If you have not tried using the Internet site ‘Find A Grave’ may sure you add that right away to your ‘to-do’ list. It is maintained by volunteers who set up a memorial to family members, friends or even strangers who have passed away. What information including photos placed on the memorial can be shared with people around the globe. Many of the images placed are the headstone for a person. Here names, birth and death dates are usually provided. Headstones can be a source for additional information like a spouse’s name. Locating a headstone in a certain cemetery can also give a clue of where they lived, died or where was the traditional family hometown. Some of the virtual memorials have placed the information that was on a person’s newspaper obituary.
To search and use this online memorial of ‘Find A Grave’ is free. Anyone can sign up to create a memorial for someone, submit additional data, add flowers and photos and search the database at no charge. This virtual cemetery can provide information and images that might be impossible or very difficult to obtain otherwise. There are also a group of volunteers who will go out to a cemetery in a certain location and take a photo of a specific headstone or of the cemetery entrance. The volunteers are listed in the ‘request a photo’ section and which precise area they will travel to. A simple email request can yield a great deal of previous unknown information on your ancestors.
For those who have the fee-subscription database of Ancestry.com, they have the Find A Grave indexed when you are searching for an ancestor. They are by states of where the person was buried. These indexes on Ancestry.com are free to use by everyone, whether you have a subscription or not. The index can be helpful when you are not sure of which state or cemetery an ancestor was buried in. Just type in a surname (add a given name if you are sure) and then scan the list of names to see is the closest match.
Another method, whether using the Find a Grave site directly or on Ancestry.com is to place a surname (especially if it is not a common name), the select a state and then go through the list of matching names. There could be some that may not have occurred to you to check out. It is a great way to also verify dates, names and places you already had in your database for the family tree. It can be listed as a source since you are viewing a photo of the headstone. Now any biography submitted would have to be verified separately. If it is an obituary that can be noted as a source.
To get an idea of how many virtual memorials are available (and growing) for Pennsylvania there are 1.7 million, in New Jersey there are 937,000 listings, Massachusetts has 805,000 listings and California nearly 1.7 million. The Find A Grave site also has countries outside the United States with some 250,00 cemeteries listed.
Make a point to review the site with a list of your ancestors in hand, there could be new and even unexpected information located.
The above headstone is of my gr gr grandparents, Capt. Joseph and Susan Groff.