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Getting Started Census Records Vital Records

A genealogist may find the place of interment of a family tree member from an obituary, death notice, family member, veteran's burial card, church record, or cemetery index. Previous researchers took on the laborious task to index tombstone inscriptions or records of a cemetery. The information may include an approximate location (section, plot) and a cemetery map may be available. Modern cemetery offices may offer assistance in locating the grave of a few ancestors. With the popularity of genealogy, many cemeteries now charge a fee to do this.

Cemetery Plot
Although the surnames are different on the headstones, these are all family members; 2 daughters are buried with their parents.

Headstones and family plots in cemeteries offer useful information for the genealogist that includes:

  • Date of birth and date of death.
  • Length of life in years, months, and days.
  • Spouse's name.
  • Wife's maiden name.
  • War veteran information.
  • Marriage date.
  • Children, parents, other family members, and spouse's family members may be buried close by or in the same cemetery.

Many genealogists spend time walking through cemeteries looking for headstones of ancestors. In addition to the digital camera (with extra batteries and memory card), they may carry a cemetery kit that includes the following:

  • A spray bottle of distilled water and a soft brush to clean the headstone. 
  • Small clippers to trim the landscape around the headstone.
  • Hand rake and hand garden shovel to uncover flat, sunken markers.
  • Foil to gently press over a hard-to-read inscription. It will create a relief that is easier to read.
  • First Aid kit including sun block, insect repellant, sting/bite relief medication, and sanitary wipes.
  • Small notebook and pens for notes about grave location and hard-to-read marker inscriptions.
  • Drinks to stay hydrated.

Genealogists use different methods to carry their kit including a nail apron, canvas book bag, back pack, bucket, cooler, wheeled container, tackle box, and wearing cargo pants/shorts.

Sometimes the abbreviation of an organization may be included on a gravestone. Find out what they mean. Also, find out the meaning of gravestone motifs.