Find a Grave
Another Genealogist Tool
By Patti Sanders

Find A Grave web site:  is a user friendly site where you can search for grave
‘famous’ individuals. With millions of names and photos, it is an invaluable tool for the
genealogist and family history buff. Find A Grave memorials can contain rich content including
photos, biographies and dates. Visitors can leave ‘virtual flowers’ on the memorials they visit,
completing the online cemetery experience.

Find A Grave’s primary purpose is a grave registration website.

Find A Grave’s secondary purpose is a memorialization/remembrance site.

Find A Grave’s tertiary purpose is a genealogical resource.

If a listing or contribution corresponds with only the primary purpose, it has fulfilled its part of
Find A Grave’s mission and is not required to correspond with the secondary and tertiary
purposes. Fulfilling the other two is welcomed, encouraged and deeply appreciated, but as far as
Find A Grave’s purpose goes, a memorial page isn’t lacking if it does not.

Find A Grave has grown to be a wonderful and valuable resource for genealogy and genealogists,
but that is adjunct to its main purpose.” (Copied from their web site.)

All information on the site is entered by volunteers, and the name you may be looking for may
not be there yet – please realize that Find A Grave is a work in progress waiting for volunteers
input. The site is free for perusal use but to edit/enter a person’s data you must become a
member. The membership is free requiring only a username, E-mail address and your zip code.  
You can pay a token fee to have the advertisements removed from the memorial pages of your
loved ones. They also are very happy to receive donations.

Searching is rather straight forwarded, you can search for cemeteries by state and county, also
you can search by person’s name and any other information you may have. Remember, this is
not a complete cemetery listing (there are a few exceptions)!  All information is entered by
volunteers from their own information. You can add your missing loved ones data to the site
including a memorial, photo of person, photo of stone, etc.

You can volunteer to take photos of grave markers near your home and enter it to the cemetery
listing. Also, if you are taking a trip, you can check nearby cemeteries to see if a request has
been made for a photo.  When Fred and I are “cemetery hopping”, I like to take photos of military
markers, and when we get back home I enter any that were not already posted.  We also check to
see if there is a cemetery name photo, if not we will take it and post it. Remember, you can only
enter your loved ones burial data and photo’s once you become a member.  

I find the site is well laid out (for a novice) and the Find A Grave FAQ are informing. Nosing
around the site you can enter the Forums section and maybe see something of interest.  Click on
the “Military Discussion” and “Other Wars and Conflicts” forums and find more interesting
information. Hey, enter your favorite hero and see where he/she is buried……

Those of you who know of this site, spread the word, keep it building.

Patti Sanders

Cemetery Records and finding that Marker
(By: Fred Sanders)

nother avenue for genealogist searching for information is the Cemetery Record.   I
recognize the proper name for this is the 
SEXTON Records, but for personal reasons I will
refer to these records as Cemetery Records.  Reason for this is, in our travels doing
“cemetery hopping” for research and Find-A-Grave photographs in the small corners of our
nation, most people are unfamiliar with Sexton Records – but mention Cemetery Records, and
you have opened a vast roadway for your research easier.  These records should also reveal
where that elusive marker you have been searching for is located.  As most of you have
learned, finding the cemetery can be a chore, this will be discussed later.

Cemetery Records generally consist of Document Ownership, and Internment Registers.
These records can reveal a lot of information – that is, if the keeper of the records will let you
see it!  This record could show:  A. Who purchased the plot, how much it cost; B. Who is
paying for the maintenance if it is a “pay as you go” plan;  C. Who is buried in that plot –
maybe not just the person you are researching;  D. Where in the cemetery the plot is located
and size of marker;  E. When the person died and the burial date.  It could also list persons
without markers, cause of death, if it is a veteran, etc.  Sometimes, there are obits in the
folder!  The key is getting the keeper to let you see it and make copies for your files.  You will
find the “
Freedom of Information Act” does not apply here and don’t mention it, just be nice
and persistent – a smile and nice comments about the facility also helps (at least for me – and
if you have time, a small bag of candy has done wonders on following visits). 
Shown below are
copies of a Cemetery Record and a cemetery Map
.  Look closely at the map and you will see
no street names, just famous markers to assist in locations.

Finding these Cemetery Records and cemeteries can be difficult at times, especially in small
towns and rural areas. One method we use is to locate a Funeral home in the area – they
normally know where every cemetery is located in the area and who has the records. (You
should inquire what records the Funeral Home keeps and for what period of time. They may
have the information you are looking for.)  Also, especially in rural areas, the fire departments
should be able to assist you with directions. They have maps that will make you drool for.  In
the ideal world, cemetery records are kept in a nice air condition Government Office with a
staff that is there smiling and waiting to serve you in your request.  Don’t count on it. We have
found that these records are on the lower end of the totem pole of the keeper’s job
description, and various states, counties, cities and private facilities have different
regulations about these records and who can gleam the information that is available. The
Cemetery Records may be in a government office nearby, in a private home, at the cemetery,
or even at a John Deer Parts house (Walterboro, SC). The records may be neatly digitized, in
ledgers, file folders or maybe in a file box. Some older records for a cemetery that is inactive
may have been turned over to local genealogical or historical societies. Unfortunately, most
of these societies have very limited hours and may require that you return at another time.  
Should you Google “cemetery Records” and/or “Sexton Records” you may find more help there
for specific cemetery’s.

Now armed with all of the information you gathered from the Cemetery Records, it is off to
locate the Cemetery and take a picture of that elusive marker.  
Be extremely careful in
unfamiliar areas; Chuck holes, cave-ins, extreme sloping terrains, creepy crawlers(snakes),
ticks, sandspurs and heat exhaustion can ruin your day
.  If it is a small cemetery, (how lucky
can you get) a little leg work and keen observations of how the markers are laid out (in rows,
jumbled up, large plots ETC) should help you locate the plot using the location information
given to you at the office. Roadways and trails in the cemetery should show on the cemetery
map and can be a big help in locations. Remember to check both sides of the markers, as we
have found many markers with unrelated family names on the front and back. If you cannot
locate the plot, return to the office and find the names of nearby markers and go back and
find it. If the cemetery is rather large, and your location directions are unsatisfactory, lots of
leg work and a plan on how to tackle the project at hand is required.  To save time and leg
work, visually lay out the cemetery in quadrants, draw a map with key focal points and search
each quadrant until you find THAT MARKER! If there are two or more people in your party,
split up and use some type of personal communication device to communicate with each
other – DON’T rely on cell phones in the boonies!

When you find that marker, DON’T deface it with chalk, paint, rubber erasers, etc. – try
photographing at different angles, or try splashing water on the marker.  I can truly say from
my limited experience, not all markers are readable or make pristine photographs. You could
try paper rubbing but, that’s like watching grass grow.  Should you have a good photo
enhancer program, you may be able to play with various settings and get a better image. If
you move flowers, pots, etc, away from the marker for the photo, please return these items to
the same place they were. Some cemeteries have strict rules about locations for such items
and your relocation could cause them to be discarded by maintenance workers.

Good luck and happy hunting.


Updated 9/03/14