Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Finding Gravestones

I was asked last week about how to find gravestones.  There are a few ways to do this.

First of all, you can go visit the cemetery yourself and visit the gravestone in person.  This is the funnest option, in my opinion!  But unless you have to, do not go and just wander the cemetery, unless of course, you want to.  :)  It may take a lot longer than you want it to if you just show up and start searching.  So, what do you do?  You contact the one person who can tell you exactly where the grave you're looking for is located.  That person is called a sexton.  If your particular cemetery is still "active," then it will have a sexton taking care of the cemetery.  The sexton knows the cemetery so well that most can point out by memory any particular grave you want.  But if they do not know, then they can also consult their map of the cemetery.

As I was writing this post, I realized I did not know how to find a sexton.  After doing some research online, I found out that one of the two best ways to contact your particular sexton is to search on the city's government website for "cemetery."  Most often, you will find a way to contact the cemetery sexton by phone.  For example, I searched on Mesa, Arizona's site and found this.  And you can also search online for (City), (State) cemetery.  I did that for Pittsburg, Kansas and found a link to the cemetery's website here.

Now that leads me to your second way to find gravestones, checking to see if it's been mapped, photographed, and published online, like Utah cemeteries or Arizona cemeteries.  Do an online search for (State) cemetery records.  Look for a website with a .gov or a .org ending and you're more likely to find an official, valid website.

Third, if your cemetery is not active or abandoned and there is no sexton or government site, then, good luck!  No, just kidding.  Look online again.  There are a few websites put together by, surprise!, volunteers (like my friend Trish), who go out of their way to photograph and transcribe gravestones.  Three of these websites are The United States Cemetery Project,'s Virtual Cemetery, and Find a Grave.  And you can also use lookups, as discussed in one of my previous posts.

Now if you aren't able to find your gravestone online and you go to visit the cemetery in person, then get your information and perhaps share that information and perhaps information for some other gravestones in that cemetery with one of these volunteer sites.  As I mentioned before, genealogy is all about sharing!  Now go out and have some fun finding your ancestors' gravestones!

1 comment:

Beutler Family said...

very informative and encouraging. great job with the site. each post is thoughtful and interesting and well-linked. keep writing.