Lesson 1: Cemetery Records and How to Find Them


Most people’s perception is that a cemetery is a lonely place, devoid of any activity other than the interment and the visits by families and friends of those who have passed before.  However, if you have ever participated in the process of making arrangements for a family member, spouse or partner, or friend, you know that there can be a lot of paperwork involved. And where there is paperwork, there are pieces of potentially valuable genealogical evidence. Some of these materials are accessible to you, the researcher, and others are not. However, let’s examine the processes involved with handling the death of an individual and the documentation that may have been created.

First, you should understand that tombstones and other types of markers aren’t necessarily the only records to be found associated with cemeteries. You should also recognize that these memorial markers are not necessarily accurate primary sources of evidence. This is because the markers are not always created at or near the time of death. While they may have been, you cannot always determine if that is the case. Also, understand that the information carved on a tombstone or cast onto a metal marker is actually a transcription of data provided by someone else. It is always suspect. What is carved into stone is not always correctly transcribed. Let me provide two examples:

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Lessons in this course: