Cemetery records are great information sources
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.”