Yesterday, beneath a beautiful sky and a slight fall chill, 15 people of all ages were joined by rabbis from 2 of the 3 congregations in the area at Temple Israel’s cemetery to mark several generations of Omaha RestingSpots. After a short prayer service by Temple Rabbi Linder, volunteers spread out and began mapping the large cemetery in North Omaha.
After a few hours, several sections were complete. The Omaha Jewish Community, which adopted RestingSpot last month as the tool to map every Jewish grave in Omaha, is now nearly finished in accomplishing this task. Thanks to the generosity of its residents by participating in a series of mapping events, future generations will now simply download the RestingSpot mobile app and find their ancestors, without ever having to contact a single cemetery office or find a printed map.
In addition, family members and friends can now begin filling in biographical information, uploading photographs and share memories at RestingSpot.com.
A great satisfaction for us was watching 8-year-old Micah Gilbert borrow his mother’s iPhone for the day and add several RestingSpots to the platform. If that doesn’t impress you enough, he posted about his experience on his blog(!) here: Micah’s Brain
When you have the opportunity to watch an 8-year-old boy standing in a cemetery row, his father several rows away, and then an elderly gentleman in a different section, it becomes instantly clear how important this project is for every city in the world. When Micah is 40 years old, there will be another 8-year-old boy standing near where he was yesterday, and he will be using the data that Micah and the others provided to locate a family member.
Some of the older limestone markers have deteriorated to the point where they are barely legible. Thankfully, many of those are now preserved on RestingSpot.com. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the wonderful Jewish community of Omaha. If you want to schedule a mapping event for your community, and there is any way we can be of assistance in helping you plan one, please let us know!
After recently reading about our service in the local press, Rabbi Jonathan Gross of Beth Israel Synagogue here in Omaha, NE approached RestingSpot to participate in a special cemetery marking event for Kever Avot.
In the Jewish religion, the ancient custom of Kever Avot (“graves of the fathers”) takes place just before Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). Jews are encouraged to visit the graves of loved ones to pray for eternal rest for the departed and to ask God to aid the living. “Rosh Hashanah is a time to plan for the future,” said Rabbi Brian Schuldenfrei of Sinai Temple. “By thinking of the legacy of those who came before us, we consider the legacy we want to leave.”
Today, a group of people, spanning multiple generations, participated in a service and then worked together to complete the marking of Mount Sinai Cemetery.
“Taking the teens was a great experience!” Rabbi Gross exclaimed, “It connected them with the older generation and exposed them to the value of honoring those who have passed.” Participant David Atri noted, “It felt good introducing some of the older people to the technology.”
Clearly it was a meaningful experience for all involved. Aaron Kurtzman: “This was a great way to spend a Sunday with friends.” Max Pollack: “It was very meaningful putting in the names of people whose funeral we had attended.” And Max Winer found perhaps the most special meaning of all: “I entered in my grandparents and now I can use RestingSpot when I visit next time.”
There’s no greater satisfaction we can think of that surpasses having a group come together for something like this. That is real meaning. After this incredible experience, we will be reaching out to local Catholic, Christian, Muslim and other Jewish organizations and engaging youth groups to share in Project RestingSpot. If you’d like to participate in your area, we’d love to hear about it, and we’ll help out however we can.
It’s been a real pleasure for us at RestingSpot to interact with all our users. Genealogists have a true passion for uncovering hidden stories and connecting the dots between them. One person we’ve enjoyed getting to know is Russ Worthington. It started with his terrific blog: My Tombstone Collection, and now having gotten to know the man, there are so many great things we could say about him. But we thought you should hear from him directly, so we asked him to write a guest post for us, and he graciously accepted.
In his own words:
I live in the beautiful North West corner of New Jersey that most people don’t know exists in our beautiful state. (no exit numbers) and I “retired” after 30 years with a major corporation.
I started my “collecting of ancestors” about 15 years ago (1996) when my youngest daughter gave me the Family Tree Maker program as a gift to “give me something to do.” Little did I know where this would lead me and the people I would meet.
I am excited about the changes in the research being done. I enjoy helping others in their “hunts” and in building their “family relationships.” I am still learning too and like being a part of a group helping not only myself but others along the way. The ability to locate Cemeteries is one of those research options that are available to us.
Although I have not been doing “genealogy” for that long, I have seen some changes. It’s no longer about collecting names, but more toward putting stories together about who these people are. Over the past couple of years, I have been asked to speak at a couple of Historical Societies. I didn’t make the connection until I started to put my presentation together. They are preserving the stories about a location, while I am trying to tell the stories of some of my ancestors.
One of those talks was about a house. Not being a house historian, nor an architect, nor one who plays one on TV, but I did know the story of the people who lived there and the impact of those folks on the community.
Now, none of my family ever lived in the area where I live now, but other families have lived here. What those families left for us, is pieces of their story in the local cemetery. I did a little research project for a friend of mine. All he had was the a name and a cemetery name where he “thought” he was buried. I went there, found a very small plot, but it didn’t include my person. Walked around a little more and found a plot where 20 or so people were buried, with a monument with names and dates, and some times relationships. Putting that data together and looking through some census records, I had a pretty complete picture for me to provide my friend about his family.
I have been taking Cemetery Photos for about 10 years, when my wife and I would visit the cemeteries where her ancestors were buried. But, for the past 2 and a half years, I have been taking pictures and posting them from the cemeteries in the local area. Most of those pictures were at the request of another family researcher. Folks that are not from here, but their ancestors are buried here. Dates, other names, relationships help them confirm their research or cause other research projects to try to find more about their family.
Like the project for my friend, why was there a small plot, with only a few people in it, at a much larger plot with everyone else. There has to be a story there.
Some one had, like me, had taken some random cemetery pictures, put them online, and I found them. It was family in Kansas. I will probably never get there, but I have the resting place for those family members.
What I really like about RestingSpot, is the ability to help put more of the story of the person who is listed on this website. Who was this person, why did someone take the time to post the name, take a picture, and post it on the RestingSpot website. For me, it’s another way to help tell the story of this person.
Technology today is allowing us to help gather the stories of our ancestors, and provide us with hints of who we are. I have said ‘so that’s why’ or ‘no wonder’ something has happened. All I needed to do was to look to the past.
Life moves pretty fast. But if you stop and think once in awhile about the strange coincidences that take place in your life, you might begin to believe in the invisible hands guiding you.
The RestingSpot story began last fall when my family and I could not find the grave of my grandfather, Dr. Gerald Atlas, on the 1-year anniversary of his passing. My grandfather was a respected doctor in the City of Chicago. It brought me such pride when, as a young child in a huge city, strangers used to ask me, “Are you related to Doc Atlas?”
He was always Grandpa to me. He took me alone on a deep-sea fishing trip to Islamorada, Florida when I was 13 years old. He used to give me riddles to solve and teach me little things that seemed trivial at the time, but that I would never forget. Yes, Grandpa, I still remember from when I was 9 that the longest word in the dictionary is “Pneumonultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconeosis,” and my 5-year-old son now does too.
Beyond medicine, Grandpa was an inventor. He invented the Star Docks that you can still see as you gaze out at the Chicago harbors in Lake Michigan. He invented a cane that latched onto tables, so that you’d never have to bend down and pick it up off the floor. He was always thinking of ways to change the world.
My Grandpa always used to say, “It doesn’t matter what you read, but you need to read something every night before bed.” So cruel, then, that Grandpa lost his vision to Macular Degeneration, and was no longer able to do the thing he loved most. At the end, he couldn’t see much at all.
The idea for RestingSpot popped into my head while searching for Grandpa’s grave. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it surely was no coincidence. Grandpa was still inventing. And where he is now, I know he can finally see again. I hope he sees what we’re doing and he’s proud.
When you launch a new product or service, it’s very exciting when people use it and like it. It’s even more exciting when they stumble upon your service through their own search because they have a need to fill, and you’ve filled it for them.
Brian Foos is a third-generation funeral director in Northern Ohio. Along with his son J.J., Brian operates two funeral homes there: Foos & Foos in Bellevue, OH and Foos – Klein in Clyde, OH. They also operate Northern Ohio Monuments in Bellevue, OH.
We noticed Brian began adding RestingSpots regularly, so we reached out to him to get his feedback on the platform. In his own words:
“We feel RestingSpot is going to be an invaluable tool for us. After we mark the grave at the time of the service, we can now use this app for after the service work that we are called on to do. We can now easily share the location with our setting crews to deliver the monuments, the final date sand blasting crew, no more searching the cemetery or taxing our brains trying to remember the exact location. With hundreds of funeral and monuments a year, RestingSpot is a game changer.
After the committal and as people are leaving, we begin to mark the grave and tell the family what we are doing. We are having a great response from the families we serve. It’s a little value added item we can do to set ourselves apart from the competition. And, at no cost to us.”
As with any new service, RestingSpot has had a few unforeseen hiccups that we didn’t plan on having. However, as Brian graciously notes:
“I’m sure the bugs will be addressed quickly. Brett and Scott have been very open with the suggestions I have given them. The web site needs some improvement to be easier for families to add their own information, but here again I’m sure as suggestions and ideas come in they will be utilized.”
We thank Brian for his comments, and we wish the Foos family and everyone a very Happy Labor Day Weekend!
There’s a reason cemeteries have maps. There’s also a reason some cemeteries have staff on site. Unfortunately, in most cases, neither of those can guarantee that you’re going to find the RestingSpot you are looking for. That’s what happened to me, and that’s why you are on RestingSpot.com.
It was last year when I was getting dizzy in the backseat of my father’s car in Westlawn Cemetery in Chicago. I had been to my grandfather’s grave. I had a map. I had waited in the car twice while my Dad talked with the Westlawn staff. And yet, we were still 45 minutes late to visit my grandfather. I texted my friend Scott Kroeger and said, “There should be an app for that.”
That’s how it began. Nine months later, welcome to the RestingSpot platform. Scott and I have created a service for you to literally put your loved ones on the map. With a simple push of a button, you can mark a RestingSpot for eternity. Think about that: Your great-grandchildren will be able to visit the same spot you marked.
We’ve worked incredibly hard to make these apps easy to use. We’ve created Project RestingSpot to achieve our first goal of mapping all of the RestingSpots in the United States by Memorial Day 2013.
The second part of the platform is the one we are really excited about. The website will be home to your family and friends forever. Share memories and photographs. Send messages to others. There are literally so many features we’re looking at implementing, that we sometimes stay up all night talking about it.
And that’s really what this whole thing is all about. Sharing life and love. Preserving stories. Coming together to celebrate people. We are excited about this journey, and we’re inviting you to come along with us. Download the free app for your iPhone or your Android phone and try it out. Mark a family or friend’s RestingSpot. Grab a few friends and do it for someone else. Then share it with them and watch the incredible reaction you get.
Project RestingSpot begins now. We’re excited for you to join us.
Brett and Scott