Cemetery Sleuthing

By Sunny McClellan Morton Premium

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Check these sources to discover your ancestors’ final resting places:

Family records: Ask older relatives where family members are buried—you might find a family plot. Double-check oral histories, family bibles, diaries, obituaries and any family history books or papers.

Government and court records: Pore over death certificates or registers, coroner reports, institutional registers (such as from asylums and prisons) and wills. These documents could provide information on the deceased’s burial place.
Church records: Check city directories to locate church offices. Call the offices and ask about church burial grounds, where the church’s records are kept, and how the public can access them.
Community records: Search for newspaper obituaries, cemetery records and funeral home records where your ancestor died. If you come up empty or don’t know where he died, search in his last known residence, his hometown or his spouse’s hometown.
  • Association for Gravestone Studies
    Greenfield Corporate Center, 101 Munson St., Ste. 108, Greenfield, MA 01301, <>
  •  International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association
    107 Carpenter Drive, Suite 100, Sterling, VA 20164, (800) 645-7700, <>

  • The American Resting Place: Four Hundred Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds by Marilyn Yalom (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Cemeteries of the U.S.: A Guide to Contact Information for U.S. Cemeteries and Their Records by Deborah M. Burek (Gale Group)
  • Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts: A History of Burial by Penny Colman (Henry Holt and Co.)
  • Rest in Peace: A History of American Cemeteries by Meg Greene (21st Century Books)
  • Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography by Douglas Keister (Gibbs Smith)
  • Your Guide to Cemetery Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Betterway Books)