Finding THE Grave

by Ruby Coleman

One of the most exciting processes in genealogical research is to find the grave of an ancestor. It is also exciting to be able to stand by that grave, look at the tombstone and ponder on the life of the individual buried there. But first we need to locate the grave and before that the cemetery and/or location.

Cemetery clues can be found in a variety of places. Look for clues in these places:

- obituaries

- Family Bibles

- death certificates

- family photographs of tombstones

- biographical sketches in county/town histories

- probate files

- family stories and memorabilia

To locate names of funeral homes in the area where your ancestor lived, visit your local or area funeral home and ask to use their directory. Funeral home listings are also available on Internet, one good web page being Funeral Net at Even if they do not have records of your ancestor's burial, they should be able to give you names and locations of cemeteries in the area.

Cemetery offices or sextons have more detailed information that can be helpful in your research. In some states, the cemeteries are managed on a township basis, in which case records found in town halls, record centers or even in the home of the township clerk. Contact these places to learn what records they have and if your ancestor is listed.

Locating the cemetery requires directions. Clues as to where cemeteries are located can be found in or with the following:

- maps

- town/county histories

- funeral homes in the area

- genealogical/historical societies in the area

- courthouses for cemetery plat books

- town hall or clerk office

- county surveyor's office (maps)

A good deal about cemeteries can be found on Internet. The USGS web page can be searched for specific cemeteries or cemeteries within a named county and state. Not all cemeteries are listed there, so if your ancestor is buried in a private or family cemetery, your quest will need to continue elsewhere.

To use the USGS web page, go to: On the pull down menu select cemetery and then add as much identifying information as you need. By clicking on a specific cemetery you will learn more about its location. Click and you will locate maps showing the location and terrain. From the USGS site you will determine the latitude and longitude of the cemetery. This can be entered into another web page, MapBlast at, using the Advanced Query.

A good deal of information can be found on the USGenWeb project at You can add the state abbreviation after the "org/" to go directly to the state and then county USGenWeb pages. The USGenWeb Tombstone Transcription Project is located at: On the county web pages, look for transcribed cemetery records. Also check the "Look ups" section for contacts who will check cemetery records. The following are a few of the specific web pages pertaining to cemeteries:

Cemetery Junction

Cemetery Interments on Internet

Online Cemetery Records

It is also possible to locate cemetery information using a search engine on Internet, such as Google or AlltheWeb. Enter the name of the cemetery and location (town, county or state) or enter cemeteries and the location. Using a variety of techniques you may be surprised as to what is on Internet pertaining to your ancestor's burying ground.

While it takes some research time and diligence to locate cemeteries and records, it is worth that time and effort. Spring is just around the corner, so jot down all of those cemeteries you need to locate and visit!

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