Since 2020, Michał Stanisław Klimczak, has transcribed nearly 30,000 headstone photos for other members and fulfilled thousands of photo requests. He started transcribing headstones for others as he noticed that headstones in the community queue were inscribed with Polish and Czech text. Polish and Czech are the two main ancestral roots on both sides of his family and he knew he could help. Some German headstones were coming through too, so he studied up on how to read German and helped with those photos as well.
My interest in Find a Grave® began back when I was searching for my biological parents. I discovered someone had uploaded a photo to a memorial belonging to my paternal grandfather. I immediately signed up to volunteer for the site because I wanted to help others in similar circumstances. I started off doing most of my work in Chicago at Resurrection and St. Adalbert’s cemeteries, where the bulk of my close and distant family members are buried/entombed. As a volunteer, I enjoy hearing from folks that I’ve been fortunate enough to assist in their own personal journey to locate family members and other loved ones.
One story I’d like to share is how a distant 3rd cousin tracked me down using the memorials I had created for my own family. It turns out that my paternal great-grandmother had a sibling who was 17 years her junior that I never knew about. This cousin of mine, Chase Skalon, saw that I had created and left a flower for my own great-grandmother, who he already knew was his great-grandmother’s sibling. Chase contacted me on Find a Grave and we were able to confirm through his grandmother, who was my great-grandmother’s niece, that we were related. Sadly, Chase passed away a few years ago, but it’s a tribute to how a simple site can connect people.
Additionally, I’ve made numerous friends on the site, some of whom I’ve met in person multiple times. I am still in contact with several members on the site that enjoy sharing their own personal stories with me. Once I moved out of the Chicagoland area, I began photographing rural and abandoned cemeteries. I became particularly fond of photographing cemeteries that had dozens of old photo requests and had been under photographed. Here are links to a few of them:
In his cemetery trips, Michał found graves that hadn’t been photographed and recorded, even though the percentage photographed on the cemetery page was high. This is due to the percentage photographed only applying to the memorials already listed in the cemetery. He could see there was more work to be done in these cemeteries. Here are a few headstones that he photographed and recorded from Wagner Cemetery.
I think what drew me to these, and many other rural and abandoned cemeteries, is the prospect of helping others who have been searching for family and friends. Many rural areas don’t have volunteers, so I drove countless hours around the north-central portion of the state trying to help as much as I can. I sought out cemeteries that had many photo requests. Instead of finding specific stones, I ended up photographing the cemetery for hours in the elements. It didn’t matter if it was hot, cold, windy, humid, or snowing – as long as I could read the stones I was happy to help.
Michał, we are appreciative of your efforts and the efforts of all Find a Grave volunteers. This work connects us as a community as we help one another and also allows people everywhere to discover information about those that have passed on.
We welcome your suggestions for volunteers to be featured on our newsblog. Please send an email with details of their work to firstname.lastname@example.org.