Tracing your family tree can be a challenge, but the rise of the internet has made it easier than ever before to track down long-long ancestors and relatives.
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A large part of this search often involves locating burial and gravesites, as well as information about cremations if relevant – these can help to narrow down a search or open up a new avenue of investigation.
Thankfully, the internet has made it easier than ever to perform this research, with an enormous number of records being digitized every day.
While you would once have been forced to spend hours in dusty archives, searching for records by hand, you can now simply type in a name, and receive hundreds of records to search from.
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Why Is This Information Important?
So just how can tracking down burial or cremation information help you in your search? There are a number of benefits, and these include:
Satisfying Human Nature
The urge to learn more about our roots and origins is a basic human instinct, allowing us to feel more connected to our ancestors, our wider family, and, in many cases, our place in society.
By visiting the grave of a long-lost loved one, you are in the presence of the past, and this can be a very powerful and rewarding experience.
Pick Up A Cold Trail
In some cases, you may be deep in your research, only to find that the trail goes completely cold at a certain point.
By tracking down burial or cremation records, you may find that your family member moved to a new location, allowing you to pick up the trail in a fresh place.
Find Other Family Members
In a similar vein, finding the grave of one ancestor may be the key to unlocking records and information about their immediate family, and this can throw up brand new conclusions and ideas that you may not have got from online records and databases.
What Information Will You Need?
In order to locate a burial site, there is certain, specific information that you will need to track down, and this includes:
The Person’s Full Name, Including First, Middle, And Last Names
These details can be found in their obituary, on census records, and sometimes in family bibles.
Any documents can be helpful here, but remember that the abbreviations can be tricky to decipher, so consider investing in a dictionary for the subject, or doing some research to ensure that you can understand what you are reading.
Their Date of Birth
Once again, the date of birth can be found in census records, and on obituary notices. In some cases, a family bible may also be useful, especially if it was gifted at the birth of the child.
Their Date of Death
Dates of death are most commonly tracked down through the obituary notice in local newspapers – many of these are now online, allowing you to find the exact date more easily, provided that you have the person’s full name.
The Location of their Death
Once again, the location of someone’s death is usually found most easily through looking at the obituary, or notice of their death in the newspaper.
In some cases, you may be fortunate enough to have access to the birth and death certificates of the deceased, which can give you most of the information you need to know.
The further back you are searching, however, the less likely you are to have access to this document.
How Can You Use This Information?
Once you have collected the relevant information, you can begin your inquiries to try and track down the burial site, grave, or details of the cremation. There are a number of avenues that you can pursue here, including:
If you know any funeral homes that were in business during the time of death, you can contact them with the details you have to see if they have any records of your ancestor.
Some of these homes hold records going back several generations, and they may be able to direct you to the relevant cemetery or have details of a cremation.
City or County Clerk’s Office
Once you know the location of the death, you can contact the city or county clerk’s office in the region, and request the assistance of the Vital Records Department – they may be able to help you directly, or at least point you in the right direction.
You should note that in some cases, the records may be sealed, or marked private. In this case, you will need to prove that you are a relative of the deceased – usually using documentation – and you may have to pay a fee for access.
Use A Specialist Website
There are a number of websites online dedicated to helping searchers locate specific gravestones for individuals.
The two most commonly used sites are “Billiongraves.com” and “FindAGrave.com”, both of which are run by volunteers who take photographs of gravestones and upload them to the database on both sites.
If you are fortunate, you will be able to enter the information required, and the site will show you the location of the gravestone.
In some cases, there may also be a photo of the actual gravestone.
How Do I Find A Specific Grave?
If you are directed more generally to a cemetery, you will then need to find the site of the cremation plaque or the burial plot of your relative.
Most modern sites make this easier, and will have websites that include maps of their graves – this makes it easy to simply enter the information, download the map, and find the relevant grave. In some cases, especially if the cemetery is small or older, there may be no website.
Here, you will need to rely on the caretaker, priest, or administrator – they will typically have a good knowledge of the locations of each of the graves or will be able to point you in the right direction.
Even if your family tree seems unproblematic, researching your ancestry and history can be a challenge – expect there to be plenty of obstacles and unexpected discoveries, and keep an open mind. When it comes to family history, it is best to be prepared for anything!
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