How to search your ancestors grave for clues - MyGeneTree

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How to search your ancestors grave for clues

...It's true; I love wandering around cemeteries, finding clues from my ancestors and their lives, often going back time and time again! Like a detective with a hunch, I'm finding hidden clues I may have missed on my last visit.


Just like writers' block, you'll bump into brick walls when researching your family's history. Here's a grossly underrated graveyard tip;  ALWAYS search nearby gravesites around your ancestors...nearby gravesites can uncover other ancestors' gravestones you never knew existed and unlock valuable information engraved into these headstones!


Not only will you find birth and death dates, but you may also find the maiden names of women, names of their children or even other family members who lay in the same grave. You can also learn about your ancestors' relationships (there may have been other husbands or wives). Sometimes a gravestone may also reveal immigrant birthplaces and causes of death.


Where to start:

If you don't already know where your ancestor is buried, start looking through census records & vital records. Obituaries and local cemetery records can tell you exactly where your ancestor is buried.  

In some instances, death certificates may provide you with the name of the funeral home; from their records, you may be able to find where your ancestor is buried.


Here's 4 tips that'll help you become a better grave detective:

1. Are your ancestors buried in a religious section of the cemetery? - this can give clues to their religion and provide clues to whether faith was important.
2. Look for any information, markings or symbols on the gravestone - there could be clues about your ancestors' personal life, e.g. religion, military service or other relatives names.
3. Why are your ancestors buried in that particular cemetery? - Is it a family cemetery, a church graveyard, a veterans cemetery, or was it because it was the closest cemetery to where they lived?
4. Don't give up if your ancestor has no gravestone - this could be because it never stood up to time, especially if it was marked with a wooden cross or perhaps they couldn't afford one, so it never existed. Ensure to note the location they are buried and remember; ALWAYS search around the area; you may find other missing ancestors you never knew about!


If you live in another country, city or can't get to the cemetery your ancestor is buried in, try an online cemetery site: and can both be great places to search for your ancestors' graves from afar. They allow you to search for cemeteries all over the world!