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Cemetery Records

Cemetery records can be a fascinating part of genealogical research, and provide vital information if death records are not available on the research subject. This search takes you far beyond public records online – to an actual location where the person in question was finally laid to rest. Cemeteries have a wealth of history and interesting stories hidden within their crumbling tombstones and grassy graves. The key is finding the right cemetery records that disclose a glimpse of some of the people that currently reside there.

Types of Cemetery Records

Cemetery RecordsThere are many different types of cemetery records available, depending on how the original or current caretakers of the cemetery chose to document those who were laid to rest at their location. Some of the most common types of cemetery records you might come across in your research include:

  • Headstone Records – These cemetery records depict what is actually engraved on the headstone.
  • Cemetery Burial Records – These records were required as a permit for the burial by some cemeteries.
  • Sexton Records – Sextons were the caretakers of the cemetery and kept records of who was buried there.
  • Church Records – Some churches have their own cemeteries and kept logs of burials.
  • There is no consistency among cemetery records from state to state or cemetery to cemetery. In most cases, you will need to know precisely where the person was buried to find records like these. However, if you don’t have this information, a public records search that reveals a death certificate or obituary may provide you with burial information so you can track the cemetery records from there. 

    Information Found in Records

    Headstones typically contained information like the name of the deceased, dates of birth and death, and possibly family members left behind. In some cases, an additional message may be engraved on the headstone, which may provide a glimpse of the person’s personality or beliefs.

    Sexton records and church records usually contained fairly basic information as well, including the name of the person and where in the cemetery the grave is located. The most comprehensive cemetery records will probably be burial records that may include all the information from the death certificate, as well as surviving family members, a last address for the deceased, and even an occupation for the person. Marriage, military service and religious information might also be listed.

    Locations for Cemetery Records

    Cemetery records are typically held at the cemetery where the deceased is buried. However, some cemetery records have also made their way to state archives, offering interested individuals the chance to discover the information they are looking for right on the Internet. By beginning with an online public records search for death records and obituaries, you can collect sufficient information to pinpoint your cemetery record search to the right town and even the exact cemetery. Although this information can frequently be found online, many researchers find that a visit to the cemetery may turn up even more information and make them feel closer to their research subject when they can visit the actual grave where their ancestor was laid to rest.

    Restriction to Cemetery Records Access

    In most cases, access to cemetery records is not restricted. However, in the case of burial records that include private information like the cause of death, restriction guidelines may apply. In the case of death records, only immediate family members and legal representatives may gain access to those official documents. Some states that have these rules may enforce the same guidelines for cemetery records that contain similar information. However, tombstone searches are always available to the general public and may provide you with some interesting facts about your family member as well.

    Online Cemetery Records Search

    Prior to the ability to conduct public records searches online, finding cemetery records could be a very complex process. In many cases, a trip to the cemetery was an actual requirement if you wanted to verify that a family member was buried there and locate the grave site. Today, much of this footwork can be completed right on your computer, without the need to ever leave home. Online archive services are often the best places to begin these public records searches, since they can turn up a wealth of information with just a name and location for the individual.

    When you complete your cemetery search online, you may find the information you are looking for through free public records. These documents may be available for download right from your computer. However, copies of official documents, particularly certified copies, usually require a request directly to the office where the document is filed, and a fee is typically assessed for the copy.