A cemetery record is an account of the names and death dates of those buried in a cemetery. Sometimes, a picture of the headstone or grave marker is included in a cemetery record. Cemetery records can be a useful tool for genealogists because they can tell you details about past relatives and their deaths. Especially for those who cannot find a death record certificate, cemetery records can share almost the same amount of information.
Cemetery records can show you where the person is buried and can indicate a great deal about their life. For example, by discovering who they are buried next to, you might learn who was closest to them during their life. Was it their wife? Was it their mother? Also, the type of graveyard itself may lead you to unveil information. Was it a Protestant cemetery? Was it a Catholic cemetery?
If you discover these kinds of hints, you can be led to find other records that might continue to help you piece together the history of your family. Sometimes, by learning about the church the relative attended, you can find church records that can reveal other details about their lives. Were they active in charity work? Were they benevolent?
One helpful website is Death Indexes.com. This site has all types of interesting information about your potential ancestors, including the locations of cemeteries, historical information about the cemeteries, photographs of graves and records of those buried in the cemeteries. Another excellent resource is Find a Grave.com. On this site, you can browse by location, date, and/or by name. It is a fascinating site for amateurs and professionals alike.
You may find that an in-person cemetery visit is necessary if you cannot find the information you seek online. Often, these visits can be fascinating in and of themselves because you can review further details about the graveyard and tombstone, the geographic location and its socioeconomic ramifications, and the community in which the relative was involved. Sometimes, the most interesting details in a family history are those that indicate the subtle aspects of time and place, the ideals and social issues of other times that cannot be gathered by simple, straightforward government records.
In the mysterious unraveling of a family history, cemetery records can be vital. They tell us so much about the era and the people who lived during former times. Spending time in old cemeteries can be a fascinating adventure for armchair genealogists. What separates a matter-of-fact genealogical study from a meaningful family history are the untold details and the gaps filled in by understanding a sense of time and place. Cemeteries, cemetery records and cemetery architecture can all provide clues you cannot fully appreciate until you investigate them.
Be sure to add cemetery records to your list of things to investigate.