GenToday-L Archive

Researching Tombstones

There are four main types of cemeteries, the church burial yard, the public or municipal cemetery, the family burial plot and the commercial memorial park. The tombstones in those cemeteries often give information about the children and the names of wives that may not appear in any other records. When looking for tombstones, you should have a notebook containing the surname variants, maiden names of the women on your pedigree charts, and the dates your family members settled that area. Usually, family members are buried in clusters. Even when the surname in that cluster may be unfamiliar, consider the probability that they could be related.

Many times on a tombstone, you may locate the statement "Child of ... born in ...." along with birth and death dates. The tombstones normally include the name of the deceased and the date of death. Knowing the location of the grave and the graves nearby, you will be able to help distinguish between others with the same name, other family members, and locating unmarked graves that may be other family members.

When visiting a cemetery, note the exact location of the tombstone in the cemetery. Draw a map of the cemetery and note information on those near your relative. If it is a small cemetery, note all the tombstones. When it is difficult to read a tombstone, make a rubbing of the area or use soft white chalk as this will help to read it. It is important to write everything as it was written. Do not make changes or abbreviations. Another method is using a tape recorder. Whichever method of documentation you choose, make sure to note special trees, fences or other objects that may out live the life of the tombstone.

Many cemeteries keep records on the ownership of the lots. Some contain information on the burials themselves. These records will help to verify the information on the tombstone and assist with the location of the graves. The records may exist is an alphabetical card file, diagram book, interment book or a lot book.

To locate cemetery records, there are many sources available to assist. Many cemetery records have been transcribed, and many are available on microfilm. One may also find many transcriptions in genealogical periodicals. Many tombstones no longer exist that may have existed at the time the cemetery was transcribed. At times, the researcher may find excellent information that may be better than information found on death records. You can consult card indexes of cemetery associations for locations of cemeteries and plots by writing to Association for Gravestone Studies, %Carol A. Perkins, 1233 Cribb Street, Toledo, Ohio 43612.

Tombstones and evidence in genealogy research may vary. If you are depending on a transcription, they may have written the information incorrectly. A stone could have been replaced by an older stone and the information could be different from the original. The stonecutter could have written the wrong date. It is also possible that they put the date of burial not the date of death. There is also the possibility that the stone was set many years after the death on an unmarked grave. It is important to verify the information on tombstones using other sources.

Suggested Reading:

  • The Tombstone Tourist
  • 75 Famous People and Their Final Resting Places
  • Soul in the Stone


    Looking for anything on john or charles potter-the redd family-the plume family- the baber's, ashmore's and the sutherland's. (norm)

    Seeking any information on, Frederick & Riney (PICKETT) MINGO & children: Cary, Isham, Shedrick, Lazuraus, Earnest, Martha, Mary, and Savinia MINGO. All of Patterson St. Mary Parish, La., between 1880 & 1900.

    Researching Abraham GRIMES b. abt 1823 & Mary JOHNSON b. abt. 1830 Patterson, La., m. Nov. 22, 1869. Children: Sarah, Frank, Martha, Washington, Elizabeth, Easter, Isabella, Marshall & Hannah all born in Patterson, La.

    Seeking info abt Elias MOORE [b. c1795 in NC d. 1861 Belleview,MO. in Rutherford Co, TN in 1820s when son, Samuel Anderson MOORE born 1824 [or 9] in Murfreesboro,TN. Samuel m. 1852 TN Malinda Jane TODD. Contact:

    Searching for information on Frank LaGuardia, born circa 1935 in Union City, NJ.

    Genealogy Research is focused on the following Surnames: LOCKMILLER, STEWART, BARRIS, GARRISON, GUTHRIE, MORGAN, WALL, PATTERSON (Corky Lockmiller)

    Seeking info on EBNER, Frederick, born 1802 in Baden, Germany. Immigrated to Texas in 1852. Contact Deanna Glaze via email at

    Researching Jacob Kinser, b. 1750, Berks Co., PA., d. 1816, Greene Co., TN., married Easter Wampler. Would like names of their children.

    Seeking info George W. Fisher md Ella/Ellen Dennis, Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches Co, Tex 13 Dec. 1877. Lived in Nacogdoches & Angelina Co. Tex til their death. Need where came from & who parents and/or siblings.

    Seeking John Mathieson/Mathewson bn 1 Dec 1840 Aberdeen Scotland, s/o William Mathieson/Mathewson & Margaret Robinson. D:18 April 1913. Md Charlotte Harvey bn 18 April 1840, Woolwich, Ontario. d/o William Harvey & Charlotte Buxton. D:May 23 1925 Brandon Manitoba.

    Looking for parents of Sarah A. Spain, bn 20 Jan 1830 Henderson, TN, md Andrew J. Turnbo 1848, probably Maury County, TN. Andrew's parents: James Turnbo & Felicia Coffey.

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