Cemeteries are regarded as the location where people are buried after they die. They are often known by various terms such as graveyards, burying grounds, burial grounds, burial plots, 'churchyards', and several other terms. Some of the terms are often used to define smaller cemeteries, such as those that may be adjacent to a church, hence the term 'churchyard' in a few cases for example, with smaller cemeteries, while others apply to all.
A cemetery may be operated by a municipality, or it may be operated by a church or religion, a funeral home or other private company, or a fraternal order. Depending on availability of suitable land, it may be quite small, or it may be very large. Some burial plots may contain only one or several graves, while a few very large ones may have over a million burials.
There are a number of ways to find cemeteries:
- Look in phone books or other directories for a location
- Look in atlases, gazetteers, or other maps to see if cemeteries are shown.
- Search for them on Google, which has many listed, but not all. Google Maps has a large number shown on them in English-speaking areas, coverage is incomplete in most other languages.
- Use burial databases online, such as those described below to locate not only the cemetery, but often listings or photos of headstones for those buried in them. Coverage varies from site to site, so search in more than one site.
Websites for Cemetery Research
The following websites are useful in locating many burials. Coverage is best in North America, the United Kingdom (Great Britain), and occasional data in some parts of western Europe so any data, especially outside those areas, will eventually prove very helpful to those in the areas not covered presently. If you wish to contribute data, see the individual sites mentioned below to learn how to contribute and what data is needed and in what form to contribute. FamilySearch has indexing projects on occasion for funeral home or cemetery records, go to the 'Indexing' tab at the top of the page, above this article, for more information on FamilySearch Indexing.
When searching for a name and burial location, be sure to search any of these sites by cemetery, and overall. There are times when you may have information that leads you to believe that a burial took place at one location, when in fact it may have occurred elsewhere nearby, often very close by. Sometimes several cemeteries will be next to each other, or within a block or two of all that are rather close by, or be across the road from each other. Many times this will be obvious, but at times it is not.
Also as with any genealogical search, be sure to search for variant spellings, or if for an adult woman, the married surname. Most cemeteries have a few infant burials, which can often only have the surname of the infant that dieed, especially if it took place within a couple days of the birth.
Individual Cemetery Websites
Some cemeteries will maintain a website which will often list operating hours, and some will post burial lists online on those sites. Be sure to see if the cemetery you want to find a burial in has a website, often this can be found via a search engine. Some search engines show the location of the cemetery in the results, which can be helpful in verifying if you have the right cemetery or not.
Find A Grave
Find A Grave is probably the best known aggregator site for cemetery data. Photos and other information are gathered by site visitors and users and submitted to it. They are then made searchable, and you can search for a burial globally on the site. Coverage depends on the cemetery and the interest in it. May not contain the more recent headstones in some cases.
Interment.net is a site where transcriptions of headstones are gathered and placed online. There are no photos, but you can often find listings of burials that can be nearly complete for older or very small cemeteries.
BillionGraves is a newer site that allows anyone to download an app for their iPhone or Android device (for Android users, the website will indicate which Android devices do NOT work with their app, often this can depend on either the wireless carrier or the device, occasionally both), then go out to a cemetery and take pictures of the headstones. The app tags the photos with the GPS location, thus it effectively maps the cemetery, which makes it easy to find the location on the web or on the smartphone app. This site is very new, so coverage is not to the level of Find A Grave or Interment.net, but thousands of headstones are photographed and uploaded every week to the site.
One feature of this site is that one can search the database by cemetery, or search the entire site overall for a name. This is easily done because of the GPS features offered by the smartphone app used for taking pictures of the headstones.
Names in Stone
Names in Stone is another site that uses GPS technology to map cemeteries. An additional feature is that the site partners with cemeteries to add new headstone information to the site on a regular basis since often a cemetery is still having burials take place. There are other mapping features on the site too.
Waymarking.com Worldwide Cemeteries
Waymarking.com Worldwide Cemeteries is a new project to geolocate any cemetery or burial place anywhere in the world and 'waymark' it so that anyone can find it should they go to the location. Some locations will have photos, all will have GPS coordinates although in a few cases that can be somewhat off so verify what you find with Google Maps, Bing Maps, or other searchable mapping site. No actual data is here, only the geolocation data and occasionally some other information about the cemetery.
Genealogy and Family History Data Websites
In addition to the above, genealogy and family history data websites that have aggregated data on them will often have databases, large and small, of burials, or funeral home records that will often indicate which cemetery the person at the funeral home is buried in. Both FamilySearch and Ancestry have databases containing this type of data. The US Genweb Project and World Genweb Project, along with local societies, also will post transcriptions of cemetery data on their websites as well. Rootsweb also has cemetery transcriptions.