Paris (AFP)

Staying away from social networks during his lifetime does not guarantee to be absent from the digital world, once dead: with the development of mobile applications listing tombstones, especially for genealogists, the missing may, without knowing it, leave traces on the canvas.

"Find A Grave", "BillionGraves", "Save Our Tombs" ... These sites with a mobile app allow volunteer contributors to photograph gravestones and share on the internet.

"It's the same logic as Wikipedia," says Jerome Galichon, founder of the initiative "Save our graves", launched in 2014 by the online genealogy site Geneanet.

The primary objective is to feed the work of genealogy enthusiasts. "When we do genealogy, we often visit cemeteries, we see that many tombs disappear, as well as information on these graves," he says.

To cope with this inevitable degradation, they are between 15,000 and 20,000 volunteers to regularly feed the database in photos and information gleaned on the tombstones, anonymous as well as famous people, in civil and military cemeteries. To date, 2.5 million graves - in France and in neighboring countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain ...) - have been listed, says "Save our graves".

- Virtual memorials -

The initiative is modeled on what has already existed for several years across the Atlantic, with "Find A Grave", which claims the census of "more than 180 million graves in half a million cemeteries", and BillionGraves who hears " honor and preserve the graves of any person who has existed ".

Attached to genealogical behemoths ( and, these sites offer, in addition to searching for ancestors or parents, to create virtual memorials or to send messages in tribute to the missing. Devices that can cause problems for families, some sometimes discovering, by chance and without their consent, the grave of their grandfather appearing on the internet ...

At "Save Our Tombs", "families can click on a box to request that" photos of a grave "be removed even if legally, there is no clear prohibition because they are data from dead people, "says Jérôme Galichon.

"We have around 2-3 withdrawal requests per week, but mostly a lot of people who say they find the grave of a cousin or an ancestor lost sight of," he continues.

The practice is still limited in France, where it is more developed in the United States with Scouts sometimes responsible for enriching the database during a mission.

"In France, we will not necessarily hurry 30-40 people, however, we happen to send a team of 4-5 people in a military cemetery, where there is no funeral," says Do we at "Save our graves", which is associated with other projects highlighting the funerary heritage.

© 2019 AFP