Appropriating Content from Find-A-Grave

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee updates the genealogy community on a new site, and its apparent copyright violations against Find A Grave.

Many Genealogists and Family Historians Report Copyright Violations by

[Editor’s Note: this post is solely the opinion of the author and the information below is based on factual reporting and investigation.]

UPDATE September 25th:

  • In its latest move, it appears People Legacy has removed all images from actual record listings; however, you can still see images in the search results and they still contain the watermark.


Early this afternoon I was alerted to a new site called People Legacy ( by many members of the genealogy community. The reason: it appears that People Legacy has used copyrighted photos uploaded to by members of the popular cemetery record and grave memorial website.

Most of the Findagrave members with whom I’ve had online conversations are outraged not just at the misappropriation of the content they supplied, but many feel violated at how has plastered their watermark over most photos. Watermark on Photo of My Grandmother’s Gravestone

I visited the PeopleLegacy site this evening and searched for Anna Austin of Liberty, NY – my mother’s mother who passed in 1965. My mother’s cremains were buried in this same spot in August, 2015.

Imagine my surprise when I saw not just the data from the Find A Grave memorial for Anna Austin (1912-1965)  (#18952298), but also the same photo as the memorial (taken by friend and colleague Geri Neumann and her family).

magine my surprise when I saw not just the data from the Findagrave memorial for Anna Austin (1912-1965)  (#18952298), but also the same photo as the memorial (taken by friend and colleague Geri Neumann and her family).

I also saw the watermark plastered all over the image. During my search I’ve also seen actual photos of ancestors with the same watermarked plastered all over their faces.

Who is

While poking around the PeopleLegacy website, several things (and a lack of several things) caused me to be very suspicious of this relatively new site:

  • There are NO social media links! I’m always wary when a new site is not at least on Twitter and Facebook . . . either the owners of the site have poor marketing skills OR, and more likely, they are trying not to be on the receiving end of feedback.
  • The WHOIS record (which tracks where the domain name is registered and where the site is hosted) can be found HERE. Much of the information is “masked” to protect the identity of the registrant and the owner.  From what I can tell:

– GoDaddy is the domain registrar; the DNS servers are NS-656.AWSDNS-18.NET, NS-1206.AWSDNS-22.ORG, NS-1686.AWSDNS-18.CO.UK, and NS-379.AWSDNS-47.COM; and the content is hosted at Amazon according to the record at MYIP.MS (see

  • A review of the Wayback Machine at Internet Archive shows that the domain name has been in use since 2004 but the last “snapshot” was taken in 2014 and there is no visible content (see*/

I DO NOT recommend filing any take down notices or making any contact with GoDaddy, Amazon, Google. or the press release author at this time. Having worked with Ancestry on intellectual property issues before, I can tell you that they have things well in hand and I am content to wait and see how this plays out.

How Did Get Over 130 Million Find A Grave Memorials?

A Facebook user commenting on my post alerting the genealogy community (see  surmised that the Find A Grave website may have been hacked and that any user should change their password.

My experience has shown that it is more likely that the owners of PeopleLegacy used an automated system – like a spider or a bot – to download all the publicly available content over a period of time. What disturbs me is that Ancestry did not realize that this massive amount of data was leaving their site by an automated process. Perhaps Ancestry was able to interrupt the download since PeopleLegacy claims 130 million records while the Find A Grave site is known to have at least 165 million records, if not more.

What Should You Do If Your Content Has Been Used by

First, a disclaimer: in no way am I dispensing legal information or advice or recommending any course of action to be taken by any individual, whether or not they’ve had their content used by PeopleLegacy.

Second, I’ve been in touch with several of my contacts at, the company that owns and administers the Find A Grave website. They are vigorously pursuing all avenues necessary to ensure that the content is not misused by PeopleLegacy or any other company or individual.

Third, my best recommendation is to a) take a deep breath because I know many people are angry and feel violated (and rightly so), b) make sure you follow the genealogy news on various sites including the Ancestry Facebook page ( and right here at Abundant Genealogy, and c) DO NOT bombard Ancestry with phone calls, emails or Facebook messages since this only ties up resources that could be better used to resolve this issue.


Disclosure Statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2018, copyright Thomas MacEntee.  All rights reserved.

About the Author

Thomas MacEntee
Genealogy educator and author Thomas MacEntee has been researching his family history for more than 40 years and is the creator of Abundant Genealogy, Genealogy Bargains, DNA Bargains, The Genealogy Do-Over and numerous other web-based genealogy and family history properties.

8 Comments on " Appropriating Content from Find-A-Grave"

  1. Now that’s what I call Karma.

  2. Suzanne Matson | 21 September 2018 at 1:38 pm |

    In light of their actions, their terms of service are an insult to the individuals who have contributed their information and photos to Findagrave.

    • Suzanne

      Just to clarify this was NOT an action by Ancestry or Find A Grave – this could have happened to any site (and it has – if you remember Cyndi’s List had a similar copyright theft/infringement situation several years ago).

  3. allison macarthur-ruesink macarthur-ruesink | 21 September 2018 at 3:36 pm |

    Can you say Class-Action Lawsuit!? They have put their watermark on my GGGrandfather and Mothers Photos Holman Johnson and Sarah Goodwin, that I put up on Ancestry and Find A Grave’ It came from MY FAMILY PHOTO ALBUM!!! I don’t mind genealogists/family copying for their Tree, but not a For-Profit site!!
    This photo was also part of Historian Ed Kallop Jrs book about my GGGrandfather “Johnson’s Kindom ‘The story of a 19th Century Industrial KIngdom in the Town of Wayne Maine’ “Published by the Wayne Historical Society!!

  4. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Yes, my personal family photos have also been appropriated and watermarked. What is astounding is how poor the organization and indexing is on the site. My grandfather is listed on Find A Grave as Rev Cecil Whitcomb Goff, but is of course searchable as Cecil Goff. On the PeopleLegacy site, he cannot be found by searching Cecil Goff as his name, but can be found by searching Rev Goff as his name.

    Another thing is that the links on the page to other people of the same surname in the same cemetery are far from complete.

    This, in my opinion, was probably perpetrated by a foreign entity. There is plenty to be suspicious about, and plenty mad, too.

  5. We have tens of thousands of pictures on Find A Grave and Ancestry that have been stolen by People Legacy, and while it is infuriating I take comfort in the fact that their site is basically a piece of shit and probably won’t have enough traffic to pay the hosting costs. It will eventually implode on it’s own accord.

  6. Interesting that so far it appears to be US only…wonder why that is?

    • Some research has shown that PeopleLegacy is registered as a business based in Cyprus – and I bet they didn’t want to get into copyright issues with the European Union – they are more likely to be a target (so they believe) there than if they use US content.

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