

Send the photos to the Genealogical Society of Finland on a CD or a DVD. The address is

The Genealogical Society of Finland
Liisankatu 16 A
FI-00170 Helsinki

Single photos or small number of photos can be sent as attachtments to e-mail messages to the address (one photo per message).

Tables for Excel and Word

The photographer should make an index of the photos using Excel, Works, or Word. The table has fields for file name, name of the deceased, and date information.

Ready made tables for Excel and Word can be downloaded for different software versions:

Excel 97/2000

Download table

Excel 95/5.0

Download table

Word 97-2000 Download table

Begin the download by clicking at the link with the right mouse button. Choose a directory to save the file in. Start Excel or Word and open the file as usually. Rename the file before you start to type the information to the table.

Field Instructions


General Instructions



Date of

Date of

Additional Photos


Given Names

Family Name











July 12, 1897

December 3, 1902







Sigrid Lundstrom nee Lahti

December 7, 1934

January 9, 2002







Sigrid Lundstrom nee Lahti

December 7, 1934

January 9, 2002






















pict0567 William Aalto William "Bill" Aalto June 4, 1945 2002      
dscn9420 John Juntunen John Johnson (Juntunen) 1867 1923      
dscn9420 John Johnson John Johnson (Juntunen) 1867 1923      

Follow the instructions carefully. Include only the data mentioned in the instructions. The table is automatically converted to the format used in the grave marker database. The conversion is easy to make if the data is typed according to the instructions.

The length of the text is of no importance. Note, that Excel 95/5.0 and older versions limit the field length to 255.

All names, places, farms, and names of months start with upper case, while all other letters are lower case.

The data on a grave marker is never interpreted. All data shall be written as it is without any additions or comments.

Given Names or Family Name Fields

The name fields are used in the web search, and the names are used to build up the main text of every photo, if no text is written in the Text field.

Every name (i.e. individual) has at least one row in the table.

Include only one family name in the Family Name field. Include all given names or initials in the Given Names field.

Do not include nicknames in the Given Names field (see example above).

Initials are followed by a dot, and a space if there is one more initial or given name.

Sometimes a grave marker has a family name as header. If the header family name is different from the family name of the deceased the header family name should be excluded. But if it is evident that the deceased sometimes used the header family name as a surname, the deceased gets one row with the header family name in Family Name field.

If a family name or a given name is missing or is unreadable it should be replace by one question mark (?).

Text Field

This field is used only when one needs to include other data than only given names and family name.

If the deceased has more than one family name shown on the marker, as nee Maki, one should write Maria Kallio nee Maki in the Text field. The given names should always be in front of the family names.

If the deceased has one family name used in North America and one family name used in Finland (and both are shown on the marker), one should write the given names and both family names in the Text field, and repeat the row with different family names in the Family Name field (see example John Johnson (Juntunen) above).

Nicknames shown on the marker goes after the given names, usually inside parenthesis or quotation marks.

Date of Birth and Date of Death Fields

Different date formats may be used, but the year must always be the last four digits of the field. Use the year only if exact date is missing.

Note that years always have four digits!

Missing or unreadable digits are replaced by question marks. Limit the use of question marks to a minimum. Replace the whole date with a question mark when the date is present but unreadable. Don't use question marks for dates which are left out from the marker.

Never use the date format in Excel cells!

Pic2, Pic3, Pic3

A grave marker is usually represented by one photo, but there may be up to four photos of each grave marker. The photos are printed in following order (upper to lower): Main Photo, Pic2, Pic3, Pic4. All texts are printed below the lowermost photo.