Looking Back Using Burial Records

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National Free Planning Kit

January 11, 2016

There are countless websites available that can provide you with access to various relatives by searching your family history. It may surprise you to learn that cemeteries can actually be a valuable resource when it comes to learning more about your family tree. One way to learn more about your ancestry is to find cemetery records of former relatives.

Today well-kept government records make it easy for us to trace our recent family members and see how we are all connected. However, this was not always the case. The further back in history you go, the fuzzier some of these details become. A headstone may be the only way to determine a birth or death date of a particular family member, information that was never previously recorded in a census.

Cemetery records can help you trace back your family history and discover different generations who may be buried in the same place. To find cemetery locations near you, you can use BurialPlanning.com’s “Find A Cemetery” locator.  Once you gather this information, you can visit the burial site. Two reasons to do so are:

  • Gravestones can be a wealth of information: Finding a family members gravestone can sometimes provide information you have been searching for. Birth and death dates, family members and even something describing the deceased may be provided. Additionally, other families may be buried nearby, providing you with information you otherwise may not have found.
  • Funeral homes also keep records and may be able to provide an individual’s occupation, family members and contact information.

Something to keep in mind:

As many family names were “Americanized” once families entered the country, there is a chance yours has evolved over the years. Language barriers and poor handwriting sometimes lead to clerks at Ellis Island unknowingly changing the spelling, pronunciation or shortening names altogether.  For example, someone born with the name Frederick Austerlitz, could easily have their name Americanized in various ways – eventually becoming Fred Astaire. Locating cemetery records of this family would tie the famous dancer back to his father Fritz Austerlitz - and his Austrian heritage.