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  • Writer's pictureAngela M

Tips for Cemetery Visit for Genealogy Research


Summertime is a great for cemetery visits. If you are visiting family or on vacation, make a stop at a cemetery to get in some research. There’s always time for genealogy! The following tips for cemetery visits will help you get the most out of your genealogy research time.


Before you jump in the car, do some planning to save yourself some frustrating moments.


1. Location and directions

Make sure you know where the cemetery is located and how to get there. Look at Find A Grave for a location map or any notes about the cemetery. Is it gated and only open certain hours? Use Google maps to see what is around the cemetery. Is it miles from the closest town? Is there a parking lot? Is it tucked into woods and not easily visible from the road? Rural cemeteries with only roadside parking require a little more planning. Think about the approach to the cemetery to make sure you are on the correct side to pull over and park safely.


2. Cemetery map

Locate a map of the cemetery ahead of time to find the sections and lots you need. I have had luck finding maps at the cemetery website, calling the office ahead of time to ask for an emailed file, looking at transcription books produced by the local genealogy society, or checking Find A Grave. Sometimes a simple internet search can help you find a map of the cemetery layout.


If it a smaller cemetery, it may not be as important to know the section and lot. I once parked my car at a small cemetery and walked all overlooking for a particular family name that I knew was there after talking with the church secretary. Couldn’t find it. Went back to the car, and it was a just a few stones away. I had just walked right by it.


Recently I visited a large urban Catholic cemetery that didn’t have an onsite office. I came prepared with the section and lot numbers for the people I was looking for but no map. I was hoping the sections would be marked well. Luckily the cemetery had a large sign with an overview map of the sections posted by the entrance. I took a photo with my camera which helped guide us to the correct sections.


3. A list of names and related names

I find that a list helps me remember all the names I am looking for. A large cemetery office had the burial record for a couple. The section was not too big, but after walking the rows several times, I could not find the markers. Then I realized that the folks I was looking for were the simple Father and Mother markers next to another marker with a different surname. That marker with the name was the wife’s father. Knowing the maiden name helped locate the folks of interest.


4. Bring a buddy

I aways bring someone with me for safety and for additional eyes. With a partner you can systematically cover more ground in less time.

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