United States Cemeteries
See also Ancestors Season 2: Cemetery Records in the FamilySearch Learning Center.
Online Cemetery Websites
Many cemetery records are available online. Consider the following websites:
- BillionGraves.com - Provides photos and GPS locations of grave markers.
- Cyndi's List - Cemeteries & funeral homes
- Gravematter - Photos and historic information on colonial cemeteries and gravestones of New England - southern Maine and New Hampshire and northeast Massachusetts.
- Histopolis - a useful cemetery and grave locator. - Grave index (top of page).
- Jewish Cemetery Association (MA)
- Veteran's Nationwide Gravesite Locator
Types of cemetery records
Types of care for Human Burial: earth burial, cremation, sea burial, entombment, donation to science, and cryogenic.
Several types of cemetery records are available. Cemeteries may have Sextons or caretakers, who may have kept records of the names and dates of those buried and maps of the burial plots. Some churches have kept burial records that may give birth, marriage and other family or health details. Tombstones or gravestones may also exist, or the information on them may have been transcribed.
Cemetery burial records, sometimes called permits for burial, often include birth, marriage, and death information. They sometimes provide clues about military service, religion, or membership in an organization, such as a lodge. These records are especially helpful for identifying children who died young or women who were not recorded in family or government documents. Check the sexton's records, or visit the cemetery in person to see if other relatives are in the same or adjoining plots.
To find tombstone or sexton records, you need to know where an individual was buried. The person may have been buried in a community, church, private, military, or family cemetery, usually near the place where he lived or died or where other family members were buried. You can find clues to burial places in funeral notices, obituaries, church records, funeral home records, death records and County deeds.
Types of Cemeteries
- Government: town, county, state, and national
- Military: There are over 37 overseas cemeteries and memorials, for soldiers who died during service to their country. There are over 60,000 graves overseas of soldiers who died serving in World War I.
- Organization: fraternal
- Family or private:
Sources for cemetery records
- The present sexton, funeral home, or minister who may have the burial registers and the records of the burial plots.
- A local library, historical society, or local historian, who may have the records or can help you locate obscure family plots or relocated cemeteries. Cemetery associations sometimes publish inventories or transcripts for their areas.
- Sextons' records and transcripts of tombstone information that have been published, often in local genealogical periodicals. (See the periodical indexes listed in United States Periodicals.)
- Lists of soldiers' graves, described in U.S. Military Records.
Copying tombstones and sexton's records is a tremendous help to people who cannot themselves visit the cemetery. It also preserves the information that may later disappear through erosion, floods, and the like.
Several online cemeteries show how you can use your smart phones or pads to transcribe these records.
The following resources give ideas and tips for better cemetery transcribing:
- Newman, John J. "Cemetery Transcribing: preparations and procedures." History News 26:5, May 1971. (AASLH, Technical Leaflet 9.) FamilySearch Library book 929.1 A1 #5. Downloadable copy ($)
Cenotaph: engraved on a tombstone indicates an empty grave, with the stone erected in memory or in honor of a person buried elsewhere. It often indicates a stone erected in honor of a person lost at sea."
Abbreviations are often used on headstones. A list of abbreviations, including military abbreviations, is available on Rootsweb.
- County highway maps
- Early county maps and atlases
- County and town histories
- Land records: deeds
- Government officials
- Church officials
- Mortuary & Funeral directors
- Local historians
- Information gained from obituaries, death certificates, mortuary funeral cards
- The Family History Library has cemetery records listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under [STATE], [COUNTY] - Cemeteries
Funeral directors in the area where your ancestors lived may have records similar to death and cemetery records. Most of their addresses are in the:
American Blue Book of Funeral Directors. New York, New York: National Funeral Directors Association, biennial. Funeral Home Records
Cemetery records may include a Permit for Burial form from the state or county. This record may contain as much information as the death certificate in some jurisdictions and some time periods.
The library has a few funeral home records listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under the following:
- [STATE], [COUNTY] - BUSINESS RECORDS AND COMMERCE
- [STATE], [COUNTY] - FUNERAL HOMES
- [STATE], [COUNTY], [TOWN] - BUSINESS RECORDS AND COMMERCE
- [STATE], [COUNTY], [TOWN] - FUNERAL HOMES
You can find the addresses of many cemeteries in:
- Cemeteries of the U.S.: A Guide to Contact Information for U.S. Cemeteries and Their Records. First Edition. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1994. Lists over 22,000 operating and inactive cemeteries. Alphabetical by state, county, and cemetery name. Entries may list physical location or mailing address, phone and fax numbers, contact information for cemetery record keepers, years of operation, religious and other affiliations.
- Kot, Elizabeth Gorrell. United States Cemetery Address Book, 1994-1995. Vallejo, California: Indices Publishing, 1994. (Family History Library book 973 V34k.) Lists over 25,000 cemetery addresses and locations. Alphabetical by state, town, and cemetery name.
Cemetery Resources by State
- Stalkin' Kin In Old West Texas, Vol XVI, No. 2.(San Angelo Genealogical and Historical Society, Inc. Aug 1988)