Winter, the Cemetery Season
Cemeteries are one place where the difference between people bitten by the genealogy bug and normal people becomes instantly apparent. Normal folk look at a cemetery and think of it as a place for quiet reflection, quiet voices, and somber thoughts. Genealogists look at the same cemetery and see the possibility of hidden treasure. Well, the treasure season is upon us.
For the lucky, ancestors will have been buried in neatly laid out, well tended and well documented urban cemeteries. These are the cemeteries that are found on published maps and that are found on paved roads that can be quickly and easily reached by car.
For many of us, though, finding our treasure will require touring country roads and trekking woods or fields to find small run down and overgrown local cemeteries. And in the south, winter can be an excellent time to roam the rural cemeteries where our ancestors lie. Temperatures are down, the swarms of biting insects are not yet up to full speed, and snakes are less active and more rarely encountered.
Step one in locating ancestral graves is locating the cemetery. Fortunately, the cemetery locators and virtual cemeteries that have become available on the internet have made this job much easier. Cemetery locators are web sites that help you find cemeteries and virtual cemeteries are searchable sites that have transcriptions of the tombstones in a cemetery.
Here are some sites that may help you locate the appropriate cemeteries and, maybe, even your ancestors’ grave:
U.S. Geologic Survey's Geographic Name Information System – GNIS (http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic) is a marvelous site for locating cemeteries. Field level help makes searching for cemeteries easy. Map links on the search results page provide details on your selected cemetery’s location and on how to get there.
RootsWeb.com (http://www.rootsweb.com/) – RootsWeb hosts and provides links to a substantial number of volunteer created web pages that display a variety of contributed genealogical records. The USGenWeb Tombstone Transcription Project directly addresses cemeteries. The Obituary Daily Times and the Free BMD provide may also help and many other sites in the USGenWeb Project contain cemetery data as one element of their offerings.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com/) Search for cemeteries or individual graves. Some grave listings have tombstone photos.
Cemetery Junction (http://www.cemeteryjunction.com/) – Lists thousands of cemeteries in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
Virtual Cemetery Project (http://www.genealogy.com/vcem_welcome.html) - Offers a collection of tombstone photos and a searchable archive of transcriptions.
If you expect to be trekking through woods, wear clothes that are ready for it: long pants, long sleeves and gloves. Never go alone, carry your bug spray and always remember that snakes may be less active in the cooler months, but they are not absent – watch your step. Do your homework and take the necessary precautions and maybe this time you really will find great, great granddaddy.
Last updated: 15 March 2010