Día de los Muertos sounds like the perfect holiday for genealogists. Who wouldn’t want to spend the day in a cemetery visiting the graves of our deceased ancestors? Combine that with a party atmosphere and you have the Latin American celebration of Día de los Muertos.
Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead and Día de los Santos or Day of the Saints are holidays that many around the world use to celebrate the lives of their ancestors. Celebrations are typically held on November 1 and 2 in Latin America, Spain, the Philippines, and Brazil.
In many ways the celebrations are similar to Memorial Day rites practiced in the United States. Family members visit cemeteries to decorate the graves of their deceased loved ones. One practice that is probably not done by most in the United States however is to leave an offering at the grave site. These offerings might include the deceased loved one’s favorite food or drink. They might leave pictures or poems or small gifts of candy in the shape of skulls. Many families have a picnic in the cemetery.
So how does this impact genealogy? Wouldn’t it be great, not only that we honor our ancestors by remembering them, but we share their presence in the world by taking pictures of their headstones and then make them available to others around the world. There are many who live great distances from their homeland and to find that precious photo of their ancestor’s headstone online is a special gift. There are two websites that are currently accepting pictures of headstones and making them searchable online through their sites. These sites are BillionGraves and Find A Grave. Both of these sites offer instructions on how to take photos of headstones and upload them to their site. BillionGraves even has an app you can download to your smartphone and provides GPS navigation coordinates to make finding the gravestone fast and easy. So why not start a new family tradition and have your own Día de los Muertos celebration in your local cemetery?