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Finding Cemeteries and Records

Cemeteries are, as a rule, shown on maps of the area. You can visit MapQuest and see cemeteries, or you can use the GNIS (Global Names Information Service) to search for cemeteries in a certain area.

Funeral homes often work hand in glove with cemeteries, and they are the entity to contact for burial records. Unfortunately, like privately owned cemeteries, funeral homes often change hands and records are either stored and unavailable for searching, or have just disappeared over the years. But it's worth a try--if you know which cemetery your ancestor is buried in, check with the cemetery records for the name of the funeral home which was responsible for burying your ancestor. If that information is not available, query nearby funeral homes. There is a searchable Internet directory of U.S. and Canadian funeral homes that can provide contact information.

Once You're at the Cemetery

When visiting a cemetery, your first stop should be at the office (if the cemetery has one). Cemetery records may be available which will tell you where your ancestor is buried, and may also include names, dates, as well as spouse, parents, and children's information. Information from the grave itself can tell you birth and death dates, spouse and other family member names, military, religious, and organizational information (i.e., Masons). Generally family members were buried near one another, so be sure to check nearby graves for relatives.

Two good articles regarding cemeteries can be found at the Family Tree Maker Web site: one about determining an individual's age using cemetery records, and one about locating cemeteries and cemetery records. If you are interested in the art of making tombstone rubbings, be sure to read the excellent article by Sabina J. Murray. Full instructions are given, with lots of examples.

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