Researching cemeteries is a bittersweet experience, to say the least. While seeing your family name on a tombstone can make you feel closer to your ancestors, the graves can feel a bit depressing too.
But that being said, cemeteries are a treasure trove for family researchers. Whether you’re exploring them virtually or going there physically, you can find a lot of family history in these gloomy spaces.
But here are a few things to keep in mind before you start.
Know What You’re Looking For
There are quite a few things you can discover about your ancestors in a cemetery, but it’s best to have some sort of plan in place; instead of diving headfirst into information, research in advance and use your trip to verify your findings.
A tombstone can usually tell typical things like births, deaths, and names. But information on the headstones can also help confirm relationships, military service periods, maiden names, place of birth, religion, and other important facts.
Moreover, a visit to the cemetery could help you uncover new leads for your family research. For example, you may come across tombstones of relatives you didn’t even know existed but can be recognized due to similar family names and so on.
How to Locate the Right Cemetery?
Finding the correct cemetery can seem like an overwhelming task, but it’s actually not that impossible. There are quite a few ways you can locate the place your ancestors are buried.
For starters, you should look at the death certificates you have. Most death certificates mention the cemetery name. If you don’t have the death certificate, you should look for an obituary in old newspapers—those too are likely to mention the place of burial.
In case you can’t find the necessary documents, you can start looking at online resources such as Find A Grave or Cemetery Search. These are excellent resources to help you locate the cemetery you’re looking for.
If the online resources prove unhelpful, you’ll have to put in some legwork. You’re going to have to narrow down the radius and look at all possible locations by visiting the cemeteries physically. If you know anything about your ancestor’s religious affiliation—that could help narrow down the search too.
Be Prepared for Your Trip to The Cemetery
Lastly, you need to be fully prepared for your trip to the cemetery. Chances are that you won’t be taking too many of these trips, so you have to make the most of it.
Make sure to carry everything from a GPS to a map of the cemetery, some basic tools including grass clippers, a microfiber cloth, a brush, water spray, and of course, a camera. Make sure to not use any detergents or other chemicals on the tombstones, though—they could seriously damage the stone.
Oh, and don’t forget your notebook either!
And in case you’re still struggling to locate the cemetery—let us help!
At DavisDNA And Family Research, we offer expert DNA research assistance.
We can also help you with our other traditional genealogy services.
Contact us to get started!