by Donna Streetenberger
Have you taken the time to find the gravesite of each of your ancestors? If you haven’t, you could be missing a key part of your genealogy puzzle. Although wemay spend years trying to find records that were created throughout our ancestors’ lives, it is sometimes theinformation about their deaths that can be the most revealing.
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This can be especially true when searching for your ancestors’ burial sites because the journey of discovery can turn up some very interesting details. Luckily, there are many resources available to help you discover how your ancestor died, where they were buried and to locate their headstone and related records. In the following article we cover how to find a grave’s location using various records and how to search cemeteries online.
Online cemetery search sites are the place to start if you already know where your ancestor was buried. If you do not, you may have a hard time determining which entry matches your ancestor due to the limited information sometimes available.
Take some time to try and find out where your ancestor was buried before digging through these records. If you need help finding this information please read the sections near the end of this article on using death certificates and newspapers for this purpose.
Cemetery search engines have been around almost since the beginning of the internet, so they now have an incredible collection of information. Find a Grave and Billion Graves are two great places to begin because they both contain user contributed (or crowdsourced) data and both sites now have hundreds of millions of records. But there are other options as well. Let’s take a look first at the most popular sites.
Find a Grave
The most well-known free site with records from cemeteries around the world is Find a Grave – also known simply as findagrave. It began in 1995 and now has over 170 million memorials.
To search for your ancestor for free at Find a Grave:
- Go to www.Findagrave.com
- Enter the first name (if known) and the last name of your ancestor. The last name is required.
- Enter any additional information, if known, such as year of birth and the place your ancestor may be buried. If you don’t know this information, simply leave the field blank.For the example below, the death date entered was before 1940 by using the “down arrow” and selecting “Before”. The place of death is Texas.
- Now press enter, or click the search button, and a list of the results will be displayed.In this instance, FindaGrave had 101 matching records for Alice Smith who died in Texas before 1940.
- Scroll through the results to search for your ancestor and click on their name to display their information. Or, use the “Refine Search” link, at the top of the page, to narrow your results.
The “Alice Smith” used for our example was Alice A. McLain Smith. Her cemetery information is shown below.
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The information for Alice McLain Smith not only gives her burial location but also gives a wealth of information about her as well as her direct and extended family. The other family members are shown as “Calculated Relationships” based on birth and death dates.
Not all memorials have photos of tombstones. However, you can request a photo by clicking the “request photo” button. You will need to sign-in, or sign-up, before the photo request can be made.
Note: The information generated by Find a Grave varies based on the information provided by contributors. The cemetery information is not always displayed. Some memorials are created by contributors even though the burial information for an ancestor is still unknown.Find a Grave’s website states that “thousands of contributors submit new listings, updates, corrections, photographs and virtual flowers every hour.” So, always verify any information you may find. If you find incorrect information regarding your ancestor you can suggest edits by using the “Suggest Edits” button.
Billion Graves, according to their website, “is the world′s largest resource for searchable GPS cemetery data.” The information found on their website is generated by users, with the Billion Graves app, who create GPS data for burial locations. The data is uploaded to the Billion Graves website where those accessing the site can attempt to locate the specific location of their ancestor’s resting place.
To search Billion Graves for free:
- Go to www.BillionGraves.com
- Enter the first name (if known) and the last name of your ancestor as well as any other information you may already know.
- Click the “Search” button.The following information is displayed:
The information for Alice Smith at Billion Graves is not as informative as what was found at Find a Grave, but the site does say that more information is available for a yearly fee.
Another cemetery search engine, which is not based on user-contributed data, is Interment.net. It is, according to their website, “an online archive of transcriptions that spans tens of thousands of cemeteries across the world.” Their data is sourced from government entities, churches and genealogy and historical groups.
To search Interment.net:
- Go to www.Interment.net
- Enter the name of your ancestor. You may also use the last known location of the deceased to help narrow your search.
- Click the search button.
A list of records containing Alice Smith as well as, Falls, County, and Texas is displayed.
- Click on the details that appear to have your ancestors information (if any). The following information was displayed for Alice Smith, showing the specific location of her burial, along with other Smith family members buried in the same cemetery.
Besides cemetery search engines, there are other records available online that can help you find a gravesite – if you have an idea of where your ancestor may have been buried. These can be found through a Google search.
- Go to www.Google.com
- Enter the first and last name of your ancestor, the city or county you think they may be buried in, and the word, “cemetery” and click search.
Results similar to the following information is displayed:
In this example, the last result on Google, for USGW Archives, is another cemetery listing showing the burial place for Alice Smith.
Note: You will likely need to get creative to find the information you need so we suggest reading this article about maximizing your Google search to help.
Many death-related records can provide information to help you find a gravesite. The burial location for your ancestor can often be found in the following records:
Some death certificates can be accessed for free at FamilySearch.org, while others can be obtained through the county clerk’s office. Be aware that death certificates are generated in the state where a death occurred. Also, while some states began creating death certificates by 1900, they weren’t widely mandated until the 1930’s.
Below is the death certificate for Alice Ann Smith found at FamilySearch.org. This death certificate does not specifically list the cemetery where Alice Smith was buried but does show the town, of Lott, [Texas] where the burial took place.
Newspaper obituaries can be excellent resources for burial locations. One of the best free sources for newspapers is Chronicling America, from the Library of Congress, which has digitized newspapers from 1789 to 1963.
Google also has an extensive, free newspaper archive, which we covered briefly in our quick guide to finding free newspaper collections.
Additional records that will list when and where (city, county, and/or state) a burial took place include:
- Social Security Death Records– For deaths after 1935. Access for free at FamilySearch.org.
- U.S. Census Mortality Schedules– For deaths 1850-1880. Read more about this important resource here.
- U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites Records 1775-2006– If your ancestor was a veteran. Paid subscription through Ancestry.com.
Funeral Homes and Churches
Once you know where a death possibly occurred, you can contact mortuary or funeral homes and/or local churches your ancestor might have attended to inquire about their death records. Oftentimes, people at churches and funeral homes can be the best source of information.
For ancestors who died between 1700–1900, their local mercantile store may have provided the funeral arrangements. Many current day funeral homes that have been in existence for over one hundred years, started out in a mercantile store offering caskets and other funeral-related accessories. Many of those records are no longer available, but some funeral homes may still have records from over a century ago that were transferred to a local museum or other archival facilities.
Other resources, if you’re lucky enough to find them in your attic, or through family members, include:
- A Family Bible
- The Deceased’s Funeral Program and/or Funeral Home Guest Book
No matter where you end up finding information regarding your ancestor’s resting place, keep in mind that if the burial occurred more than a century ago, finding the actual cemetery and/or gravesite may be harder than you think.
Unfortunately, while some burial records have been preserved well over the centuries, some actual burial grounds have not. Some cemeteries, especially those in larger cities, may have been moved to other locations so it’s important to do thorough research prior to attempting to visit your ancestor’s grave.
If you’re certain that the physical gravesite still exists, plan your trip accordingly. Use a good mapping software to ensure you make it to your destination and follow the rules and regulations of the cemetery. Depending on the time of year and location of the cemetery, watch out for snakes and insects – and, of course, be respectful of others who may be visiting the cemetery.
The journey to find the final resting place of your ancestor can leave you with a deeper bond to those who came before you and provide many more connections on your family tree. If you have utilized all the available resources to find a family member’s gravesite and have not been successful, don’t give up. In genealogy, many records are still just waiting to be discovered.
Important Read:Planning a Cemetery Visit? Dos and Don’ts to Read Before You Go
You might also like:
Do You Have a Graveyard Kit? Here are the 13 Things I Keep in Mine
The “Secret” Codes on Death Certificates That Can Tell You How Your Ancestors Died
Donna Streetenberger is a professional genealogist and freelance writer. She has enjoyed helping people find their elusive ancestors for over twenty years. With a background in technical writing, she enjoys old world genealogy research coupled with new technology. She has published numerous articles, online and in print, about genealogy research and history. Find her at www.ResearchingAncestry.com.
You can find out where someone is buried for free by running names searches on various cemetery records databases. There are several that free with millions of records from across the world. These databases show where is someone is buried, their pertinent dates of birth and death, and often times their plot location.What is Find a Grave ID? ›
This database contains an index to cemetery and burial details posted on Find a Grave. Find a Grave provides users a virtual cemetery experience, with images of grave markers from around the world, as well as photos, biographies, and other details uploaded by volunteers.Is there a free site to look up ancestors? ›
FamilySearch A completely free genealogy database website. You can use an Advanced Search tool by surname, record type, and/or place to access millions of records. The FamilySearch Wiki is a “go to” resource to find what exists for a wide range of family history topics, even beyond FamilySearch's extensive databases.How long do you keep a burial plot? ›
Legally, graves cannot be sold for more than 100 years. However, as the remaining lease period reduces, owners have the opportunity to buy subsequent lease periods of 50 or 75 years as long as the total ownership at any time does not exceed 100 years.What is the difference between a cemetery plot and a burial plot? ›
“Cemetery lot” or “burial plot” is a small piece of land in a cemetery used for the interment human remains. A crypt or group of crypts or burial vaults owned by one person in a public or community mausoleum is deemed a cemetery lot.Can you still buy a burial plot? ›
You can't buy a grave itself, but instead the right to use it for 50 years. You can renew your ownership in multiples of ten years up to 50 years. The cost of a grave plot depends on various factors, for example the type of plot and the depth of the grave. Contact cemetery services to buy a grave plot.Does ancestry have burial records? ›
This category includes civil, church, cemetery, obituary, and other death-related collections. In addition to details about the death, they can contain birth information, family origins, cause of death, and more.
Queen Elizabeth's coffin came to its final resting place at Windsor on Monday. This completed its long journey from Balmoral Castle to Edinburgh, then from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall and Westminster Abbey, and then finally to St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.How can I find out if someone has been buried? ›
- Deceased Online.
- Gov.UK - Researching family history.
- General Register Office - Gov.UK.
- National Archives records.
- National Statistics - Census.
Number & Plot Name. These graves have a number followed by letters. The number is the grave number and the letters are an abbreviation of the plot name. See the list below to find the meaning of the plot name and the map for the location of the plot.
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- Look at Family Naming Patterns. You can get a lot of clues as to family relationships by examining naming patterns within a particular family. ...
- Research Their Neighbors. ...
- Search Old Newspapers In and Near the Places Your Ancestor Lived.
Depending on the complexity of your research goals, pricing may start as low as $3,000 USD. Factors that could increase the cost beyond that include immigration research, DNA analysis, adoption and biological family research, and onsite international research.
www.ancestry.com Includes easy access to Indian Census Rolls and links to possible matches in its large collection of records. www.bia.gov/bia/ois/tgs/genealogy Publishes a downloadable Guide to Tracing Your Indian Ancestry. Has a vast online library, Tracing Native American Family Roots.What is the best free Ancestry app? ›
FamilySearch is the most popular alternative to Ancestry. The reason for that is because FamilySearch has many of the same records, including some records that Ancestry doesn't have—for free. FamilySearch also has many free international records.
The reuse of graves is far from a modern phenomenon, caused by exponential population growth and overcrowding in towns and cities. Reusing the same place for burials is a tradition that has been repeated time and again in different cultures across the world, for thousands of years.Why do you hold your breath when you pass a cemetery? ›
It's a common driving superstition that whenever you pass a graveyard in your car, you should hold your breath. Why? Some people believe it's to avoid making the ghosts jealous (you know, because you're alive and can still breathe) while others do it to avoid breathing in any spirits.What is left in a grave after 100 years? ›
A century in, the last of your bones will have collapsed into dust. And only the most durable part of your body, your teeth, will remain.Why do they bury you 6 feet under? ›
People may have also buried bodies 6 feet deep to help prevent theft. There was also concern that animals might disturb graves. Burying a body 6 feet deep may have been a way to stop animals from smelling the decomposing bodies. A body buried 6 feet deep would also be safe from accidental disturbances like plowing.Can I be buried in the same casket as my husband? ›
Yes — Depending upon the cemetery's policy, you may be able to save a grave space by having the cremains buried on top of the casketed remains of your spouse, or utilize the space provided next to him/her. Many cemeteries allow for multiple cremated remains to be interred in a single grave space.
Two people (typically a husband and wife) pre-purchase a cemetery space together, and their caskets are placed on top of one another when they pass.Do you own your grave forever? ›
Generally speaking, when you purchase a cemetery plot, it does not expire, and it will always be yours. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it's important to point out that when you purchase a burial plot, you are not purchasing the land itself.How much is the cheapest burial plot? ›
For a single plot
The most common type of plot in cemeteries is a single plot. A single plot contains the remains of one person in a single casket. A burial plot can run anywhere between $200 and $2,000 in a public cemetery, and between $2,000 and $5,000 in a private cemetery.
If the deceased grave owner has made a valid will and left an estate of sufficient value to require the Grant of Probate to executors, ownership of the grave can be transferred to the executor. The applicant must produce a sealed copy of the Grant of Probate and complete the Assent of Executor or Administration form.Does ancestry tell you how someone died? ›
With obituary, cemetary, and burial records, you can uncover details like: Time and location of death. Cause of death.What clothes is the Queen buried in? ›
The Queen will be laid to rest today wearing only two precious pieces of jewellery. Her Majesty, who will be buried next to her husband Prince Philip later today, will wear only her wedding band and a pair of pearl earrings, despite owning a collection worth millions of pounds.Will the Queen be cremated? ›
She will be cremated in a while. President Draupadi Murmu has also reached from India's side in this sad time. The Queen's funeral will also be broadcast live in 125 cinema halls. The Queen will be buried with state honours at the King George VI Memorial Chapel alongside her late husband Prince Philip.Who will carry the Queen's coffin? ›
The pallbearers hail from the Queen's Company, the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards. 'It's their role to protect her body, both in life and in death, remaining in the Queen's Company until King Charles decides otherwise,' explained Major Adrian Weale to the PA.Can you identify someone through ashes? ›
The actual ashes are thus useless as they will not contain DNA. It is the bones and teeth that could potentially hold some DNA viable for analysis. However, after the cremation, the bones and teeth left behind are turned into a find powder (a process known as pulverization).Can cremated ashes be identified? ›
In most cases, positive identification cannot be established with commercial cremation. DNA does not survive typical cremation temperatures of 1400° to 1800°F. Usually analysis of the cremains can only determine whether they are consistent with the life history and accompanying materials of the decedent.
By visiting www.deceasedonline.com, you can carry out a standard search online for a deceased person, provided you have their first and last name, as well as their birth date and death date.What does 3 X's mean on a grave? ›
The belief is that one must break off a piece of brick from another tomb, spin around three times, scrape three X's onto the tomb, and do some sort of knocking on the tomb. Then an offering should be left at the tomb and your wish will be granted. X's that are circled are said to mean that the wish had come true.Do bugs get in caskets? ›
Coffin flies have that name because they are particularly talented at getting into sealed places holding decaying matter, including coffins. Given the opportunity, they will indeed lay their eggs on corpses, thus providing food for their offspring as they develop into maggots and ultimately adult flies.What does AE mean on a grave? ›
A.E. – an abbreviation for “age” Consort of – indicates that a wife has died before her husband, who is named. Relict of – not as bad as it sounds, this indicates that a woman died a widow, and names the husband who died before she did.How much does it cost to have a genealogist trace your family tree? ›
Most professional genealogists charge an hourly rate for research or similar work. Hourly rates can vary from $30 to $40 per hour to well over $200 per hour, based on experience, location, project type and uses, demand, time constraints, and other factors.How much does it cost to find out who your ancestors are? ›
The current cost of an AncestryDNA test in the U.S. is $99, plus shipping costs and applicable taxes. The AncestryDNA testing cost includes a DNA test kit and the lab processing fee.How far can you trace back your ancestors? ›
The consensus among genealogists is that you can reliably and accurately trace a family tree back to the 1600s, but it varies depending on the specifics of your family.How can I find where my mom was buried at? ›
- The Death Certificate.
- Funeral Home Records.
- The Cemetery Office Where Your Ancestors Are Buried.
- The Family.
- Church Cemeteries.
- Local Genealogy Societies.
- Cemetery Databases.
If you have successfully demonstrated that you are the legal owner of the account on the death of a member, you are granted access to the member's account and you are able to delete the account yourself in the account settings. Please see the support article on how to delete the account.What is the cheapest way to trace your family tree? ›
1. FamilySearch. FamilySearch is the world's largest free genealogy website with a global index of millions of births, marriages and deaths, plus millions of UK parish records and indexes to workhouse records, land tax assessments, school records, court books, manorial records and more.
To view a shared tree, your friends and family will need an Ancestry® account. If they don't have one already, they can create a free guest account.Can humans be traced back to one ancestor? ›
Genetic and fossil records do not reveal a single point where modern humans originated, researchers have found. Genetic and fossil records do not reveal a single point where modern humans originated, researchers have found.Can DNA help find ancestors? ›
With genealogical DNA testing you can discover the origins of your paternal line by analysing genetic markers (these are genes that code for specific characteristics). Some tests can also show what the migration routes of your paternal ancestors were up to recent years.How many generations until you are no longer related? ›
Based on a family tree, you are always genealogically related, but you may not be genetically related. After about 8 generations, you have genetic material from fewer and fewer of your ancestors. After 16 generations, you only have DNA from about 2% of your ancestors, and it keeps decreasing.What is the oldest living bloodline? ›
The longest family tree in the world is that of the Chinese philosopher and educator Confucius (551–479 BC), who is descended from King Tang (1675–1646 BC). The tree spans more than 80 generations from him and includes more than 2 million members.What is the oldest royal bloodline? ›
The Danish monarchy has existed for more than 1000 years and is among the oldest royal houses in the world. Read more about the successive monarchs in Denmark all the way from Gorm the Old to the present sovereign, HM Queen Margrethe II.Can I see my deceased relative? ›
After a loved one has passed away, you may have the opportunity to view them before the funeral. This usually takes place at the funeral home in a chapel of rest, or in a mortuary. You can be alone with them, or you may prefer to be with a close friend, family member, or the funeral director.Is there a grave finder app? ›
More than 180 million graves in half a million cemeteries make the free Find a Grave mobile app the place to go for burial information. And with thousands of photos added daily, find anyone, anytime, anywhere.How do I find a deceased relative? ›
- Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner/Coroner's Office. Phone: (323) 343-0512. ...
- Los Angeles County Office of Decedent Affairs (County Morgue/Cemetery) Phone: (323) 409-7161. ...
- County of Los Angeles Register of Cremations. 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015-2012.
- Phone: (213) 974-0460.