Ceme­tery records are great in­for­ma­tion sources

Serve Daily - - BUILDING COMMUNITY - By Ginny Ackerson

Ceme­tery records are fan­tas­tic sources of in­for­ma­tion on fam­i­lies. Many are now on­line and oth­ers are ac­ces­si­ble through lo­cal li­braries, ge­nealog­i­cal so­ci­eties and his­tor­i­cal so­ci­eties.

In­for­ma­tion that can be found in ceme­tery records in­cludes fam­ily re­la­tion­ships, burial date, dates of birth and death, place of death and some­times of birth. Data can be col­lected from both the head­stones and the sex­ton’s records.

Head­stones can range from sim­ple rocks and wooden crosses with no in­for­ma­tion to elab­o­rate mon­u­ments with sev­eral gen­er­a­tions whose in­for­ma­tion is recorded in full. Of­ten times there was no phys­i­cal ev­i­dence of a burial due to the poverty of the fam­ily. Other times some­one would scratch the ini­tials of their lost fam­ily mem­ber on a stone and leave it at the grave.

Grave­stones can have sym­bols in ad­di­tion to the fam­ily data in­scribed. Th­ese can give you clues as to where you can look for more records. Popular sym­bols in­clude the Ma­sonic and Or­der of the Eastern Star, Knights of Colum­bus, Amer­i­can Le­gion, I.O.O.F. and B.P.O.E., BRT with a train (Brotherhood of Rail­road Train­men), and the D.A.R. and S.A.R. sym­bols. Many fra­ter­nal as­so­ci­a­tions also have sym­bols in­scribed in memo­ri­als for their mem­bers. Th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions of­ten have help­ful records for your search.

Sex­tons, the peo­ple who care for the ceme­tery, keep records too. Th­ese records state who owns the plot, when it was bought, who is buried there, how many spa­ces are left in the plot and when the de­ceased were buried. Depend­ing on the record for­mat used by the sex­ton, there could be more in­for­ma­tion like cause of death, next of kin, cost of the plot, how many times the plot has been opened, and the re­la­tion­ship of the de­ceased to the owner of the plot. Be­cause they record buri­als, even peo­ple with no mark­ers ap­pear in th­ese records. I have been able to piece to­gether fam­i­lies who lost sev­eral chil­dren as in­fants but had no mark­ers.

There are great web­sites like Find­a­grave.com, In­ter­ment.net and bil­lion­graves.com that cover all the states and many coun­tries. Some states have statewide burial in­dexes like Illi­nois and Utah, http:// her­itage. utah. gov/ his­tory/ ceme­ter­ies. Large ceme­ter­ies, pri­vate or public, some­times have their own web­sites that al­low you to search buri­als. Public li­braries of­ten have ceme­tery data­bases for their lo­cale. Ge­nealog­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal so­ci­eties have also col­lected and pre­served burial records and tomb­stone in­scrip­tions. Check for th­ese records by Googling the state, county or city and “burial records” or “tomb­stone in­scrip­tions.”

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