Sunday, April 14, 2013

Where are your ancestors buried?

A common interest is to locate and visit the grave of our ancestors. Similar to a scavenger hunt if you do not use the proper tools to locate them it will be a daunting task.

When attempting to locate our relatives final resting place in a rural setting it is important first to do a little searching for land records and a death certificate. The land records will help you in locating a local cemetery to where your ancestors lived at the time of death. In most cases people would be buried close to there last home or in a place where other relatives are already buried. You will find many generations of a family often in the cemetery. Most of these rural cemeteries can be located identifying on a current map like on Google and identifying cemeteries that would be candidates in the neighborhood.

Prior to 1860 though it can be a challenge, because many people are buried in the backyard. In my own family everyone from one family is buried in the sheep field that is right along the Blanchard River. It is a beautiful spot, but it really took some looking to find it. Identifying the location of the family through land records helped identify the farm that was the best candidate for it's location. It was not identified on any maps. Over thirty people were buried there. Make sure to first locate the most likely location and talk to the locals.

Another place for rural cemeteries to check it with the township office. Here one of the members of the township board or what they call a sexton will have a list of the cemeteries in their area. Make certain to see if they have interment records as well. These provide excellent information on where people are buried and specific information that may not be reflected on the stone. It is also a great way to locate folks were stones may have been damaged or destroyed.

Urban cemeteries are a completely different search all together. The key identifier here is what it says on the death certificate. Look for the information where it says the body was located. I had a instance where I could not locate a individual in the city and found out that the body was transported to a cemetery that was almost sixty miles away.

Once you have found the cemetery office to locate where the grave is actually located. If you go out looking for it with out this step it will be like locating a needle in a haystack. Most staff are very helpful. Knowing the religion of the deceased is will also help you in identifying the correct cemetery. Pay attention to the workers in the cemetery, because they often can help reduce your hunt.

A recent addition to the cemetery hunt is the website Find A Grave. Although it often does not list everyone sometimes you get lucky. Many cemetery censuses are located on line or in the local library to where your ancestors lived. Make certain to check those out. The local funeral homes will also be of great help. Good luck in your hunt.
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