There is some information out there about cemeteries and funeral homes. Genealogy magazines often have articles about cemeteries and there is also information about funeral homes. Although not as much. This will include how funeral homes work and how cemeteries are laid out. Small cemeteries can be quite different from large cemeteries. National Cemeteries are also different and provide more services to families. Much information can also be found online.
Some cemeteries have records that can be very helpful. Gravestones can tell you when a person was born and when they died. The dates on gravestones are usually right. But like anything in genealogy mistakes are made. I have some ancestors in Missouri, who died and were buried. The family didn’t have the money at the time to pay for a gravestone. Later when they had the money, they couldn’t remember when these family members died. So the death dates were off by two years.
You might find the parent of the deceased on the gravestone. You may also find a reference to military service on the stone. Many stones have a group that your ancestor belonged to, such as the Masons or Eastern Star.
Always remember to check with the office, when you go to the cemetery. The office may have recorded things on cards or the computer that you won’t find on the stone. I have found military service information, occupations, maiden names and information about children that died before my ancestor’s death. Sometimes you may find out how this person died.
When there is no cemetery office on the premises; you might try in town at the local funeral home for those cemetery records. Usually those records are somewhere to be found. The court house can have them. If the court house doesn’t have them; they will almost always know where they are.
You may find that some of your ancestors are in cemeteries that are on private land. In this case, if you are not permitted on the land; then try obituaries, or local histories at the library. You might also try the local church. Some churches also have their own cemeteries. Sometimes you may find a family plot. Occasionally, there is a family history to go with it. This is either at the plot site, or in the office.
You might want to go to the local library as long as you are there, to find: a history of the town or county where there might be information about your family, an old directory that might list your family (there were directories before there were telephones) or any other kinds of records about your family, that you didn’t know about before. Also ask around the town. Maybe someone remembers your family.
Online sites can also be very helpful. Find-a-grave is one of those that I have used with success. Many counties in many states now put their obituaries online.
National Cemeteries have a staff at the cemetery to help you. They and other cemeteries have maps to guide you to the grave that you are there to visit. Please remember, with genealogy there is always an answer. It may not be easy; but it is always there. So keep on looking and have fun. It’s worth the time.
Cemeteries and Funeral homes
You can find cemeteries and funeral home information in genealogy magazines and online. There are frequent articles in these magazines about cemeteries. There are fewer articles about funeral homes. There are many different kinds of cemeteries. Small cemeteries differ in many ways, from large cemeteries.
National Cemeteries for the military, are different in part because they offer more services to the families.
Cemeteries can be useful to genealogists in many ways. A gravestone can tell you when a person was born and when they died. Some stones can indicate military service and tell you what branch of the service your ancestor was in. Also what rank they held. A gravestone might give you his parent’s names. The stone might have an epitaph. Some stones may have a reference to the person’s involvement in other groups such as the Masons or Eastern Star. The gravestone might give you the occupation of your ancestor.
Sometimes you may find a family plot at the cemetery. A family plot might give you still more information on your family. You could find a stone with a family history on it. There might be other stones in the family plot that have information about other family members.
If the cemetery has an office, then it is always a good idea to visit the office. You might find out that there are relatives buried there without gravestones. I have found things like maiden names, military service and the rank of the person. I have also found children who died before the parents that I didn’t even know about.
Here Are Some Different Kinds Of Cemeteries:
- National Cemeteries
- Large Cemeteries
- Small Cemeteries
- Church Cemeteries
- Local Cemeteries
- Private Cemeteries
- Government Cemeteries
- Masonic and Eastern Star Cemeteries
- Special group Cemeteries
- Family Cemeteries
National Cemeteries are in every state and the U. S. Military and their spouses can be buried there for free. They also provide some services to help the bereaved and others, who wish to visit the cemetery.
Large cemeteries generally have an office. Before you go to visit, you will want to find out what the office hour are. With large cemeteries, if you don’t know the layout, and don’t know where you relative is buried, then you will need to visit the office. That way you can get a map and directions to the gravesite. Some cemeteries (especially older ones) can be laid out in a very odd manner. Then you absolutely need a map and directions to the gravesite.
Small cemeteries often have no office. The records for these cemeteries might be found in the closest funeral home. If that isn’t the case, try the court house or the library. If the town is so small that there are none of these, then you will want to ask around town. In a small town everyone seems to know everything that goes on.
Private cemeteries may be considered public (under law) if it is open to the public. Also if the cemetery is used by the public. However, you need to be careful when you are on private property. I always get permission to visit any grave on private property. No one has said no yet. If the cemetery is designated a private cemetery or a family cemetery then all of the people buried there must be related either by blood or by marriage.
Family cemeteries seem like a good idea at the time. That way you have you loved ones close to you. Years later some family cemeteries can be abandoned. Sometimes the land is sold without moving the graves, or even knowing there was ever a cemetery on the land. I have been to countless cemeteries that were not maintained for years.
Local cemeteries are usually maintained. Some better than others. Some cemeteries are over grown with weeds and trees. You may find the gravestones broken. These local cemeteries often have no office. The cemetery records may be kept at a local funeral home in town. If the town is a county seat, the cemetery records may be at the county court house. Or the records might be at the local public library.
Church Cemeteries are usually well kept as long as there is a congregation in the church. Sometimes churches abandoned. Sometimes towns are abandoned. At times a group or individual in the town will maintain the cemetery. You may visit the church or the pastor (if you can find one) to look at the records. You also might leave a small donation. If you can’t find the pastor. Try the funeral home, the court house or the public library.
Some older cemeteries have suffered from bad bookkeeping practices. This may result in a hole being dig for a new grave only to find that the grave is already occupied. This happens in old cemeteries frequently. With sloppy bookkeeping, nothing very good can happen. In many large cities, cemeteries have a John Doe section. This is what the authorities call someone, when they have no idea who the deceased was. In small towns there is often a small part of the cemetery or a small section of land just outside of town, where the poor or unknown are buried. As genealogists, when we can find someone; they could be in one of these graves. This is very sad to think about. But the people in these graves are someone’s family.