Hit the Road to the Cemetery

by Ruby Coleman

Spring are fall are ideal times to visit the cemetery. So, let's hit the road. First we need to make some plans!

Sometimes it is not easy to determine a place of burial. The following are places you can look for clues as to where an ancestor is buried.

  • obituaries
  • Family Bibles
  • family stories and traditions
  • funeral cards
  • photographs of tombstones (check the background also)
  • death certificates
  • probate files (receipts from cemeteries)
  • burial and transmittal permits
  • biographical sketches in county and town histories
  • town clerk records in area where you ancestor last lived

Determine where you ancestor was living close to the time of his or her death. Make a list of cemeteries in that area.

Once you have determined where your ancestor is buried or might be buried, you need to locate that cemetery. Look for maps in old atlases, old or current town or county histories. Call or write to funeral homes in the area and ask for names of cemeteries in the area or about a specific cemetery. Funeral home directories can be used at your local funeral home.

Genealogical and historical societies in a community or county will share knowledge of cemeteries in their area. Contact the courthouse for information on cemeteries and inquire about plat books and deeds that show the owners of cemetery lots. In some states and counties, town clerks are in charge of these records.

Maps showing cemeteries can be obtained from county surveyor's offices. A good map is the county highway map which shows cemeteries with a boxed cross. Some of these are sold in counties or by state highway departments. They are a good buy!

Search the USGS web page for information on cemeteries. Not all are recorded at the USGS site, but it is a good start. On their query form page at http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnis/web_query.gnis, pull down the menu to cemetery and then select the state of your interest. Type in the county and press search.

A listing of cemeteries will show the name and location. Clicking on a specific cemetery will eventually lead to maps of the location. Another method is to use the latitude and longitude shown on the USGS return for a cemetery. At a map site, such as MapBlast, http://www.mapblast.com, select ŇAdvanced Query." Type in the latitude and longitude to locate the cemetery.

There are many site on Internet that contain cemetery extractions or information and directions to cemeteries. Before you hit the road, check some of these ...

  1. Cemetery Junction http://www.cemeteryjunction.com/
  2. Cemetery Interment Lists on Internet http://www.interment.net/
  3. Online Cemetery Records http://www.geneasearch.com/cemeteries.htm
  4. Saving Graves http://savinggraves.com
  5. Association of Gravestone Studies http://www.gravestonestudies.org
  6. USGenWeb Tombstone Transcription Project http://www.rootsweb.com/~cemetery
  7. Virtual Cemetery http://www.genealogy.com/vcem_welcome.html

Your Internet research should also include a check of individual counties of the USGenWeb project. These can be found at http://www.usgenweb.org/ followed by the state abbreviation. Many of the county sites include tombstone extractions.

During the 1930s the Works Progress Administration (WPA) surveyed cemeteries. Many of these included rural cemeteries that have since become overgrown and difficult to canvas. These surveys can be found in state libraries and historical societies.

Books containing cemetery extractions have been published. These are often done by genealogical societies. Some are canvassed by walking the cemetery and more extensive research is by seeking other records, such as those in the cemetery office. Sometimes you have no way of knowing if everything was checked. A good place to check for published cemetery records is the Family History Catalog of the Family History Library (LDS). This is available on CD for purchase or at Family History Centers. You can also check this online at http://www.familysearch.org.

Do your research before you hit the road. Cemetery research is addictive and you can spot a genealogist by the bumper stick, Genealogists Brake For Cemeteries.

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