Step 17 – Check Cemetery Records

Welcome back to this installment of the 22 Steps in Researching Your Family Tree!

“I tried to look up my ancestors in the online cemetery records, but it kept giving me grave errors.”

As a genealogist, there are numerous resources available online to help you uncover your family history and we all want to uncover as much information as we can about our ancestors. One such resource is online cemetery records. Genealogy is a fascinating hobby that allows us to uncover the stories of our ancestors, and tracing our family tree is a rewarding experience that can provide us with a sense of identity and belonging. One of the most important steps in genealogy research is checking out online cemetery records and visiting them, recording and taking photographs of your findings. In this article, we will discuss the importance of online cemetery records and how to make the most of your visit to the cemetery.

Online cemetery records can provide valuable information about your ancestors, including their birth and death dates, burial location, and even information about their spouse and other family members. One of the most popular websites for cemetery research is, which allows users to search for specific cemeteries and provides detailed information about the people buried there. Other websites, such as and, also provide valuable information and are worth checking out.

Once you have located the cemetery where your ancestor is buried, it is important to visit the site in person. This can be a rewarding experience as it allows you to see the headstone or marker of your ancestor and gain a deeper understanding of their life and legacy. While at the cemetery, it is important to be accurate and record exactly what is on the headstone, including names, dates, spouse’s name, inscriptions, and any symbols or designs.

Taking photographs or videos of the headstone is also a good idea as this will provide valuable documentation for your records. It is also a good idea to check the sexton’s records, which may include burial registers, plat maps, and plot records. The sexton is the caretaker of the cemetery and may be able to help you in your search and lead you to other relatives.

Benefits of using online cemetery records

Online cemetery records are a valuable resource for genealogists for several reasons. First, they can provide you with information about your ancestors that you might not be able to find elsewhere. For example, burial records often include the names of the deceased person’s parents, as well as the names of their spouse and children. This information can be helpful in linking together different branches of your family tree.

One of the benefits of visiting the cemetery in person is that nearby gravestones may lead you to other members of the family or distant relatives, as relatives were typically buried close to one another. It is also a good idea to visit the parish church or cemetery to do your fact-finding, as this can provide additional information and help you gain a deeper understanding of your ancestor’s life.

Additionally, online cemetery records can be a valuable source of historical information. Many cemeteries have been in operation for centuries, and the headstones and grave markers can provide valuable insights into the lives of your ancestors. For example, you might find information about their occupation, their military service, or their religious affiliation.

Advantages Using Online Cemetery Records

As a genealogist, there are numerous advantages to checking out online cemetery records and visiting the cemetery where your ancestors are buried. These advantages include:

  1. Access to valuable historical information: Online cemetery records can provide a wealth of information, including birth and death dates, burial places, and even the names of other family members buried nearby. This information can help you piece together your family tree and gain a better understanding of your family’s history.
  2. Verification of family relationships: By visiting the cemetery and recording information from the headstones, you can verify family relationships and confirm information you’ve found in other records. This can help you avoid mistakes and ensure that your family tree is as accurate as possible.
  3. Preservation of family history: By recording and photographing your findings, you’re helping to preserve your family’s history for future generations. This can be especially important if the cemetery or headstones deteriorate over time.
  4. Connecting with your ancestors: There’s something powerful about standing at the graveside of your ancestors and feeling a connection to the past. By visiting the cemetery, you can gain a deeper appreciation for your family’s history and feel a sense of connection to those who came before you.
  5. Finding new leads: Sometimes, visiting a cemetery can lead to new discoveries and insights. You may find nearby graves that lead you to other family members or distant relatives, or you may uncover clues that lead you to new records or sources of information.

Overall, checking out online cemetery records and visiting the cemetery where your ancestors are buried can be a valuable part of your genealogy research. By recording and photographing your findings, you can gain new insights into your family’s history and preserve that history for future generations. So why not take the time to visit your ancestors’ graves and see what you can discover?

Abraham’s Story

Abraham has been working diligently on his genealogy research and has made it to Step 17 – Check out online cemetery records and visit them, record and take photographs of your findings. Abraham was excited to try this step as he had heard that cemetery records can hold a wealth of information about his ancestors.

Abraham started his search by using the FindAGrave website, where he was able to search for specific cemeteries and find his ancestors’ burial locations. He was pleasantly surprised to find that some of his ancestors had headstone photos and even some biographical information on their memorial pages.

After gathering some information online, Abraham decided to take a trip to the cemetery where his great-grandparents were buried. He made sure to research the cemetery’s hours of operation and location ahead of time and brought a notebook and camera with him to record his findings.

When he arrived at the cemetery, Abraham took a moment to appreciate the peaceful surroundings and paid his respects to his ancestors. He then began to take notes and photographs of the headstones, making sure to document any inscriptions or symbols that could provide clues about his ancestors’ lives.

Abraham also visited the cemetery office and spoke to the sexton, who was able to provide him with additional information about his ancestors’ burial locations and plot records. Abraham was grateful for the sexton’s help and was able to fill in some missing pieces of information in his family tree.

Overall, Abraham found Step 17 to be a rewarding and informative experience. He was able to gather valuable information about his ancestors and pay his respects to those who came before him. He plans to continue his cemetery research and hopes to uncover even more genealogical gems in the future.

Your Cemetery Visit

Before visiting a cemetery to search for your ancestors, it’s important to prepare and plan ahead. Here’s a checklist of things to consider and tasks to complete before you make your cemetery visit:

  1. Research the cemetery: Determine the cemetery’s location, hours of operation, and any restrictions or regulations that may be in place. You may also want to find out if there is a sexton or caretaker who can provide additional information about the cemetery and its records.
  2. Identify your ancestors’ burial location: Use online cemetery records, family records, and other sources to pinpoint the location of your ancestors’ graves. If possible, obtain a plot map or other records from the cemetery or sexton.
  3. Plan your visit: Choose a day and time that works for you, taking into account the cemetery’s hours of operation and any weather or seasonal considerations. Consider bringing a companion for safety and assistance.
  4. Bring the right equipment: Depending on the size and layout of the cemetery, you may need to bring a map, compass, or GPS device to help you navigate. Bring a notebook or recording device to take notes, and a camera or smartphone to photograph headstones and other records.
  5. Dress appropriately: Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes and clothing that is appropriate for the weather and terrain. Bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and other necessary items for your comfort.
  6. Contact the cemetery: If you have specific questions or need assistance locating your ancestors’ graves, consider contacting the cemetery or sexton ahead of time. They may be able to provide additional information or guidance.
  7. Respect the cemetery and its rules: Remember that cemeteries are sacred spaces and should be treated with respect. Follow any rules or regulations posted at the cemetery, and be mindful of other visitors and their privacy.

By completing these tasks and preparing ahead of time, you can make the most of your cemetery visit and increase your chances of finding valuable information about your ancestors.

In conclusion, Step 17 of genealogy search strategies, which is to check out online cemetery records and visit them, record and take photographs of your findings, is a critical step in genealogy research. It can provide you with a wealth of valuable information about your ancestors, including birth and death dates, burial locations, family connections, and other historical details. By visiting the cemetery, you can also see firsthand the headstones and markers that provide a tangible link to your family’s past.

Moreover, by carefully documenting and photographing your findings, you create a record that can be shared with others in your family, both now and in the future. This step is an important one that can help you to build a more complete and accurate family tree.

Now, as we move on to Step 18, we will be going to locations where your ancestors came from. This step can be exciting and rewarding as it allows you to walk in the footsteps of your ancestors and experience the places they called home. By visiting the towns, cities, and villages where your ancestors lived, you can gain a deeper understanding of their lives, their culture, and their history.

Stay tuned for more tips and strategies to help you in your genealogy research journey. With each step, you are getting closer to uncovering the rich and fascinating history of your family.

Be sure to check out Step 18 in the Discovering Your Past blog series to continue your journey into your family’s history!

Websites for Online Cemetery Records:

MyHeritage Adds 19 Million Historical Records in February In February 2023, we added 19 million records from 15 historical record collections from the U.S., the U.K., and Scotland. The collections include birth, marriage, death, obituary, voter registrations, passenger, and prison records. Learn more »

Check This Out From MyHeritage

Free Irish Records for St. Patrick’s Day Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by exploring your Irish roots with free Irish records on MyHeritage! From March 14–17, 2023, you’ll be able to search and view all records from Ireland for free. Learn more »


In closing this blog post, I hope that the blog series has been beneficial to you about learning more about genealogy and how to trace your family history. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback on the series or would like to suggest any improvements, please don’t hesitate to send me a message or email. I value your input and appreciate your support in helping me to create more helpful and informative content for aspiring genealogists. Thank you for following along on this journey, and I wish you the best of luck in your own genealogical research.

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Published by Darrell Gibbs

A father of three children and five grandchildren who retired in 2015 and began a career as a non-fiction writer in genealogy resource ebooks for new family historians. Aspiring towards the future as a Historical Fiction Author of his premier book "Wessex Reign".

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